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This time, rights watchdog praises Duterte—for RH order

/ 12:21 AM January 15, 2017
Condoms from the Department of Health

A Filipino health worker shows condoms that are given for free to the public by the Department of Health in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. A human rights watchdog says the Philippines is facing one of the fastest growing epidemics of HIV in the Asia Pacific, fueled by government policies that restrict intervention, including access to condoms by men who have sex with men. AP

After repeatedly lambasting President Rodrigo Duterte for the rising number of summary killings in his war on drugs, a US-based human rights watchdog lauded him for providing a “bright spot” in his administration by restoring the funding for family planning services.

The Human Rights Watch said the executive order (EO) that Duterte signed on Jan. 10 will enable the government to service the reproductive health needs of an estimated 13.4 million Filipino women who rely on government-supplied contraceptives.

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“This action is a bright spot in the administration’s otherwise horrendous human rights record via its abusive war on drugs,” Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.

In his EO, Duterte called for the implementation of provisions of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law that were not covered by the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court two years ago.

According to the group, Duterte, in effect, reversed the surprise maneuver a year ago by Congress, “at the urging of elements of the Catholic Church,” to cut by P1 billion the P2.2 billion budget for “family health and responsible parenting” guaranteed under the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.

“That (budget cut) deprived low-income Filipinos, particularly women, access to government-supplied contraceptive products,” it said. “The United Nations Population Fund criticized the cut as a threat to ‘the basic human right to health as well as the right to reproductive choices.’”

The human rights watchdog recently said the budget cut was one of several government policies that threaten to worsen the country’s HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men since this prohibited access to condoms in government clinics, “often the main or only source of condoms for many Filipinos.”

Human Rights Watch nevertheless urged the Department of Health to make sure that relevant agencies disbursed the allocated funds as intended.

“The millions of Filipino women and families who have been deprived of much-needed reproductive health services because of religious and conservative opposition have suffered long enough,” the group said.

The Commission on Population recently said the country’s population could reach 105.75 million by the end of the year due to high fertility rates.

At least 1.69 million Filipino babies are expected to be born in 2017, or three babies born every minute, the commission said.

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TAGS: free contraceptives, Human Rights Watch, Reproductive Health Act, Responsible parenthood, Rodrigo Duterte, summary killings, war on drugs
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