Palace urges lawmakers to think of children’s futureBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
In the face of a spirited Church campaign against the reproductive health (RH) bill, Malacañang on Wednesday called on the House of Representatives “to vote on the future of our nation.”
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the public debate on the legislation was far removed from the realities on the ground: Teenaged girls getting pregnant and bearing three to four children.
And should the time come for them to vote on the bill, the lawmakers should think of the country’s future and set aside their political ambitions, Lacierda said.
“This should not be a vote as to whether will I be reelected if I don’t vote on this bill or not? It should be a vote on the future of our country and the future of the children that we bring into the world. What kind of support, what kind of decent life can you bring if you have too many children that you have brought into this world without the means to do so—without the means to support them?” he said in a briefing.
“This is about having productive citizens that we can come up with. This is not about voting and being reelected in 2013. I hope the congressmen realize that this is a vote on the future of our nation,” he added.
The legislation seeks to provide couples information on various family planning approaches, including modern contraception methods that the Church opposes. It also seeks to mandate wider reproductive health education in schools and government health centers.
Lacierda said President Benigno Aquino himself encountered teenagers with several children at a slum area in the Baseco Compound in Tondo while campaigning in the May 2010 elections.
“He saw a young lady who was about 15. It turns out she already had four or five children and, if you look at it, when we argue about responsible parenthood, we argue about reproductive health, those things are—it’s so cold because we argue left and right,” he said.
“But when you see someone, for instance, a mother whose age is only 16 and who has already five or six kids, who was not provided the proper information on family planning, who was not given the means to arrive at a decision as to family planning, then you see the urgent need for a responsible parenthood bill,” he said.
“That was the sad story that the President saw in the Baseco Compound and that stuck to him. And that’s the reason why he feels strongly about having a responsible parenthood bill,” he added.
Reacting to a purported Church survey, Lacierda countered that there was a survey indicating that 70 percent of the Filipino people supported the RH bill, even as he reminded lawmakers about Mr. Aquino’s pitch for the approval of the bill in his State of the Nation Address.
“The President has made clear his statement on responsible parenthood. That was made clear in his Sona. We hope that the congressmen will take note the comment made by the President,” he said. “The solons are well aware of the position taken by the President.”
Church concerns considered
In the same breath, Lacierda reminded the Catholic bishops that their concerns had been considered in the crafting of the consolidated version of the RH bill.
“There were several meetings held by the bishops and there were certain issues that they raised. And those were studied by the administration and they were incorporated into the responsible parenthood bill. I hope the bishops realize that their concerns were noted by the President when we introduced the responsible parenthood bill in Congress,” he said.
Lacierda said it was the right of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to vote against the bill.
“We respect her decision. We know for a fact that she has been not in favor of the RH bill. So we respect the decision of every individual congressman,” he said.