OpinionWater under the RH Bill
Water under the RH Bill
September 25, 2012
September 25, 2012

On the afternoon of August 13, 2012, an actor gone senator delivered a speech that caused many politicians, media practitioners and Filipinos to cry out of pity and sympathy. The senator talked about the abortive side effects of contraceptive pills, which, among other family planning options, would be available to the general public once, if and when House Bill 4244 or any of the Reproductive Health bills would be implemented.

Two days after, a US blogger accused the senator of plagiarism, which sparked public outcry for the resignation of the senator who again, plagiarized another speech. This time, he tagalized US Senator Robert Kennedy’s speech in the hopes of killing the bill, which obviously nullified all his claims at least in the ears of the people.Days after, the RH bill debate has gone from semi important to far out, and months after it is passed or junked, Filipinos will move on with their lives.

Sadly, the bill will become part of the really long seldom read and often abused laws/bills/ordinances of the Philippines. Perhaps the biggest or the only benefactor of this whole shenanigan is none other than Senator Tito Sotto since all publicity is good publicity, aside from the crooks who would handle the budget of course.

But before everything ends and people start to forget the whole point of the debate, I just want to give my two cents worth on the controversial bill.

Personally, I am for the RH bill because I believe in the freedom of informed choice. The RH bill will help educate Filipinos on family planning, and will provide many poverty-stricken families the chance to avail of contraceptives, allowing Filipinos to make informed and financially-supported decisions. Moreover, the bill will standardize these practices, and will make implementation mandatory, which is sadly the only way we could make the local government to implement policies.

The bill will affect many lives, and possibly improve them. In fact, I used to look at the RH bill as the solution to the country’s economic and social problems much like many who treat it like a panacea. It’s simple math and common sense really. A person who earns Php 300 a day would be able to spend more on one child than five.

Womens’ rights and empowerment would improve because of the resources that the government would provide, and because of the bill’s family planning objectives.

Moreover, the country’s image would improve. People from around the globe would know that the Philippines takes a proactive role in promoting freedom of choice, not to mention the additional foreign direct investments the country would receive because of this image.

I remember asking myself, “ Why did it take the country so long to move this bill?” Everything makes sense. How could anyone think otherwise?

Apparently, we already have these programs. Long before the RH bill, the many local government units have already been implementing family planning programs. Some even give out condoms and other contraceptives via health centers. In fact, the RH bill is a list of all the family planning initiatives that are being used in many health centers around the country.

But since these initiatives are already in use, should we not start feeling the effects of these long-used initiatives? Some would argue that there is not enough funding and that the practices are not standard, but still, shouldn’t women, at least in some areas, be happier because of these programs, and shouldn’t the country be improving economically?

I’m afraid the answer to freedom, prolife and economic growth is not on this bill, nor can it be found on any of the other bills. The RH bill is a band-aid solution, a much-needed one, but one nonetheless. It is the government’s solution to a weak healthcare system and decades worth of bad governance.

Think about it. The bill is the government’s way of throwing “plastic” to communities instead of trying to build on the people. Many would argue that the implementation would be different and that plastic is not the only method of population control and family planning. The problem though is that it is the easiest, and there really is nothing wrong with using it, but think about its distribution and implementation.

In a country that has been riddled with corruption since birth, allocating more funds for this initiative may not be the best idea. It will provide temporary relief, but that is all.

The RH bill must be accompanied with political will from the people. The people need to start thinking critically about the problems that will arise if and should it be implemented. More funds will be at risk, and there is a chance that women would not benefit from it at all.

Moreover, the government needs to start thinking of sustainable ways to address the country’s growing population. Population growth is not the root cause of the country’s perennial economic and social problems. Instead of thinking of a person’s Php 300 salary and what it could buy if family sizes get smaller, why not think of ways to increase a person’s income? At the end of the day, a Php 300 salary is not much even to a family of three.

I attended a dialogue between the pros and the antis in DLSU. Both parties raised relevant and important issues, but one issue stood out, at least in my perspective. One professor raised the issue that sex, abortion, and hence, the spread of disease happens around us all the time, and really, the responsibility lies with the people who know about them.

In any case, all of these issues will become water under the bridge as the senate and the people gear up for a decision. Thing is, in the Philippines, water under the bridge almost always leads to a flood, especially when plastic is involved.