RH push overshadowed by Sotto, Leni condom talk

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KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO

GIVEN all that has been happening, half borne of the discourse of confusion and noise, the other half just the utter lack of information, I almost missed what might just be one of the best New Year’s presents we could get from President Duterte: his Executive Order 12.

Here, the President essentially orders all relevant government offices “to intensify and accelerate the implementation of critical actions necessary to attain and sustain “zero unmet need for modern family planning” for all poor households by 2018, and of all Filipinos thereafter, within the context of the RPRH Law and its implementing rules.”

RPRH is the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, which was signed into law by PNoy in December 2012. It had taken 14 years to pass. Of course, after less than two years of implementation, RPRH faced a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court in mid-2015, limiting government’s procurement and distribution of certain hormonal contraceptives, and disallowing the Department of Health (DOH) from approving the registration/recertification of reproductive products and supplies (ABS-CBNNews.com, October 10, 2016, January 11, 2017).

This TRO still stands, one of many roadblocks to the full implementation of RH, based on petitions filed by pro-life groups.


Empowering agencies
This EO undoubtedly has this TRO as context. According to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia: “With this EO from the President, we hope that the Supreme Court will act expeditiously in terms of lifting the TRO” (Inquirer.net, January 11).

But also, it is contextualized in the goals of lowering maternal mortality rates and teenage pregnancies, as well as the need to meet the long-term poverty reduction targets of government (Manila Bulletin, January 11).

An important section of the EO itself though, is its list of Accelerating Mechanisms. There is a directive to pertinent government offices and agencies to “map areas to locate couples and individuals with unmet needs for modern family planning,” and to “mobilize local structures <…> to accelerate the implementation of the RPRH law.”

Two other important directives are for the DOH to “review the gaps in the implementation of the RPRH Law, issue corresponding orders and guidelines, and implement interventions” to ensure Filipinos’ access to RH services and modern family planning, and for the Department of Education (DepEd) to “implement a gender-sensitive and rights-based comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in the school curriculum.”

All makes sense, all urgently needed, and all certainly welcome in a country where RH rights and sex education are still treated like taboo topics despite an RH Law.

Hurrah for this President.

Boo to Sotto, VP Leni
Yet for all the good that is in this EO 12, it has gotten little mileage – for reasons that are becoming clear. Instead of talking about what this contains and pressuring the Supreme Court to lift that TRO, what has taken over media is talk about condoms being distributed in schools – something that was first mentioned by Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial in December last year.

That it has become this issue that shall now be probed by the Senate is of course making a mountain out of a molehill, and is reminiscent of a time in the past when these kind(s) of “controversies” would get the Church and conservatives all riled up. And because this is a throwback, even the characters are old, i.e., Senator Tito Sotto, conservative extraordinaire, never mind his past as part of a triumvirate that lived off some good ol’ toilet and sexist humor.

Yes, Senator Sotto is pushing for a Senate probe into the purported distribution of condoms in schools, saying that the DOH is “playing with fire” (ManilaTimes.net, January 16) and “dismissing the sentiment of a conservative culture.” (ABSCBNNews.com, January 17)

As back-up, he’s got Vice President Leni Robredo who gave her two cents worth about the issue, asserting that the purported distribution of condoms can only be good if it is part of a bigger program of education, otherwise it would merely promote a culture of promiscuity (GMANetwork.com, January 17). Of course, had VP Leni spent time reading about the issue, she would’ve found that in fact it is part of a bigger program of sex and HIV education–so she wouldn’t have had to speak about it in this way at all.

But alas, she already has, and what a terrible thing to be on the same side, and spewing the same words, as Senator Sotto. He who also criticizes this aspect of the DOH-DepEd’s sex ed and HIV awareness programs (still in the works), by invoking the promotion of the culture of promiscuity. And because he is Senator Sotto, he had to prove how unreasonable he is by asking: “Are we saying that sex with an underage person is now allowed and even encouraged because of the program? Isn’t that coercion?” (ManilaTimes.net, January 16)

Ah, the best reminder of why we should dismiss the sentiments of this conservative Sotto culture: it chooses to be blind to the real state of the nation, and will skew the argument to the point of absurdity. One can’t wait until he’s out of the Senate.

Meanwhile, here’s hoping that President Duterte’s men and women are actually up to proving that they can do right by the nation on RPRH. As Secretary Pernia says: “<Pro-life groups> keep saying that contraception or family planning or the reproductive health law is abortifacient, it’s anti-life. But <…> we in the government, we think differently. We feel that it is pro-life, pro-women, pro-children, and pro-economic development” (CNN Philippines, January 11).

Take that, Senator Sotto (and you too, VP Leni)!

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9 Comments

  1. I’ve missed something. When I got married in 1995 I had to attend family planning seminars prior to getting married. Has this changed?

  2. I am a conservative Christian. I’m against abortion but pro RH. Contraceptives are not abortifacients except for the morning after pill. I’ve have had enough of this deceit by the Catholic Church, its adherent like Sen. Sotto, and those pandering to it for political gain, foremost of which is Leni Gerona.

  3. At least Tito Sotto remains steadfast in his archaic belief. If I remember correctly, Leni Robredo even supported the RH Bill when she was in Congress. I could only guess she needed support from a certain group hence the turnaround.

    • melissa salazar on

      she is just against distribution of condom to public school children. I think she remain steadfast about her support for the RH LAw. As a mother i am against the irresponsible distribution of condom to children. What is that for? We are wasting much of government resources doing that. It will not deter the children from indulging in premarital sex which is the most effective way of preventing unwanted pregnancy. This is not about religion, this is about common sense and good reason.

  4. Maybe we should just teach these kids to wash their hands very well and then just get it off without going all the way, or is that too progressive for some progressive’s taste?

  5. Right of life is the question”. Abortion is illegal here in our country. I believe on these 2 principles. My opinion, as long as the egg cell and the sperm cell do not meet, there is no life. No abortion and everything is legal in the eyes of God and the State. Let us not muddy the waters by providing different scenarios. So condoms and proper sex education must be push to stop unwanted pregnancy.

  6. Look, I also have conservative moral values. I am against abortion but that is because I believe that the fetus is a human being and should not be terminated. The innocent fetus did not do anything wrong unlike convicted criminals. Now, preventing pregnancies is not abortion, especially if we don’t use the morning after pill. There are too many poor kids in the slums. Who will feed them, clothe them, educate them, and give them jobs? There are too many programs for the poor but the working class and the middle class like me do not even get any aid from the government though I pay my taxes. And please, we all know that sex has been prevalent in the country since the sexual revolution. Yes, we can educate and preach about sexual morality but because there is free will, people will choose whatever they want to do, good or bad. So the government had to intervene. Juan Flavier did a good job a long time ago. His AIDS campaign was successful but sadly, it was not continued.

  7. I would think that the large numbers of pregnancies among children in the country would suggest that the problem of promiscuity is much more complex than the availability of condoms. This is one of the tragic pieces in the cycle of poverty that many of the poor are trapped in. The EO is a move in the right direction.

  8. Senator Tito Sotto, conservative extraordinaire
    ————————————————————

    Sotto is on the Napoles list but was never charged.
    Sotto gave hundreds of millions of peso’s to a fake Non government agency and according to Napoles he got 50% back in kickbacks.

    Why not remove him from the senate for at the very least giving away hundreds of millions to a scam artist, What a waste of the peoples money that Sotto alone is responsible for.

    Sotto should not be a senator but rather a inmate.