15 November 2008
Reproductive health advocates cautiously welcome as a positive development the offer of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to dialogue with the authors of the pending RH bill provided that the proposed meeting “will not delay or prejudice the resumption and completion of the legislative process on the enactment of the measure.”
This was the consensus in a meeting of legislators and NGO representatives convened on 15 November 2008 by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, the principal author of House Bill No. 5043 or the proposed “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008”.
It is recalled that it was Lagman who originally proposed the holding of a bishops-legislators dialogue on the reproductive health bill as early as 09 July 2008 but the talks did not materialize because a conciliatory atmosphere was foreclosed by tirades against the bill by some members of the Catholic hierarchy.
Meanwhile, multisectoral support for the RH bill continues to grow as validated by the Third Quarter 2008 Social Weather Survey of the SWS which revealed that an overwhelming 71% of Filipinos endorse the passage of the RH bill and 76% agree that family planning should be taught in schools.
The tremendous support was capped by the endorsement of 66 professors of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University and the resolution of support of the National Youth Parliament (NYP), a nationwide coalition of 140 student councils and youth organizations from Catholic schools and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). The resolution strongly urges President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Congress to enact the RH bill.
Lagman said that a preparatory committee should immediately meet to lay down the groundwork and parameters for the bishops-legislators dialogue on composition and representation, venue, timeframe and possible areas of compromise.
Lagman cautioned, however, that they will not entertain “killer amendments” like limiting family planning options to natural family planning methods; deleting or reducing the appropriations for reproductive health and family planning; altogether discarding reproductive health and sexuality education; and removing the provision on humane and non-judgmental medical care to women suffering from post-abortion complications, among others.