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Keynote Speech of


on the occasion of the forum on

Establishing the Links Between Reproductive Health,

Population, and Climate Change

04 February 2013, Luxent Hotel, Quezon City




The nexus among population, reproductive health and climate change are empirically given as they are well-established and validated.


Throughout the long years of campaigning for the enactment of the RH law, the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) has maintained that the absence of a comprehensive and national policy on RH also contributed to the level of devastation and impact of climate change on the lives of people.


The Philippines is no stranger to both man-made calamities and natural disasters. The inordinately violent typhoons and weather disturbances that have battered our country in the last few years demonstrate the dire consequences of climate change and must spur government to effectively mitigate global warming and environmental degradation.


In the months leading to the much-celebrated enactment of the RH law, the protracted debates revolved mostly around contraceptive use, maternal and infant health, youth sexuality education and religious freedom.


There was hardly any mention of the link between reproductive health and family planning with climate change or the protection of the environment.


The RH supporters who expressed their support by witnessing the debates inside the plenary hall, campaigning for the bill in forums all over the country and marching in the streets were mostly members of women’s groups, human rights NGOs, the urban poor and mass organizations. Environmental activists or green crusaders among them did not articulate much the linkage between RH and the environment.


Despite the correlation between the issues of population and environmental protection, it is a link that environmentalists and the green movement may have downplayed probably because of the fear of alienating a public that is receptive to the idea of environmental conservation but could incorrectly associate reproductive health with abortion.


On the other hand, RH was not considered a “green issue” simply because not many realize that the historic RH law is also a calamity-risk reduction policy.


The connection between a runaway population growth rate brought about by the inaccessibility of reproductive health services and family planning options for women in poor countries like the Philippines and conservation and environment protection is unmistakable.


Addressing climate change and putting a halt to the deterioration of the environment need not be costly and must not be limited to investments in green technologies.


Since a huge population and calamities are fatal partners, the mitigation of the population growth rate as a logical consequence of promoting universal access to reproductive health and family planning, will enhance the Philippines’ positive response to climate change mitigation and adaptation.


Take note that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) defines climate change as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.”


This definition truly demonstrates the link between population and climate change.


Way back in 2004, Conservation International-Philippines, the DENR and NEDA conducted a much needed study entitled “Mapping Population-Biodiversity Connections in the Philippines” (MPBCP) which examined the interrelatedness of rapid population growth and the continuing deterioration of our environment.


The paper emphasized that “policies and interventions that focus on biodiversity conservation alone are insufficient in abating biodiversity losses and destruction of forest resources unless population and development concerns are adequately addressed.”


The British medical journal Lancet also recently underscored the connection of population dynamics, reproductive health and rights and climate change. It asserted that reducing unmet need for family planning “could slow high rates of population growth, thereby reducing demographic pressure on the environment.”


The journal cited a paper published by the London School of Economics (LSE) in August 2009 that highlighted the direct link between a rapidly growing population and climate change. The paper asserted categorically that “family planning is a cost effective tool in reducing carbon emissions.”


The paper emphasized that spending a mere $7.00 on family planning will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by one ton. To similarly decrease carbon dioxide emissions by a ton, the study says that government has to spend $51.00, $24.00, and $13.00 on solar energy, wind energy and deforestation programs, respectively.


The Lancet echoed the call of the LSE economists for increased investments in family planning to arrest climate change. It maintained that “[i]gnoring high rates of population growth in parts of the world is likely to jeopardize the success of other responses to climate change”.


Truly, lesser emitters mean lesser emissions.


The following are the relevant impacts of the RH law on population in relation to calamity-risk reduction and management:


1. Upholding the basic human right to reproductive self-determination wherein couples and women are empowered to freely and responsibly determine the number and spacing of their children.


2. Enabling couples and women to meet their fertility goals. Studies have shown that the gap between wanted and actual fertility rates is alarmingly high in women in the poorest quintile. This simply means that poor women prefer less children than what they actual have. According to the 2006 Family Planning Survey, an average of 44% of pregnancies in the poorest 10% of Filipino women are unwanted.


3. Increasing the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR). Again, the FPS 2006 reveals that contraceptive use remains extremely low among poor women whose families are at greatest risk during disasters. Among the poorest 20% of women, over 50% do not use any form of family planning because of lack of information and access to services and commodities.


4. Decreasing teenage pregnancies as a result of age and development-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education. Despite the drop in teen marriages, teenage pregnancies in the country have increased by 65% over a 10-year period from 2000-2010 according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Plan Philippines. Teenage pregnancy in the Philippines is among the highest in the world.


5. Decreasing migration as fewer children exert less pressure on parents to seek the elusive “greener pasture” in urban centers.


6. Generating more savings from lesser government intervention and expenditure for pregnancy and maternity-related health services which can be channeled to climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and facilities.


Empirical studies have shown that global pressures like population growth, urbanization, economic pressures, environmental degradation and war are likely to play a role in shaping local vulnerabilities to natural disasters and in the severity of the impact of climate change.


Another paper published by the London School of Economics entitled “Key Elements of a Global Deal on Climate Change”, underscores that by 2050, eight billion out of a world population of nine billion will live in what is currently termed the ‘developing world.’


These same developing countries are the ones more exposed to and at greater risk to climate change impacts. Thus by 2050, we will have around 90% of the world’s population vulnerable to disasters. That is why developing countries like the Philippines should play a strong role in shaping international agreements and policies on climate change.


In the Philippines, the National Framework Strategy and Plan on Climate Change and the National Climate Change Action Plan – both formulated by the Climate Change Commission – underscore population as a factor that should be considered in understanding and addressing the vulnerabilities of the country to climate change.


More particularly, the document states that “population growing exponentially and migrating into areas where they should not be contribute to the overall vulnerability of the country to additional external threats like climate change.”


By helping couples and women meet their fertility goals, the RH law will frontally address the problems spawned by calamities, ecological despoliation and climate change because a decrease in fertility rates will also reduce the magnitude of the carbon footprint of each human being on the environment as well as reduce the adverse effects of human activity on the ecology even as lesser people will make risk-management more efficient and adequate.


Even with the passage of the RH law, PLCPD will not rest on its laurels as it aims to even intensify its advocacy through this forum on the interconnection between reproductive health and climate change. Our goal is aimed not only on increasing the awareness of policymakers but also to come up with concrete actions to address the linkages between and among RH, population and climate change.


There can be no better time for this than now as we approach the election campaign period. This early, we need to educate candidates that these issues should be at the forefront of their electoral platforms and we need their commitment that their advocacy will translate to policy once elected.


I am certain that this forum will help participants realize that we cannot have an effective conservation or climate change policy that is not interlinked with population and RH. In the same manner, any serious RH policy cannot be effective if it does not include conservation and environmental protection in its objectives.


We would like to thank the Population Action International for supporting us in this undertaking. We hope that through this activity policymakers and various stakeholders will join hands with us in realizing our common goal of achieving a better quality of life for every Filipino, where reproductive health is considered an inherent right which directly relates to environmental protection and mitigates the impact of climate change.





By: Rep. Edcel C. Lagman

(Message in response to his conferment as the 7th Eminent Person of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc. on 29 January 2013 at the Rockwell Center)



I am deeply and truly humbled by this conferment of honor and recognition as the 7th Eminent Person of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, after President Fidel V. Ramos, Prime Minister Cesar EA Virata, National Scientist and demography icon Dr. Mercedes B. Concepcion, industrialist Mr. Washington Z. Sycip, philanthropist and business leader Mr. Oscar M. Lopez, and internationally known civic leader and entrepreneur Atty. Loida Nicolas-Lewis.


          The Latin ēminēre means “to project, stand out”, akin to the word “eminent” in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language which means “towering or standing out in character or performance.” I have to confess I must strive much more to approximate the full import of an “eminent person”.


          I humbly accept and shall forever cherish this accolade which I am sharing with the countless RH advocates who collectively toiled for the passage of the RH bill, the overwhelming majority of whom are unsung and unrecognized.


           I also share this recognition with my wife, Cielo, and my seven children who have inspired me to tenaciously pursue and sustain the RH crusade despite all obstacles.


          The saga of the reproductive health advocacy continues even as the RH law is now enshrined in our statute books as Republic Act No. 10354. However, the travails ahead are hopefully not as turbulent and arduous as the 13-year gestation period leading to the passage of the RH bill.


            But before surmounting the problems ahead, it would be best to take stock of what has transpired to buoy up our spirits and to buttress our resolve to realize the enabling objectives of the RH law.


           First, in our euphoria, let us not forget the authors of the precursor bill which set the stage for our relentless advocacy. I particularly refer to former Congresspersons Bellaflor Angara-Castillo and Krisel Lagman-Luistro, among others, who authored House Bill No. 8110, entitled “Integrated Population and Development Act of 1999”. This prototype bill became in subsequent Congresses the reproductive health bill.


Second, let us also remember the numerous co-authors in five Congresses, from the 11th Congress to the 15th Congress, who remained steadfast in their authorship despite threats and intimidations like excommunication, hellfire and reprisal at the polls from the Catholic hierarchy, the severest critic of the bill.


Third, let us also recognize the silent RH advocates who during the crucial second and third readings voted for the approval of the bill.


Fourth, we congratulate the leaders of the vast NGO community and civil society who earnestly and tirelessly supported the passage of this progressive measure.


Fifth, we likewise share our victory with the tri-media and social media for having been enduring partners in our long advocacy.


Sixth, we salute the overwhelming number of Filipinos who clamored for the enactment of the bill in survey after survey.


Seventh, we also give thanks to the House leadership, particularly Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. and Majority Leader Nepatali Gonzales II, for delivering their commitment to have the bill voted upon and for resoundingly voting for the bill.


Eighth, we truly appreciate the continuing support of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III for the enactment of the RH bill, which he calls the Responsible Parenthood Bill, from the presidential campaign in 2010, to the prioritization of the bill in the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), to the certification of the bill as urgent and his eventual signing of the bill into law.


But we must never forget that the convergence of these favorable factors did not diminish and overshadow the inherent merits of the RH bill which in no small measure assured its passage.




I would also like to take this opportunity to underscore that the RH law is not a “watered-down” measure. As a matter of strategy, I did not dispute the claim of critics as well as the news accounts in media that the RH bill has been “watered-down” due to the various amendments the authors have accepted during outside plenary consultations which were incorporated in the substitute bill in the House of Representatives.


By my silence, I wanted the critics to believe that the bill has been “watered-down” so that they would desist from further opposing the measure. On hindsight, I have realized that the critics would persist in opposing the RH bill even if only a comma or exclamation point remained of the bill.


The truth is, in its final form, the RH law has retained its pristine formulation and original policy orientation. We have not accepted any amendment which would derogate or diminish the essence of the bill. In the House of Representatives, we have not succumbed to any “killer amendment”.


The following are the salient features of the law which are consistent with the original provisions:


1. The State is mandated to promote universal access to reproductive health and family planning services, supplies and information, including voluntary contraception, which are medically-safe, non-abortifacient, quality, effective, legal and affordable with priority to acceptors from poor and marginalized sectors who shall receive for free RH services and commodities (Section 2 on Declaration of Policy).


In this regard, an amendment was accepted that the contraceptives to be promoted must not prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is simply consistent with the dual mechanism of contraceptives which are to inhibit ovulation and prevent fertilization, both of which forecloses the existence of a fertilized ovum.


2. The hallmark of the RH law is freedom of informed choice which shall not be subject to any form of coercion (Section 3-a of the Guiding Principles for Implementation).


3. Massive nationwide information campaign on reproductive health and rights is mandated (Section 20 on Public Awareness).


4. The implementation of the Act shall be the joint responsibility of the national government and the local government units with the national government extending financial and technical support to needy local government units (LGUs) (Sections 5, 6, 8, 16 and 20).


5.  The principal elements of RH are intact and even improved (Section 4-q).


6. Services for pregnant women and safe motherhood are enhanced and assured (Sections 5, 6 and 18).


7. Women suffering from post-abortion complications shall be “treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner” (Section 3-j).


8. Inclusion in the Philippine National Drug Formulary of hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other safe, legal, non-abortifacient family planning products and supplies is mandated (Section 9).


9. Mandatory age and development-appropriate reproductive health education is assured for adolescents enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools with the curriculum prepared by the Department of Education adoptable by private schools (Section 14).


10. PhilHealth benefits for serious and life-threatening reproductive health conditions are guaranteed (Section 12).


11. The provisions on prohibited acts and penalties have been retained to assure compliance with the law (Sections 23 and 24).


12 With the exception of hospitals owned by a religious group, private health facilities and hospitals are mandated to provide a full range of family planning services to paying patients with the option to grant free care and services to indigents (Section 7).


            13. A Congressional Oversight Committee is created to monitor the full and correct implementation of the RH law (Section 22).


14. Initial funding comes from the respective budgets of the Department of Health and allied agencies as provided for in the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and a continuing yearly budget is authorized for inclusion in the subsequent years’ GAAs (Section 25).




Now, on the tasks ahead. There are four major concerns we have to contend with.


(1) Promulgation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).


(2) Surmounting the constitutional issues raised against the RH law before the Supreme Court.


(3) Appropriation as a continuing battleground.


(4) Assuring and monitoring the effective and faithful implementation of the RH law.




The RH law has been effective since 17 January 2013. Is it now enforceable pending the promulgation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations?


I submit it is, with due respect to Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s lone and contrary obiter dictum in the 2008 case of Abakada Guro Party List vs. Purisima (562 SCRA 251). The absence of the IRR must not preclude the enforcement of the law. The pendency of the IRR’s promulgation, which is an executive function, is not a temporary administrative veto of an effective statute. There are instantly implementable provisions of the law without the need of a prior IRR.


In the absence of a temporary restraining order or a writ of injunction issued by the Supreme Court, the implementation or enforcement of an effective law cannot be frustrated or temporized.


However, in order to obviate any challenge to the enforceability of the RH law, there is need for the promulgation of the IRR within sixty (60) days from the effectivity of the Act or on or before 18 March 2013.


The IRR is to assure the effective implementation of the RH law. Let us guard against the possibility that the IRR may dilute the provisions of the Act. With DOH Secretary Enrique T. Ona at the helm of the IRR drafting committee and with four members from kindred NGOs, I think the possibility that the IRR will depreciate the Act is far-fetched.


However, we must not relax our guard because even the most formidable fortress is not impregnable from insidious assaults.




The six petitions before the Supreme Court contesting the constitutionality of the RH law is a compendium of the usual anti-RH homilies and tirades.


From the repetitious, almost ludicrous, verbiage of the petitions, the following common arguments are incanted:


  1.  The Reproductive Health Act violates the “right to life”.

  2. The Act infringes on the people’s “right to health”.

  3. It is offensive to the freedom of religion.

  4. It negates the basic and primary right of parents to develop their children’s moral character.


          All controversial measures end in the Supreme Court. We expected these petitions. We will prevail in the Highest Tribunal because the RH law is absolutely constitutional. We made sure that the provisions and the intendment of the Act are in harmony with constitutional mandates.


             Let me debunk briefly the issues raised.




             The very constitutional provision invoked by the petitioners, which is Sec. 12 of Art. II, provides that the State shall protect “the life of the unborn from conception.” Clearly, before conception, there is no life to protect. Conception has been defined by medical authorities as the implantation of the fertilized ovum in the woman’s uterus. Conception is synonymous with pregnancy.


              Verily, in the earlier stages of the reproductive process like ovulation and fertilization, there is no life to protect.


             It is in these prior stages before conception where contraception plays its role by preventing ovulation and fertilization. Accordingly, no life is impaired. No human life is imperiled.


           The genesis of Sec. 12 of Art. II of the 1987 Constitution started with the proposal to include in Section 1 of the Bill of Rights the provision that the “right to life extends to the fertilized ovum.” This proposal was not constitutionalized. It was rejected in favor of the present provision which guarantees the life of the unborn from conception, not before conception where there is no life yet to safeguard.


           The explicit intention of the framers of the 1987 Constitution in protecting the life of the unborn from conception is to prevent the Congress and the Supreme Court from legalizing abortion. The RH law does not legalize abortion. In fact, it acknowledges that abortion is illegal and punishable and is not a family planning option or method.




            Far from infringing the people’s “right to health”, the RH law promotes, protects and enhances the right to health, particularly of mothers and infants because the promotion of reproductive health and family planning will considerably decrease maternal and infant mortality rates since high-risk, unwanted and unintended pregnancies are avoided.


              Moreover, the promotion of reproductive health and family planning would assure the birth of healthy infants and empower parents to give fewer children proper sustenance, health care and education.




            The accusation that the RH law is offensive to religious freedom is a patent aberration. The Act is replete with provisions upholding the freedom of religion and respecting religious convictions. The guarantee of freedom of informed choice is an assurance that no one would be compelled to violate the tenets of his religion or defy his religious convictions against his free will and own discernment of his faith.


            The option to be a beneficiary of RH care and services and be an acceptor of a particular family planning method is solely the decision of a couple or woman with due regard to one’s religious beliefs and convictions. Good conscience is the anchor of one’s choice.




            Section 12 of Article II is among the 22 provisions constituting the State Policies or a “Bill of State Obligations” as distinguished from the Bill of Rights as found in Article III. Accordingly, the last sentence of Sec. 12 provides: “The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.”


           More than a recognition or grant of a right, this provision is an imposition of an obligation upon the State. Accordingly, the operative phrase in this provision is “shall receive the support of the Government.”


          The prescription of a mandatory age and development-appropriate reproductive health education for adolescents enrolled in public elementary and high schools is not an abridgement of the role of parents in the rearing of their children. It is in compliance with the bounden duty of Government to support the role of parents in the development of their children’s moral character, among others.


           This prescription on RH education assumes more relevance when we consider that the majority of parents default in teaching their children proper sexual values because of the prevailing taboo on conversation about sex in Filipino homes.


           Section 14 of the RH law is no different from the constitutional obligation of the State “to establish, maintain and support a complete, adequate and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society” (Sec. 2[1] of Art. XIV) which is not an impairment of the parent’s right and duty in the rearing of the youth. It is supportive and complementary.


          Similarly, the Constitution unequivocally provides that “Without limiting the natural right of parents to rear their children, elementary education is compulsory for all children of school age.” (Sec. 2[2] of Art. XIV). Clearly, no less than the Constitution mandates compulsory elementary education without violating parental right in the rearing of the youth.




            Funding will always be a contentious battleground in the implementation of the RH law. Without adequate appropriation, the RH law will be reduced to a fossilized policy, a Jurassic shibboleth.


          Accordingly, it is our common concern to have pro-RH legislators elected to the House of Representatives and the Senate to assure a continuing and requisite appropriation for the RH law. The threat of rejection at the polls must be obliterated by a positive campaign for electoral mandate for kindred and qualified candidates.




             Having said all of these, the bottom line is to ensure an effective, speedy and faithful implementation of the RH law.


         We have an outstandingly good law which deserves a successful and errant-less implementation. We, who have shepherded the enactment of the Reproductive Health Law, must oversee its faithful implementation.


           Finally, let me reiterate my thanks to the Forum for Family Planning and Development led by the indefatigable RH advocate Ben de Leon, the “eminent person-maker” himself.


            The name of the Forum is truly appropriate because the empirical and logical linkage between family planning and development is truly well-established and beyond debate.


            Thank you.


  • (Privilege Speech delivered by REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN
  • on 24 January 2012)


          At 10:43 in the evening of Thursday, January 04, 2012, I received a text message from a very reliable source which recounted the A-1 information relayed by one in the small group of about four who met that night at former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s hospital suite at the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center. The text message reads in full:

   “Kakatapos lang ng meeting with GMA. Suarez is it. He’s got the numbers. 10 withdrew from Edcel. A manifesto of support will be signed tomorrow to be formalized in a Minority caucus on the 15th with Edcel manifesting on the floor on the 16th that he is turning over the power to Suarez. The manifesto supersedes Edcel’s reso.”

           This text message confirms an earlier report that former President Arroyo was meeting with a few select opposition members closely allied with her. It also refutes denials that the former President was not in the conclave. The message spills the plot: “Katatapos lang ng meeting with GMA. Suarez is it.”

           Other than confirming the role of former President Arroyo in the enterprise to replace me, the message is presumptuous propaganda.

           First, while it claims that Rep. Suarez as early as January 04, 2012 had the numbers, the fact is as of last Wednesday, January 18, 2012 or two full weeks later, he still did not have the uncontestable absolute majority of the Minority Members.

           Second, the following day, January 05, 2012, the group of Rep. Suarez failed to secure a signed manifesto of support, contrary to the assertion in the text message.

           Third, during the Minority’s regular lunch meeting on January 16, 2012, the group of Rep. Suarez presented an alleged manifesto which showed that only five, not 10, of the 15 Minority Members who signed the resolution retaining me as the Minority Leader also signed for Rep. Suarez. As of said date, 10 colleagues who signed in December 2011 the Resolution maintaining me as Minority Leader have remained steadfast.

           Fourth, in the caucus hosted by Rep. Suarez on January 15, 2012 at the Manila Golf and Country Club only six to eight Minority members attended.

           Moreover, it was unabashedly presumed that I would relinquish the Minority leadership at the mere say-so that the Suarez camp had the numbers.

           But what is important to underscore is that the text message never mentioned a term-sharing agreement for the Minority leadership, which bogus arrangement was pursued to deodorize the plot to oust me.

           The term-sharing being claimed by the Suarez camp is baseless and non-existent. The agreement was limited to a splitting of the term of the Speaker had I won as the then Lakas-Kampi candidate.

           Rep. Suarez offered the term-sharing agreement as a condition for withdrawing his bid to contest my candidacy for Speaker within the then Lakas-Kampi. We were fighting for the Speakership and to forge a splitting agreement on the Minority leadership would have been foolhardy and would have sent defeatist signals.

           Remember, this was in early June 2010 when Lakas-Kampi still held the numerical superiority.

           The meeting at Club Filipino to formalize the choice of the then Lakas-Kampi candidate for Speaker was covered by tri-media. The news accounts of the event unmistakably document that the splitting of term was limited to the speakership.

  posted on June 04, 2010 a report entitled “Lakas-Kampi leaders agree to term-sharing for Speakership.” The news report stated that “Albay Representative Edcel Lagman and Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez have agreed to a term-sharing scheme if the administration party Lakas-Kampi Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) would bag the Speakership in the House of Representatives.”

           The report further stated that “Emerging from the meeting of Lakas-Kampi congressmen Friday, Suarez said the party agreed to field Lagman for the top post of the chamber in the 15th Congress” and “If Lagman gets the speakership, he will serve for the first 18 months, then Suarez will sit in the second half of the term.”

           Similarly, Manila Standard Today in a news account entitled “Lakas-Kampi taps Lagman in speakership race”, reported that “The administration Lakas-Kampi CMD party has agreed to a term-sharing formula between Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez if it bags the speakership in the House of Representatives.”

           The report further recounted: “Lagman said he agreed to the term-sharing proposal to avoid division within the ranks of the ruling party”; “They made the proposal and I accepted it and I will take the first 18 months, said Lagman, adding that he expected to win a majority”; and “Suarez said a coalition with other parties was in the works to get some 20 party-list lawmakers to their side.”

           No mention whatsoever was made about an alleged term-sharing for the Minority leadership.

           I am not a stranger to term-sharing agreements. Before I assumed the Chairmanship of the powerful Committee on Appropriations, Speaker Jose de Venecia brokered a term-sharing agreement between me and Rep. Junie Cua. When the time came, I voluntarily relinquished the Chairmanship to Representative Cua despite the fact that Speaker De Venecia had been replaced by Speaker Nograles who was not privy to the arrangement.

           I always honor a commitment or agreement. But I should not be forced to comply with an imagined or contrived arrangement.

           The repeated incantation of the Suarez camp about a term sharing agreement has become a repulsive refrain even as its creeping signature campaign demeans Minority members who are relentlessly pressured to renege on their commitment and abandon their support for me.

           Under the circumstances, the only principled action to take is to resign as Minority Leader so that former President Arroyo’s anointed one can take over despite his failure to obtain an uncontestable absolute majority of the Minority members.

           Those who affixed dual signatures for me and for Rep. Suarez cancelled out their preferences and nullified their contradictory choices. By parity of reasoning, the rule provided for in the Omnibus Election Code is instructive and applicable. It is provided that: “Where there are two or more candidates voted for in an office for which the law authorizes the election of only one, the vote shall not be counted in favor of any of them…”

           Moreover, two signatories to the Suarez manifesto have already left Lakas and joined the Nationalista Party, a member of the majority coalition. Consequently, they are disqualified from participating in Minority decisions unless they are able to show, which they failed to do, concrete proof that they have been authorized by the leadership of the Nationalista Party to remain with the opposition.

           What the Suarez manifesto achieved was to indelibly show the hand of the former President. Her two sons signed the manifesto despite earlier protestations that the Arroyos would remain neutral. All of the former Arroyo appointees now in the Minority, except for two, sided with Suarez.

           In order to foreclose further skirmishes within the ranks of the small Minority and render my association with some colleagues irreparably damaged, I resign irrevocably as Minority Leader. I have also communicated to Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., President of Lakas-CMD, my resignation as Chairman and member of Lakas-CMD and Vice President of the Centrist Democrats International, a worldwide organization of Christian and Muslim democratic parties, of which Lakas-CMD is a member.

           I cannot continue to serve and lead a political aggrupation whose core ignores independent, committed, competent and responsible leadership.

           I cannot respect a group that demeans colleagues by relentlessly pressuring them to withdraw their signatures in a Resolution retaining me as Minority Leader.

           I cannot continue to associate politically with some opposition members who are closely linked and beholden to the former President so much so that they succumb to the importuning of a patron.

           I cannot allow the Minority to lose its credibility and independence by becoming a mere mouthpiece of the former President.

           When I interposed the petition challenging the constitutionality of the Philippine Truth Commission, I did not file it for former President Arroyo and her officials. I did not even consult her nor ask the help of her lawyers. She learned about it when it was already filed and her office even had to ask for a copy of the petition.

           I filed the petition on my own to confront the Aquino administration for committing an affront against the Constitution, more particularly the equal protection clause. I was sustained by the Supreme Court.

           Likewise, when I questioned the constitutionality of the cancellation of the ARMM elections and the granting of authority to President Aquino to appoint OICs, as well as when I challenged the validity of the GOCC Governance Act for derogating the security of tenure of government personnel and arrogating in favor of a super administrative body the powers of the Civil Service Commission, I did these again without consulting the former President.

           I wanted to deliver the strong message to the Aquino administration to uphold at all times the supremacy of the Constitution and the ascendancy of the rule of law.

           My only respectable alternative now is to become an independent. I cannot join the Majority party or coalition because I have serious policy differences with the Aquino administration like my pending petitions before the Supreme Court and my criticism of the blitzkrieg impeachment of the Chief Justice. I cannot forsake my convictions for partisan concessions.

           I wish to thank the House leadership for recognizing the importance of the Minority in a democratic system.

           I salute the members of the opposition who have remained steadfast in supporting my leadership and refusing to yield to tremendous pressures.

           I would like to thank the congressional media for a fair coverage of Minority concerns, except that a very few during the Minority intramurals were writing news accounts as if they were opinion columns.

           I will continue to fiscalize the Aquino administration and pursue to the hilt my progressive and alternative agenda, including the Reproductive Health Bill.

           I have been telling the public and media that although the former President and I were both in the opposition, I was never a GMA minion. Now, everybody knows that I am not.

           I am not the anointed one. I did not seek anointment. I treasure my principles and independence.

(Opening Statement of Rep. Edcel C. Lagman at the “Prospects for the Philippines” forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP)

on 19 January 2012 at the Mandarin Oriental, Makati City)


For some time now the entire nation is focused on the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, particularly on the current trial before the Senate.


It is the daily fare of tri-media as well as of social networking sites. It is the preoccupation of the time, the flavor of the season. Its intensity continues to escalate.


There should be no debate that impeachment is a recognized constitutional process to uphold public accountability and sanction the excesses of high government officials like the President, Vice President, Justices of the Supreme Court, Members of the Constitutional Commissions and the Ombudsman.


It is also settled that more than a judicial proceeding, impeachment is a political exercise.


Consequently, the Congress of the Philippines, indubitably a political department, plays the stellar role in impeachment proceedings. The House of Representatives impeaches and prosecutes, and the Senate of the Philippines tries the respondent and decides to acquit or convict after trial.


However, the other political department, the Executive Branch headed by the President of the Republic, has no constitutional role. In fact, the Constitution bars the President from extending clemency or pardon to convicted respondents in impeachment cases.


Nonetheless, the rule of law, not the importuning of the mob or the obsession of one man, must be ascendant in all the phases of the impeachment process. It is a political undertaking circumscribed by due process and the tenets of fair play.


Consequently, the Senate as the impeachment court should have conducted a preliminary hearing to determine whether the “verification” of 188 complainants was compliant as a component of due process or was a shameless sham because it was physically impossible for 188 Representatives to have individually and personally “read and understood” in a couple of hours the 57-page complaint as required by the Constitution and the House Rules on Impeachment Proceedings. A valid verification is a condition precedent to impeachment and trial. The purported verification of 1/3 of the Members of the House was the speed vehicle which conveyed with alacrity the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. Perforce, a preliminary hearing on the alleged fatal verification was in order.


The Senate should have motu proprio prohibited and sanctioned print media for publishing self-serving full-page paid advertisements which tend to influence Senator-Judges and calculated to sway public opinion on which some Senator-Judges announced they would base their decision.


We commend the Senate for warning the prosecutors and defense counsel not to present and advertise their evidence before the public. Indeed, the only proper forum to adduce evidence is before the Senate as the impeachment court.


We also welcome the ruling of the Senate denying the prosecution’s request to subpoena the kin of the Chief Justice. The majority of the Senator-Judges saw through the malevolent scheme of involving the family of the Chief Justice to inordinately hurt and harass him in order to force him to resign.


Like the impeachment of the Chief Justice, the controversial reproductive health bill has also been regular media fodder. It has consistently received media mileage – both negative and constructive – and partisans from both sides are still enthusiastically airing their opinions on an issue that will affect the health and lives of millions of women and children.


Again, like the ongoing impeachment trial, there seems to be no lukewarm or ambivalent reaction to the issues on reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population and development.


One either strongly believes that the impeachment is a farce, a travesty of the rule of law and a direct assault on the Judiciary or that the days of impunity of errant magistrates are over.


The same is true with the reproductive health bill. Critics of the measure have labeled it an instrument of the devil and claim that it would signal the demise of the Filipino family and race. On the other hand, supporters of the bill readily maintain that an RH law would guarantee the right to health of mothers and children and will be instrumental to achieving sustainable human development.


Certainly, passions have run high in both the impeachment trial and the passage of the RH bill. Some quarters may even go as far as claiming that both the current trial of the Chief Justice and the campaign to pass a reproductive health law are so divisive and conflict-ridden that they have struck a discordant note in the Filipino public’s nerve and have polarized the country.


But the striking contrasts between the impeachment proceedings and the RH advocacy are gravely important to underscore.


The impeachment agenda, however noble, has a limited impact on the lives of people, particularly of the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged who care more about the eradication of petty graft like those committed by kotong cops, market collectors and small-time bureaucrats which bedevil their daily existence. On the other hand, the RH advocacy will save and uplift the multitude of women and children as maternal health is improved and infant mortality decreased, consistent with the Millennium Development Goals.


It is in this context that the President must employ the same, if not more, zeal and determination in having the RH bill enacted as he did and is doing to have the impeachment prosper.


He has the vast arsenal of power to convince his allies in Congress to fast track the enactment of a long-delayed legislation for the good of the greater number.


The President has prioritized the RH bill before the LEDAC and the Congress. But “prioritization” is not enough. Perforce, he must assure its immediate enactment by marshalling the resources and forces of his office.


While the impeachment of the Chief Justice is viewed by many as an insidious assault on the independence of the judiciary as a democratic institution, the passage of the RH bill will enhance human institutions, alleviate poverty and make sustainable human development achievable.


The impeachment process against the Chief Justice may result to a collateral damage to legislation and governance.


It appears that legislation, including the enactment of the RH bill, may be put in the back burner as congressional attention and energies are concentrated on the impeachment process.


Likewise, the implementation of national policies may be further stalled or temporized as the Aquino administration is consumed by an inordinate obsession to remove and replace the Chief Justice.


I hope it is not true that the Aquino administration is contriving to use “People Power” to the hilt to oust the Chief Justice in the event he is acquitted by the Senate. Governance should not be forfeited to the rabble.


In contrast, the enactment of the RH bill optimizes governance as the government will be liberated from spreading too thinly limited resources to a ballooning population which may soon hit the 100 million mark.


The enactment of a comprehensive RH law, with adequate funding and willful implementation, will assure that important human development factors like quality education, adequate health care, full employment, stable food security, responsive mass housing and a robust environment will not remain impossible dreams.


Let the impeachment proceedings continue and end as warranted, but we must enact the RH bill with alacrity because it will have more positive far-reaching and long range benefits to the Filipino nation.


Finally, I assure all of you that whatever is the result of the minority intramurals in the House, I am ever ready to defend to the utmost the RH bill which is one of my principal advocacies and shepherd it to eventual passage.


Thank you.


  • (Speech delivered by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman during the Launching
  • of the Primer on Legal Issues in Reproductive Health
  • at the UP Law Center on 09 December 2011)


           The variations of the RH bill have been stalled in the legislative gauntlet for over 12 years now since the first comprehensive bill was filed in 1999 during the 11th Congress.


            The travails of the RH bill continue despite favorable and enabling indicators like:


            1)          Survey after survey --nationwide, regional and local--document the peoples’ vast and continuing support for the measure with (a) 71% of the respondents saying nationwide that it must be enacted without further delay (with higher percentages registered in areas where the Congressmen are opposed to the bill, like 86% in Manila, 89% in Parañaque and 88% in Cebu); (b) 68% responding that the government has authority to use public funds for family planning, including the procurement and distribution of contraceptives to voluntary acceptors (64% in Manila, 70% in Parañaque and 75% in Cebu); (c) voters prefer candidates who have an agenda on family planning; and (d) the vast majority of the respondents are Catholics.


           2)           The Philippines is a signatory to relevant international conventions promoting and protecting reproductive health, like: (a) the Tehran Convention on Human Rights which upholds the right of parents to freely and responsibly determine the number and spacing of their children; (b) the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action; (c) Convention on the Rights of the Child; (d) Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); (e) Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (f) International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICECSR); and (g) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).


               3)          President Aquino has endorsed to the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) and to the Congress the enactment of the RH bill as a priority administration measure.


               In this connection, it is pertinent to ask whether the President is doing enough to assure the passage of the RH bill? Maybe prioritization is not sufficient. The President has to do more to convince his congressional allies that the enactment of the RH bill is imperative as an indispensable tool to achieve sustainable human development.


              The arsenal of the Presidency to rally support for a measure or agenda is legendary. This time, the weaponry of power can be used by the President for the good of the greatest number—the multitude of the marginalized and disadvantaged, particularly women and children who are the direct and immediate beneficiaries of the RH bill.


              The challenges to the RH bill are not cerebral. They are mundane and parochial. They cannot even be elevated to “challenges”. They are just plain “obstructions”, like the following:


              1)  Problem of quorum;

              2)  Repetitive questions or recidivist interpellations and absentee interpelators;

              3)  Political equation; and

              4)  Fear factor


              Quorum – It is a truism that the act of legislation is a numbers game. The numbers could be herded, mob-like, unthinking, ambivalent or sparse. But they are numbers just the same. Numbers are needed to enact. And lack of numbers is useful to delay legislation.


              The lack of a quorum is a convenient excuse to stall legislation. The absence of a quorum can even be contrived or intentional.


              It is for this reason that we have continuously reminded RH authors and advocates to be present at all times. But even they could not subscribe to this strict discipline.


              The solution is for the leadership of the House to take the bold initiative and enforce the rules, including sanctions for absenteeism. Leniency must be jettisoned. It is a bane to policy-making.


              Recidivist Interpellations After 12 years of debate inside and outside the Halls of Congress, all relevant and irrelevant questions have been asked about the RH bill. There is absolutely no new argument or novel misconception.


              Questions are asked repeatedly not to debate or inform but to cause delay.


              Many registered themselves as interpellators but when their time comes to confront the sponsors, they either conveniently absent themselves or feign not being prepared.


              We call again on the leadership of the House of Representatives to adopt, issue and enforce the rules of engagement which ban repetitive questions and limit the interpellator’s time to not more than one (1) hour in order to foreclose inordinate delay.


              Political Equation – Politics is addition. To a politician, every vote counts, even the vote of the devil. Hence, a politician reaches out to all. Although there is no Catholic vote, an ordinary politician, as much as possible, will not dare displease his Bishop or get the ire of the Church. Consequently, he usually defers or succumbs to the importuning of the clergy.


              The solution is a strong political will and steadfast commitment to a cause. This should be buttressed by a full realization that the RH advocacy is supported by the people and there is popular rejection of the undue interference of the Church hierarchy in secular affairs.


             Fear Factor - The macabre instruments of torture and terror employed for ages by despots and ecclesiastics are merely secondary to the pervasive and malevolent instigation of fear to secure blind adherence and break principled resistance.


             The Catholic Church has long perfected the policy and practice of instilling fear in both the faithful and prospective converts.


            The fear of sin has been conceptualized and propagated by clerics in order to make their ministry continually relevant as they intercede on behalf of sinners for God’s pardon and mercy. The fear of eternal damnation and hellfire has coerced or frightened people to obey Church dogma and has subdued crusading dissenters against the teachings of the faith.


             Nowhere in recent years has the Church’s mastery of the fear factor been put to much exploitative use than in the current debates on the reproductive health bill – fear of contraceptives, fear of a demographic winter and fear of promiscuity, among others.


            The Catholic Church peddles the fear and lie that contraceptives like pills, IUDs and injectables induce abortions or are abortifacients, and will definitely lead to cancer; a demographic winter, which is a scare tactic, will lead to the decimation of the Filipino race; and sexuality education will create a breed of sex maniacs.


             The solution to fear is to foster the truth. Those who capitalize on fear are bankrupt in reason. They cannot compete in the free market of ideas. Fear has to be confronted and dismantled because it is the antithesis of truth and free choice.


            These “challenges”, more appropriately “obstructions”, are not insuperable. They are feeble posturing and mainly dilatory tactics. But delay is not victory. It just temporizes the eventual and certain triumph of a progressive and much-needed RH law.


            In our inevitable victory, we truly count on the unwavering support of the NGO community which prominently includes the ReproCen, and the steadfast advocacy of the academe like the UP College of Law, UP Institute of Human Rights, UP Institute of International Legal Studies and Center for International Law.


             This Primer on Legal Issues in Reproductive Health is a welcome addition to the increasing positive literature on reproductive health. And more importantly, it will be our veritable ammunition when we venture to the next battlefield—the judicial forum where the opponents of RH vow to contest the constitutionality of the RH law.


             Let me underscore that the detractors of the RH bill are the ones going to the Supreme Court. This means that they have conceded that eventually there will be a Reproductive Health Law, whose constitutionality they will challenge, albeit vainly and perfunctorily.


             Whether these “challenges” are real or contrived, your RH advocates inside and outside the Congress are always ready to confront and vanquish the oppositors, now in the Congress and subsequently in the Supreme Court.