Senator Manuelito “Lito” Lapid is dying to wade into the debates over the reproductive health (RH) bill but admits to being intimidated by the two feisty women sponsoring the measure.
It was a brave admission from Lapid, once considered Philippine show biz’s ultimate macho who played such notorious characters as Leon Guerrero, Ben Tumbling and Julian Vaquero on film.
Tongue not used to English
But his apprehension may be well-founded. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, the RH bill’s principal sponsor, once declared that she ate death threats for breakfast.
Her cosponsor, Senator Pia Cayetano, has proven during interpellation that she could hold her ground against the likes of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
“What if they don’t understand my Tagalog or I don’t know how to answer their questions in English?” Lapid said in Filipino. “These senators are also lawyers who spent 10 years in law school while I spent 10 years practicing my stunts.”
He added: “Much as I want to interpellate, my tongue is not used to English.
“First, I don’t have a good supply of English words. I have not studied adequately and even if I cram now, there are some English words, mostly technical terms they use during discussions, that are really foreign to me.”
English not required
Santiago and Cayetano appeared moved when informed of Lapid’s worry, and said he could use Filipino during the debates.
“I will try my pidgin Tagalog to try to explain [the RH issue] to him, although I am ashamed of my Tagalog. I don’t have an extensive vocabulary,” said Santiago, who hails from Iloilo and speaks Ilonggo.
But she said she did not think that Lapid was all that intimidated “because he has an entrancing effect on all women, including myself.”
Cayetano also said she would be “happy to answer” Lapid’s questions in the native language. “There should be no problem because if you will notice, I also use Tagalog to emphasize some points in my explanations on this issue.”
Even Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, who sets the lineup of senators who would question the two sponsors, said he would accommodate a request from Lapid for a shift to Filipino during the debates.
“The inputs of Lito Lapid will be very important because this bill is dividing the country. We have to have everyone’s participation. I will support him if he asks for certain accommodations,” Sotto said.
Lapid said that while he had as yet no position on the RH issue, the aging populations of Singapore and South Korea posed a concern to him.
“If the population is reduced because the women are not getting pregnant, what happens when everyone gets old and no new people take their place, like what they say is happening to these countries?” he said.
Lapid also stressed that his respect for women would be his primary consideration in formulating a position on the issue.
“Consider that a Filipina always covers her chest when she bends to pick up a coin, a handkerchief or a set of keys. What is she protecting? Is it not her body? We have to give women the proper respect. That would be a factor in my decision,” he told a group of female Senate reporters.
One thing that Lapid wants the two sponsors to clarify is whether contraceptives cause birth defects in children.
“I have observed babies, especially in the provinces, who are born with club feet or a harelip. Do drugs cause that? Or what about those with [Down’s Syndrome]? Could that not be prevented? What causes that? Don’t the drugs a mother takes cause that?” he said.
Be faithful to wife
In an interview, Santiago said Lapid’s questions about birth defects were among the most often asked by the curious.
“The fear is without basis in medical science at all,” she said. “No groups of scientists or doctors have ever issued a paper on that possible side effect. A contraceptive is meant to prevent sperm and egg from meeting. The very function of contraception is to avoid fertilization, so there can be no side effect at all because the two never meet.”
According to Santiago, the “best preventive measure” against unplanned pregnancy is “to be faithful to your wife.”
She added impishly: “A wife getting pregnant is not news. If your girlfriend gets pregnant, that is a crisis. If both are, that is panic.”
Cayetano pointed out that all drugs, even the lowly paracetamol, has side effects.
But in the case of contraceptives, she said, “medical consultation is needed before one takes these to determine which one is best for you.”
Originally posted: 8:42 pm | Tuesday, September 20th, 2011