House Bill 5043: The Reproductive Health Bill

It has been in the news of late. It is the most controversial topic to ever hit our nation since the past year or so. The controversy apparently reached its climax last Thursday when Carlos Celdran, a local celebrity in the Tourism Industry, dared to do the unthinkable – he barged in during a mass at the Manila Cathedral dressed as Jose Rizal while carrying a placard with the word “DAMASO” boldly written across it. For those  like me, who usually doze off during history classes, Damaso is the name of the friar in the novel of Jose Rizal, Noli Me Tangere, who fathered Maria Clara. Padre Damaso was portrayed by Rizal as the impersonation of the corrupt and hypocritical priests of his time.

 

The issue, apparently, is centered on the House Bill 5043: Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008, otherwise known as the Reproductive Health Bill. What makes this bill so singularly controversial is that it touched on a sensitive topic – that of having children. Most of us Filipinos, are usually touchy when sex is being talked about, more so when it pertains to the result there of. Now, this Bill actually seeks to address the population crisis in the Philippines by implementing a Sex Education Program (Section 4, paragraph H; and Section 12 of the Bill), by creating a Commission on Population (Section 5), by making contraceptives as essential medicines (Section 10), and by imposing penalties for some acts defined within the bill (Section 21 & 22), just to name a few provisions.

 

The Catholic Church and several Pro Life groups were vocal in their opposition to the Bill, saying that it encourages promiscuity among the youth, promotes abortion, and seeks to destroy the sanctity of the family and that the proposed bill is not a solution to the problem, but causes the deterioration of the Filipino morals. They believe that the natural method is still the best form of population control. The rhetoric coming from this sector was furthermore inflamed when the President stated during an interview in America, while on an official trip, that that the government “is obligated to inform everybody of their responsibility and their choices; at the end of the day government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method.”

 

The Pro Choice block, on the other hand upped the ante by staging several rallies in support of the RH Bill, culminating in the now famous performance of Carlos Celdran in the Manila Cathedral. Their position is that the Philippines is in dire need of population management, and the RH Bill is a much needed instrument in achieving this. They contend that one of the factors that is keeping our country poor and suffering is due to a very big population; we will reach 100 million before 2020. The poor get poorer, they say, due to the fact that most of them have too many children caused by unplanned pregnancies because of the lack of available family planning education, contraceptives, and other methods of family planning. Furthermore, the State is being burdened by the big population because their budget would be stretched too thin in trying to serve so many. This position is apparently gaining ground. A survey conducted last 2009 showed 6 out of 10 Filipinos agrees to the passage of the RH bill, while 8 out of 10 believes that the government should not only inform couples on family planning but also furnish them with services and materials.

 

Whichever side to this brewing controversy you are on, I would highly encourage you to know more about the said Bill and the positions of both sides, for in the end, an informed decision is the best decision. In the same vein, having more information of the proposed law will encourage a healthy debate on the issue. Hopefully, this would result into having a law that is well considered and well made. I will also encourage you to go to your respective House Representatives and tell them your stance and views on the matter; you could either write them a letter or give their respective offices a call. Through this, our Congressmen may know what their constituents want from them. In this way, at least, we can say, we have truly participated in an issue of  public concern.

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  • You could read the full text of the Reproductive Health Bill through:

http://jlp-law.com/blog/full-text-of-house-bill-no-5043-reproductive-health-and-population-development-act-of-2008/.

  • You could contact the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines through this site:

http://www.president.gov.ph/contact/default.aspx

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