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Duterte comes out strongly for family planning, reproductive health

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – With the country’s 100-million population still growing, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said the Filipino people must be saved from ignorance about reproductive health.

In his television show Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa on Sunday, Duterte chided the Catholic church for allegedly not helping in the campaign to teach family planning, especially to poor families.

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“Family planning in the country cannot maintain its momentum because you keep the people in total ignorance,” Duterte said.

Duterte has explained he has no quarrels with the Catholic church, but he is not fond of it either because it conditions the people to follow its doctrines using the concept of hell.

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“You tell the children that they will go to hell. You always use that to scare them. But that is not true. Hell is here. For example, hell for me is (Leila) de Lima and Etta,” Duterte said referring to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales who have called for the filing of criminal charges against the mayor over his alleged involvement with the vigilante group, Davao Death Squad.

Returning to the topic of population, Duterte expressed his worries over the ballooning population, especially because the economy has not been growing fast enough to provide livelihood opportunities for poor families even as squatter settlements expand in cities.

A vocal reproductive health advocate, Duterte has gained the approval of women and reproductive health organizations who have asserted that he is the ideal presidential candidate who can represent gender sentivity issues in the country.

Despite Duterte’s tough and macho stance, he has been supportive of programs that ensure gender development and reproductive health, Gabriela Representative Luzviminda Ilagan said.

Ilagan said that under Duterte’s watch, the city implemented a local version of the Reproductive Health Bill even before it was legislated nationally.

And his brand of leadership that has be attention to the women and children can help uplift gender rights in the country, Ilagan said.

“He is a strong leader. And our country needs one. Even Luzon is already excited. Political kingmakers are also saying that it’s high time that we get an outsider who is not from traditional politics. A new face and voice but an old hand in politics,” Ilagan said.

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In terms of protecting women and children’s rights, Davao City, under the leadership of Duterte, is an example that it can be done effectively through the partnership of the local government and women organizations, according to Ilagan.

“Davao City is an example. Duterte has always been supportive of the Women’s Code,” Ilagan said.

In 1997, Davao’s City Council passed into ordinance the Women Development Code, which aims to mainstream gender-sensitivity through legislation.

The Women Development Code paved the way for the massive campaign against gender bias in government offices after it was adopted as a policy in all department and agencies.

The code also institutionalized the allocation of 30 percent of the Official Development Assistance funds and six percent of the Annual Developmental Fund to gender-sensitive projects.

The local government also created the Integrated Gender and Development Division as a special unit that monitors and regulates the implementation of the Women Code.

And to ensure the full participation of the communities in the campaign, Davao City created the Councils for Women from the barangay level as a consultative body of the Integrated Gender and Development Division.

The Barangay Council for Women is tasked to monitor and report cases of violence against women and children in 182 villages in the city.

Ilagan said that Duterte has also been active in sustaining the one-stop crisis center for women in Davao through its partnership with Gabriela and other local women groups.

A Women and Children Protection Unit was also established by the local government at the Southern Philippines Medical Center to provide psychological intervention for women and children who are victims of physical or sexual assault.

The Central 911 Unit of the city’s Public Safety Command Center has a dedicated a 24/7 desk to receive and act on reports of domestic violence through its “911” hotline.

One of the most impressive projects of Davao City, Ilagan said, has been the creation of the Reproductive Health and Wellness Center that has been providing reproductive health education, counselling and other services, including accessible alternatives for family planning, to clients most especially the indigents.

While politicians and the Catholic Church debate over the legislation of the RH Bill in 2012, Davao City was already giving out free contraceptives to its constituents.

The center also provides maternity services, and diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, reproductive tract infections and gynecological disorders.

“Davao City has done so many things. Duterte is not just that high profile but in his own quiet way he supports gender development advocacy,” Ilagan said.

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TAGS: Birth Control, Catholic Church, Davao City, family plannning, Gabriela, gender sensitivity programs, Local authorities, Local Governments, mayor, News, Politics, population management, reproductive health, Rodrigo Duterte
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