Esperanza Cabral

Prolifers slam condoms, bets who back RH bill

Prolifers slam condoms, bets who back RH bill
By Julie M. Aurelio, Beverly T. Natividad
Philippine Daily Inquirer

PROLIFE GROUPS Saturday claimed that condom use will not stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and vowed not to support any candidate who endorses the reproductive health (RH) bill.

“Let us not exclude God from the equation of life and health,” said protesters at a rally at the Riverbanks Ampitheater in Marikina City yesterday, led by the Antipolo diocese and Catholic religious and lay groups.

The protesters, who numbered about 600, including young people and their parents, said they were reiterating the Church’s defense of life and marriage.

“Authentic sexual values are expressed in premarital chastity and fidelity to spouse. It rejects the reproductive health bill and calls on the people to respect God’s plan for life,” the rally organizers said in a statement.

The statement said the rally, which ended with a concelebrated Mass by Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, was meant to be a protest against the Department of Health’s campaign to distribute condoms to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

One of the organizers, Veronica Pineda, said good governance was vital in fighting diseases like the acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

The statement said the protest action was meant to show the candidates in the May elections that “the people’s desire is not contraceptives but good government, and supports the call to reject candidates who support the reproductive health bill.”

In his homily, Reyes said that the religious sector was united with the Department of Health in its aim to curb maternal mortality and reduce the spread of AIDS.

But in doing so, the Health Department should not forget God, he said.

“It seems they didn’t include God and morality in this equation when our life and health comes from God,” said Reyes.

The government, the Antipolo bishop said, cannot promote life and health without also teaching about the moral aspect of life.

“It is as if for them it’s OK to lose one’s morality as long as you are in good health. Even if you go to someone not your wife, it’s okay as long as you are not sick,” Reyes said.

Conservative Catholic groups earlier denounced the Department of Health for distributing condoms on Valentine’s Day. Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral explained that the campaign was against AIDS and not contraception.

The prolife protesters said that condoms had a 15-percent failure rate and that viruses could still pass through latex condoms, and they are therefore not a fool-proof means of AIDS prevention or pregnancy.

PhilHealth execs face poll charges

PhilHealth execs face poll charges
By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The president and chief operating officer of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and three other top executives of the state-run firm face possible jail terms after violating an election law, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The Comelec’s law department, citing a Supreme Court decision, ruled the PhilHealth officials violated the Omnibus Election Code with the recent reshuffle of 26 agency officials.

If the Comelec en banc affirms the law department’s decision, the following PhilHealth officials could face jail terms of one to six years and disqualification from public office: Jesus Reynaldo “Rey” Aquino, president and CEO; Melinda Mercado, executive vice president; Tito Mendiola, senior vice president for operations; and Ruben John Basa, group vice president for corporate affairs.

Documents furnished the Inquirer by the Department of Health and PhilHealth insiders showed the 26 officials were reshuffled on Jan. 12, or two days after the prohibition on job transfers took effect.

The personnel movements were also implemented without a written authority from the Comelec, the documents showed.

Comelec lawyers Ferdinand Rafanan, Josllyn Demesa and Maria Norina Tangaro-Casingal informed Aquino in a letter that “any movement of any officer or employee in the civil service is covered by the prohibition.”

They, however, noted that their opinion was “not binding” and “subject to the ruling of the Comelec en banc on the matter.”

Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, also PhilHealth chair, told the Inquirer the health agency would abide by the en banc’s decision.

Cabral said the case “happened before my time.”

Cabral took over as health secretary on Jan. 15, a week after Aquino issued the PhilHealth memorandum ordering the transfer of the 26 executives.

But Cabral and four other members of the PhilHealth board had earlier signed Resolution 1365 “expressing full trust and confidence in the PhilHealth president’s authority to re-assign PhilHealth officers” despite five restraining orders and four injunctions issued by various regional trial courts against the transfers.

The Jan. 28 resolution also called for “appropriate administrative disciplinary actions” against PhilHealth personnel who questioned the reshuffle.

Aside from Cabral, the other signatories to the resolution were Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Social Welfare Secretary Celia Yangco, former Health Secretary and Sen. Juan Flavier, and physicians Ponciano Perez and Jack Arroyo Jr.

Three other PhilHealth board members—Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, Government Service Insurance System president and general manager Winston Garcia and Social Security System president and CEO Romulo Neri–did not sign the resolution.

At least nine of the reshuffled PhilHealth executives have filed charges against Aquino and his three subordinates for alleged violation of Comelec Resolution No. 8737.

Population rate not falling fast enough–Cabral

Population rate not falling fast enough–Cabral
By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA–The government’s family planning program has “not (been) as successful as we would want it to be,” Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has acknowledged.

Cabral told the Inquirer that “even as population growth is coming down, it is not coming down at the rate necessary to improve the socioeconomic status of the country.”

In an interview last week, Cabral said: “Our goal for the population growth rate by 2010 is 1.9 percent per year. It was 2.04 percent in 2008.”

Cabral said the government needed to “bring it down much more than that, like to a level of 1.3 to 1.4 percent per annum where the population will stabilize.”

Family planning remains one of the DOH’s thrusts, Cabral said, as she stressed the need to “fulfill our commitments as embodied in the (government’s) Medium-Term Development Plan and the MDG (United Nations Millennium Development Goals).”

Informed choice

“And they’re related to the reduction of infant and maternal mortality, as well as the control of widespread chronic diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and HIV-AIDS.”

Asked about problems facing the family planning program, Cabral said, “Principally, it’s because we do not have programs that should provide our families with an informed choice and with the means to exercise their choices.”

“It’s because our focus was really just on natural family planning,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with natural family planning,” she added, “It has been shown to also reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies.”

“But it’s not the best method. There are other methods even better than natural family planning,” she said, apparently referring to artificial birth control means.

“The point is a person or a family must have a choice. And the choice must be informed,” she said.

On the Catholic Church’s opposition to the Department of Health’s population control program, Cabral said, “They are very open about it.”

Willing to negotiate

But she said that the DOH was “always willing to discuss and negotiate [the program].”

In its report on the Philippines, the UN Millennium Campaign (on the MDGs) said that “while the country is progressing well in its bid to achieve most of the MDG targets, a faster pace of gains is urgently needed to reach some of the 2015 goals, especially because poverty has increased in the country.”

“The country’s high population growth rate is diluting the gains of economic growth. The larger the population a country has, the greater will be the pressure on basic social services and on natural resources,” it said.

Here, “more than one million babies are born every year. They will be needing resources in the future, such as health care, schooling, food, clothing and later on, employment. Even today, these needs are not being met.”