21 June 2012
Transcript of Interview of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Kapihan sa Senado [EXCERPTS]
TOPICs: RH BILL, DIVORCE, DOLPHY, MANNY PACQUIAO, SIN TAXES
Q: In your statement yesterday you said that you are hoping that President Noy will reiterate his support for Reproductive Health bill, does it mean na may mga nakikita pa kayong obstacles para sa immediate approval of this bill?
A: Wala naman I think we all know by now that for bills like the RH Bill, we need to be vigilant about it. I do not hesitate to tell every one of the urgencies of the deaths that occur while we take our time and I will always bring it to the attention of those who oppose, [in order] to influence the positive outcome of these measures. At the end of the day it is the President who [we need to] support the measure. He has the unique ability to also exert effort to have these expedited to come to the final conclusion, which is basically voting on the measure.
Q: Will you personally appeal to the President na maging part yun ng kanyang SONA?
A: Well if I see him of course I will mention it, but I’ve already done it by measure of putting it on as part of my priority, and making it known and I know naman na nakakarating naman sakanya and I’ve also been assured that it is part of his agenda.
Q: But Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Tito Sotto said na it will not be that easy? Itong paglusot ng RH bill?
A: Eh may naging madali ba dito [sa Senado]? Wala naman diba? [laughs] So it is understood that those who oppose will not offer it to us on a silver platter. I know that.
Q: So do you have head counts? Ilang senators will vote yes and how many senators will vote no?
A: Hindi ko style magbilang because if I believe in a measure, whether ako lang nag-iisang naniniwala dun, I will still push for it to the extent na…we have now a President who supports it…then obviously this bill have to be brought to the floor…as opposed to three years ago when we had a President who was very vocal about her non-support to RH.
So it’s my job to put it on the floor, to debate on it, whether I have 3 votes or 13 or 23. I have a general idea who are definitely supporting and who are definitely against, and it’s the people in between who cause the most concern. But I just do my best. I discuss it in public whether it’s on the floor or a public forum. I also try to discuss it and address their concerns and that’s the limit of my capability. At the end of the days it’s all up to their [senators’] conscience.
Q: There is a new government survey saying maternal death in the country remains high, is the RH bill the answer to this problem?
A: It’s one of the answers. I try to make the RH bill as comprehensive as possible. So it includes education in all levels [of maternal health]. It includes access to services that will cater to prenatal counseling, and then during the pregnancy and post-pregnancy, so the families can plan. It also includes the budget, so to a large extent the RH bill will decrease the level of maternal mortality. What the RH can do that nothing else can achieve on its own is to make a national policy that will not change regardless of the incumbent [officials]. If we do not have a continuous long-term plan then napaka-short sighted natin, and that is what [an RH law] and other laws do for us.
Q: Gagamitin niyo po ba itong result ng survey to convince your colleagues to support the RH bill?
A: Like I said, those who do not want to be convinced — kahit mamatay na yung mga nanay sa harap nila — hindi pa rin sila maniniwala. I’m sure of that. I’ve seen it. But for those who are uncertain, I believe data and surveys can help them make a decision.
Q: Sa latest na pag-interpellate sa inyo ni Se. Koko Pimentel, you mentioned na violation of the Constitution kung hindi tayo magkakaroon ng reproductive health law?
A: What I said was it is consistent with the Constitution to have a law that provides healthcare for the people, so on the contrary, it is not as they say unconstitutional not to have the law. What I’m saying is that it [enactment of an RH Law] is consistent with the Constitution that recognizes the special needs of women. When we ignore the plight of women simply because of our own convictions, that is unconstitutional. As policy-makers we must provide these services regardless of our personal opinions.
Q: By August, anong chance na ma-approve itong RH bill?
A: I’m hopeful that it will pass. I will be prepared to submit my committee amendments and then I have a pretty strong indication of what the individual amendments are. It just depends on the final wording. I just want that the bill is not altered to the extent that it is toothless but otherwise, I am open to amendments that will fine-tune the bill and also remove any provisions that maybe are a little bit vague.
Q: Can you mention some of the major amendments of this bill?
A: To my mind hindi naman major, meron lang clarifications on the provision on the requirement that the ‘family planning commodities’ be included in the drug formulary. There were questions on the intention of the bill like on the post-abortive care [supposedly] paving the way for legalizing abortion. I said clearly it is not. From the wording of the bill, it is clear that the objective of the bill is just to provide compassionate care which all human beings are entitled to.
Q: Ano na po yung status ng RH Bill sa House of Representatives?
A: Period of interpellation pa rin. Sana naman ma-inspire sila sa sipag at tiyaga ng mga senators to bring it to action.
Q: Looking at the NSO statistics [2011 Family Health Survey, summary of main finding were given to the Senate media], ano yung indications dito sa latest finding nila?
A: The latest findings of the NSO is very consistent with the findings of the international organizations: That women who are educated and belong to higher economic brackets really are the ones who plan their families better. These NSO studies simply confirm that it’s the poorest of the poor that have bigger families, a lot of times because they have no access and no capacity to obtain family planning services and supplies for themselves. I’ve been asked many times why not education alone? Well yes, but that is a long-term process. But in the meantime this generation will have so many babies and abortions.
Q: Sen Koko Pimentel is questioning the 2.5 billion budget for condoms under the RH bill, marami na raw pong eskwelahan ang pwedeng ipatayo with that amount?
A: Marami talaga. But what do you do with millions of children whose parents cannot even take to school? Why don’t we give the parents the opportunity to plan their children? If you look at history, health comes first. Hindi ho nakakapag-aral nang maayos ang gutom. Hindi ho nakakapag-isip nang maayos ang malnourished. You have to provide the parents with the means to be responsible parents.
Q: At the end of 2011, one year na si PNOY, bakit hindi pa niya naipapatupad [pagpapababa ng maternal deaths]?
A: This is a generational issue, you cannot change people’s habits overnight. Even pag nagbigay ka ng P20 billion today for RH, bukas meron pa ring mamamatay. If we have 11 mothers dying since 2006, it doesn’t mean [immediately] magiging zero. It takes time. It will take a generation. So we have to start today. We are talking about preventable deaths.
A: The Divorce bill is long overdue because we prefer not to touch issues that we regard sensitive and personal. But the time has come for us to realize that many things that go on in a family’s home require legislation and where the rights of every individual are respected. This would also involve looking into the Family Code which for now recognizes annulments and voidable marriages but no divorce. This must be explored, because time and again I have been confronted with situations where women are desperate because they are in relationships which are very harmful not only to their mental health but also to their physical health.
Q: Sen Chiz Escudero, who also has a pending annulment case, says this is not the right time, not now. Nandiyan pa yung issue sa controversial na RH bill dadagdagan pa natin ng another controversial bill…
A: Eh ang problema naman sa kalalakihan lagi naman sila takot humarap sa mga bills that seem to affect [their] personal relationships eh. That is the tendency of men. On the one extent, men are very strong but on the other, they seem to be very hesitant to explore these issues which are very important. We need to be able to address these issues. It is our job to address these issues. Patapos na ang RH, so ano pang hinhintay natin? Matatapos na rin anag term ko. [laughs] I don’t know if anyone else would take this up.
Q: Some senators are saying na mahihirapan raw po itong Divorce bill dahil against ito sa ating kultura…
A: We are the only country in the world [without divorce], other catholic countries in the world have divorce. So what is our point? We want to say we’re the only country with families willing to suffer? Is that something we are proud of? What does it mean? Does it mean na mas mapag-tiis tayo? Does it mean na mas ignorant tayo? It just means that the policy makers refuse to look at these issues.
Q: So when are you going to start hearings on the Divorce Bill?
A: We [have] started. We had a couple of hearings were we looked at the provisions of the Family Code, so naumpisahan naman yun. So I will try to see kung pwede may maki-quorum sa akin during the break.
Q: So babae pa talaga ang nagpu-push ng bill?
A: Wala pa tayong pending bill. I took it up by way of analyzing what are the various issues in the Family Code [which need to be amended]. So walang divorce bill na nakafile pa sa atin. I can easily file one. There’s no issue about it.
SIN TAX REFORM BILL
Q: Are you supporting the law on amending the Sin Tax bill?
A: As you know the House just approved it and it will be officially transferred to the Senate when we resume. This will be new to us in terms of the details, as a rule I have always been a supporter of Sin Tax, I know we have one of the lowest tariffs on our cigarettes. It is one way, I’m not saying the only, to pose a deterrent to smoking. And sana, masabay na rin yung isa kong bill nung last Congress pa: Yung Picture-Based Warning sa mga packs ng sigarilyo.
Q: Pabor ba kayong ideklara na siya as National Artist?
A: Two weeks ago, when we honored [the late painter] Anita Magsaysay-Ho and then National Artist Felipe De Leon, the composer of music, Sen. [Joker] Arroyo made a comment na, “Bakit ba lagi sa huli ang mga citation na to?” So I think everyone knows na he [Dolphy] deserves it. But of course it is always nice to have an official recognition.
ON FOSTER CARE ACT
Q: Sinign na po ni PNoy yung Foster Care Act [Republic Act 10165, authored by Sen. Pia Cayetano]?
A: Yes, I’m happy. It’s really a step forward because it moves us from [system of] institutionalization to family care [in taking care of abandoned, abused children]. So nananawagan po ako for those who have rooms in their hearts and in their homes, try to consider to become a foster parent. I really believe that in the Filipino culture, pwede to, because I see so many families na may ampun-ampunan which is common.
Q: Meron pong latest decision ang World Boxing Organization (WBO) na nanalo nga raw po siya, pero yung belt niya hindi naman binigay sakanya. Parehas ba yun or tingin niyo okay lang?
A: Well, wala talaga akong alam on the technical side, I never heard of such a thing na ni-reverse [boxing decision], so I don’t know I cannot comment. But obviously, I’m one with the Filipinos in rejoicing. Personally, it’s not about the medal or the belt, but fighting for your country and being recognized as the best.
CHIEF JUSTICE SELECTION
Q: Any comment on the selection process?
A: The structure of the JBC has been in place and because of the recent events, I’m sure mas listo sila on the performance of their jobs. I usually favor when collegial decisions are made, at least there’s an exchange of ideas before finals decisions are made. There’s a huge number of nominees let’s take it from there.
Q: Ano po yung ine-expect n’yong magiging focus ni PNoy sa kanyang SONA sa July?
A: Siguro yung impeachment pa rin: Eradication of corruption. I think that’s really his legacy. I’m sure that will be part of it. And sana — Lord I pray — RH. I don’t know if he will touch on the Scarborough Shoal issue, Philippine sovereignty and everything. Sana naman yung creation of jobs din, tied-in with PPPs and social services of the government. #
Senator Pia Cayetano was guest speaker at the weekly ‘Kapihan sa Senado’ meia forum on Thursday at the Senate.