The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines – Saying the measure is not yet ripe for enactment because of unresolved issues in key provisions, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile warned on Sunday that the ill-considered, hasty passage of the controversial Reproductive Health bill could spawn more problems.
He advised proponents, now busily preparing for an August 7 deadline set by the House of Representatives leadership to end deliberations, to wait for the right time until issues are clarified, including the funding and the system of implementation.
Enrile and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III are among the critics of the bill, which they said would simply put billions in taxpayer funds into the hands of major pharmaceuticals making birth-control devices and pills, without necessarily addressing other problems that advocates insist on dumping at the doorstep of the anti-RH bill groups. In recent days, pro-RH groups have hyped the incidence of pregnancy-related maternal deaths and the spike in HIV-AIDS cases, which some quarters pinned on the Catholic church’s ban on condom use.
The anti-RH groups noted, however, that many of the maternal deaths are a result of a lack of resources such as non-deployment of trained midwives and pitifully small funding for health centers. As for HIV-AIDS, the bill’s critics say it’s unfair to pin that on the Church’s stand against artificial devices for birth control, since the spike was traced by experts to growing cases of male-to-male transmission, a practice that is hardly affected by whether or not the Church frowns on condoms anyway.
“That [RH bill] has a big impact on our society. It involves a lot of this--- we respect their position but they should respect our position. Marami pang tatanungin sa period of amendments,” he said.
Enrile said he studied the present conditions and experiences of other countries where the State played an active role in controlling population, and noted that many of those facing a so-called demographic winter are reversing course as their state pension funds go bankrupt from having increasingly fewer young entrants in the work force, even as health costs balloon for the elderly.
“Tinitignan ko ang bayan, hindi ang sarili ko, pinag-aaralan ko ang karanasan ng ibang bansa na nahihirapan sa ganyang batas [I’m looking at what’s good for the country, not myself, as I study carefully the experience of other countries],” he said.
He said the opposition from the Catholic Church was not something to belittle, despite observations that the Church can barely stop the faithful from using pills or condoms. Church leaders have described the bill as virtually a cop-out by parents, educators, church leaders and the State, of the task of helping shape the values and practices of young people, who can then, like their counterparts in the West, simply engage in sex at a young age, complacent about the “protection” afforded by the devices or pills.
The point, Enrile noted, is that a legislated RH program puts the State’s resources at the disposal of one camp, thus raising questions about whether this was really reflective of the constitutional intent to encourage free choice among citizens when it comes to responsible parenthood.
“With the threat from the Church, yan ang nakikita natin na problema, it will cause a social problem,” Enrile said. The church champions responsible parenthood and has not quarrel with birth spacing, but insists only on natural methods based on women's ovulation periods.
Enrile also said the proponents of the health measure are wrong in saying that “it is ripe to vote” on the controversial bill.
“Hinog na para botohan sa kanila, pero sa amin, hindi pa hinog. Hindi naman saging iyan na nahihinog o mangga na nahihinog na umaalingasaw [It’s ripe for them, but not for us. The bill is not like a banana or a mango, which emits a fragrance when it’s undeniably ripe],” he said.