Sotto 4th parter: We’ve stopped dying like fliesBy Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The controversial population control bill moved on in the Senate Wednesday, although its main opponent said it wasn’t needed in a country where people were not multiplying like rabbits but rather had stopped dying like flies.
Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III ended the fourth and last stage of his turno en contra speech against the reproductive health (RH) bill with a reminder that there were enough laws and programs for maternal health and almost P8 billion set aside in the national budget for population control.
There’s even no reason to control the number of births in the country, Sotto said, who sounded more like an academic citing sources in an obvious move to deflect any charges of plagiarism that followed his first speech.
After insinuating that the Senate leadership was delaying consideration of the bill, the author of the proposed measure, Senator Pia Cayetano, got her wish for the chamber to start with the period of amendments following a similar move in the House of Representatives last month to end debates and introduce proposed alterations.
The floor later allowed Cayetano to introduce 13 committee amendments to the RH bill. Each of the amendments, including the change in the title of the bill, was unanimously adopted by the Senate for scrutiny.
The phrase population and development was deleted from the title that now reads, “An Act Providing for National Policy on Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood.”
“Our numbers didn’t double because we suddenly started breeding like rabbits. They doubled because we stopped dying like flies,” Sotto said, quoting author Steven Mosher’s book “Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits.”
Sotto said the fertility rate of an average of six children for every mother in 1960 had decreased to just 2.6 in 2002.
In contrast, he said, life expectancy rose from 46 in 1950 to 1955 to 65 in 2000 to 2005.
“The rise in life expectancy was most dramatic in countries that aren’t quite developed. The lives of people in these areas rose from 41 to 63.5 years,” Sotto said.
No shortage of laws
Sotto listed 23 laws and government programs to promote the health of mothers, including the Magna Carta for Women and the National Strategy towards Reducing Unmet Need for Modern Family Planning as a Means to Achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals on Maternal Health.
“We can see that there is no absence of laws on reproductive health in the country. We have many laws that are more inclusive, stronger and more detailed compared to the RH bill,” he said.
“In other words, the problem here isn’t the absence of laws but the need for correct and effective implementation of the laws that we have. This is not the duty of Congress but of the executive branch of our government.”
Sotto also mentioned nine items in the national budget already devoted to reproductive health worth P7.8 billion.
“Even without the RH bill, the government is already spending almost P8 billion to address the problems the RH bill seeks to solve,” Sotto said.
The drama came when Senator Pia Cayetano questioned Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s interpellation of Sotto, suggesting a charade in progress noting that the two of them were opposed to the measure.
“I know for a fact that the majority leader and the Senate leader are both anti-RH so I would like to ask what is the objective of the two of them debating,” Cayetano told Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who was presiding at that time.
Sotto lashed back at Cayetano, saying it was “unethical to impute any motive” on the interpellation.
Cayetano countered that she wasn’t imputing any motive on anyone but only wanted to know what the purpose was of Enrile’s interpellation when he and Sotto were both against the RH bill.
She also mentioned persistent reports in the media indicating that the Senate discussions on the RH bill would already be moved to the next Congress in 2013. She said she was already prepared to answer questions and to present amendments to the bill.
Initially calm, Enrile’s irritation showed when he addressed the issue of the Senate leadership allegedly delaying the passage of the RH bill—an administration measure.
“I’ve been in the Senate for a long long time already. And I’ve never been asked to say the purpose of my interpellation,” Enrile said. “I never used any dilatory tactic… against the passage of any bill. Every question I ask here has relevance to the question at hand.”
Enrile said he knew that Cayetano was eager to pass the proposed population law, “but I have my own notion of what the national interest is.”
“Nobody has a monopoly of wisdom about the national interest,” he said. “I resent any implication that I’m here to derail or obstruct the passage of this bill… Nobody can dictate on me whoever you are.”