RH backers: Don’t fear Catholic vote in 2013
But is it right for the Church to welcome former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is facing criminal charges, to join its campaign against the reproductive health (RH) bill?
This question was raised Thursday after representatives of women’s groups, academics and students supporting the RH bill called on lawmakers not to fear the so-called Catholic vote in the 2013 elections because majority of Filipinos supported the measure.
“What is the morality in turning your back and forgiving the corruption of the former administration to bargain for [votes against] the reproductive health bill?” Sylvia Estrada Claudio, director of the University of the Philippines’ Center for Women’s studies, said in a forum organized by pro-RH supporters.
Arroyo, who is now a Pampanga representative, has declared that she would vote against the bill, and soon after, seven lawmakers affiliated with her withdrew support for the measure ahead of a critical vote on August 7 to extricate the bill from endless debates and move action on it forward.
Arroyo is out on a P1-million bail on election sabotage charges for which she had been detained in a hospital for eight months.
Claudio urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) not to turn a blind eye to the “cold, hard, concrete facts” presented by academics, scientists and researchers that too many poor women were dying because of lack of access to contraceptives and proper reproductive health care.
A statement from academicians from UP and Ateneo de Manila University lambasted the CBCP for “acting in a morally questionable way” and showing “an appalling insensitivity to the suffering and death of Filipino women.”
Former Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros slammed Arroyo for attempting to turn the August 7 event as a vote of no-confidence against the Aquino administration.
“She wants to recover her political clout,” Hontiveros said, adding that Arroyo’s entry into the fray could be a “kiss of death” for the Church initiative.
During the opening of budget deliberations in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas tackled the importance of the “demographic sweet spot.”
Responding to a question by Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez, he described this as a “spot where you have a good convergence of very robust economic growth and low inflation rate.” He said the economy grew by 6.4 percent in the first quarter but with an inflation rate of 3 percent. “In the past, it’s one way or the other—either we have a very high economic growth or a very high inflation or vice versa.”
Guinigundo acknowledged that the country’s young population—set at a median age of 22.2—could be attributed to “more babies being born than people dying.”
“That can be one factor,” he said. “The challenge remains with the public sector to provide the infrastructure, the job opportunities so that we would be able to leverage on the existence of our young population (to) provide a very productive labor force, at the same time, an expanded market for our goods and services.”
Guinigundo said domestic demand was particularly important “at this point where external markets are not doing that well and therefore our exports have limited viability today.”
“But if we have domestic demand that is robust—as one can see because of the young population, because of the inflow of those overseas remittances, investments have been going up—these are what will drive economic growth,” he explained.
Senators back bill
Also on Thursday, Senator Panfilo Lacson accused the Catholic Church of engaging in disinformation from the pulpit. “When I hear Mass, I hear their clear disinformation that abortion is allowed under the RH bill,” Lacson told reporters. He said abortion would not only remain illegal, penalty would also be increased.
“It’s about time this is put to a vote,” Lacson said. He said the majority of the senators supported the bill and that surveys had shown that 65 to 75 percent of Filipinos favored the measure.
Patricia Gomez, president of the 60,000-strong Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines, said, “The keyword is planning, planning your family according to your means.”
Gomez, who was close to tears during an interview, said it was tragic to see poor Filipino women with six or seven children coming to their centers. A lot of the women could not even take care of themselves or eat three times a day, she said.
Last June, the Department of Health said the mortality rate for Filipino mothers had increased to 221 per 100,000 live births in 2011 from 162 per 100,000 live births in 2009. Under the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, the global set of targets for reducing poverty, the Philippines must lower the maternal mortality rate to 52 per 100,000 live births. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra, Norman Bordadora and Kristine L. Alave
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