Presidentials urged to bare RH stand

Poll bets told: Bare reproductive health stand
By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Advocates of reproductive health rights Thursday called on the presidential candidates to bare their agenda on reproductive health and take a clear stand on the issue.

They also called on the incoming 15th Congress to pass the reproductive health (RH) care bill into law “immediately.”

“Presidential candidates are being more careful in trying to answer the question…They should make a clear stand on reproductive health now,” said Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation (PLCPDF).

The PLCPDF, along with EnGendeRights Inc. and the Forum for Family Planning and Development Inc., held a joint press conference to air their demand, and enjoin voters to pick candidates “who support the passage of the RH bill into law.”

“It has been over eight years since the first RH bill was filed in Congress. The failure to pass the RH bill has been detrimental to the health and lives of Filipinos, especially women and children,” the groups said in a joint statement.

Lawyer Clara Rita Padilla, EnGendeRights Inc. executive director, said that while the group had not endorsed a presidential candidate, reproductive health advocates “are looking for candidates with a platform on reproductive health…where are the programs of the candidates on RH?”

“The candidates should be able to answer reproductive health issues,” she said.

San Pascual said that of the nine presidential candidates, only Sen. Benigno Aquino III and Sen. Manny Villar had taken consistent, albeit different, stands on the RH issue.

San Pascual said that Aquino had been “consistent and clear” that while parents should be responsible for planning their families, government should be able to help them.

Villar, on the other hand, had said that reproductive health was a divisive issue.

“What we hope to have, at least, is someone who is not necessarily pro-RH but someone who has an open mind and would allow Congress to do its work,” said San Pascual.

“This is policy-making. If the candidate would allow Congress to debate and then later vote and [he would] respect the process of lawmaking, then we will go for [that] president,” San Pascual said.

He also criticized President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s purported meddling in the affairs of Congress when it came to the reproductive health bill.

According to San Pascual, Speaker Prospero Nograles had assured them the HR bill would be passed, unless President Arroyo called him up.
He said the call from Malacañang to the House leader came in October 2009.

“You know what sabotaged the whole process? A powerful bishop called Malacañang. The message was transmitted to Congress,” San Pascual said.P

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