Sen Pia on ‘Headstart’

News Release
September 18, 2012

Transcript of interview of Sen Pia S. Cayetano
‘Headstart’ hosted by Ms. Karen Davila
ABS-CBN News Channel
18 September 2012

KD: Do you think you have the numbers to pass the RH bill in the Senate?
PSC: I’d like to think that we still do. I’ve talked to some of my colleagues. I don’t really count but from what I know, we have enough to pass the measure. But election time is coming close, and when that happens, politicians tend to waver on their commitment on issues which they feel are controversial so I really do want to get this done.

KD: The DOH said they have a budget of something like P532 million for contraception? So does the RH bill really budget P3.8 billion for contraceptives? That’s the contention [of anti-RH advocates]…
PSC: Actually if you recall when I was a guest here last time, I told you that dun sa appropriations wala kaming amount, because I wanted this to be subject to debate, and for all the issues to come out. So when I made the amendments, if you look at it, wala pa rin akong binago doon. Because what I’m doing, when I analyzed it, kakaiba yung RH bill in the sense that we’re not really building something. These are commodities that have to be purchased on a regular basis, the bulk of it.

So every year that will be in the DOH budget. So that’s what I’m doing, I’m just supporting the DOH budget. So that’s the amount over there [points to items on a table showing a breakdown of the DOH’s proposed budget for 2013].

KD: So it’s actually a misrepresentation? Is it a misrepresentation to say P3.8 billion is just for pills and condoms?
PSC: It is. Because first of all, it’s not in the bill. But it’s ‘accurate’ in the sense that if you really want to target the needs of the two lowest quintile [poorest 20%] of the women who need it, aabot talaga ng billions yun. But again, the DOH has decided that — I guess they will just address that problem a little at a time — P500 million nga lang yung naka-budget. And I’m not changing it.

But you know what, Karen, with this budget, when people tweet me, talaga bang P1 billion? Let me tell you this: If we assume that there are five million women living in poverty, bigyan mo lang [bawat isa] ng P200 a year, that’s already P1 billion pesos!

KD: Oo nga ano?
PSC: Huwag naman tayong magkunwari na walang gastos ang health, ang reproductive health. Having said that, P500 million na nga lang. So I feel bad. This is DOH 2013 budget. And the reason why I’m showing it is because in the bill, all that I intend to do is support whatever DOH budget is. Nakalagay lang doon, taun-taon, the legislature must provide for funding as recommended by DOH. Kasi magbabago yan eh. Kung gumanda ekonomiya, and more people can afford to buy their own, then we don’t have to put as much funds there.

KD: Let’s talk about the amendments. I know that the RH bill is going through certain amendments right now. I have your committee amendments with me. We can start with the more important aspect. This is Section 3 [providing humane care for post-abortion complications], with anti-RH lawmakers saying that the RH bill opens the door to abortion…
PSC: Actually that has always been frustrating to me kasi that provision, as far as I am concerned, has always been very clear. It only provided for ‘humane care’ for any woman who goes through an abortion such that pagdating nya sa ospital, huwag mo naman sya itrato na parang hindi na sya tao.

For example, criminal, nagka-shootout, di ba bawal ding bugbugin yun? Navi-video nga yun eh. You still have to treat a criminal with human care. Bakit ang babae pwede mong tratuhin na hindi tao? So that’s all what I was saying in that bill. Pero ang interpretation ng mga anti-RH is that we’re now paving the way for abortion! That was never the case, but nevertheless, binago ko na lang yung wording para ma-address yung concern nila. Ang original wording, nakalagay was ‘notwithstanding the provision in the Revised Penal Code defining abortion as a crime…’ binago ko na lang [to] ‘abortion is a crime.’ Pareho lang ho yung ibig sabihin noon.

KD: Yes [reads from amended bill] ‘…Abortion is a criminal act in accordance with existing laws…’
PSC: So they were saying we’re trying to squeeze in abortion there, but we’re not. So I just reworded such that… it’s in your face.

KD: Now with contraception as essential medicine…
PSC: Again, as far as I’m concerned, I’m turning blue in the face trying to explain this: I never changed anything from the existing practice. Dinatnan ko na yan that certain contraceptives are defined by WHO and adopted in the Philippines by the National Drug Formulary as essential medicines.

KD: Like what? I’m curious…
PSC: Hormonals, pills. Nandun na yan, wala akong binago doon. But again, because people are ignorant, para bang akala nila ako ang nagsusulong na trying to make this as essential medicine. No. That is the practice worldwide. But again, you don’t get it? You have a problem with that? I reworded it again to simply say, let’s just basically let the PNDF [Philippine National Drug Formulary] do their job, and allow them to go through their process, and recommend what should be in that list. Because that is what they are doing anyway. I wasn’t trying to change anything, so let’s just leave it as it is.

KD: But there’s a reason the pill is an essential medicine because some people I know are advised to take the pill and it’s not for sex. It’s either for their skin…
PSC: It’s dermatological. Or to balance…kung hindi regular ang period mo…

KD: Yes.
PSC: That is why it is very annoying and very insulting to me, Karen, as a woman, that men who do not understand a woman’s body, can even begin to dictate what is ‘medicine’ for us, or what our body needs. This is a gender issue, which I didn’t understand years ago before I became a senator before I became exposed to this.

Gender issue to. Who are you to tell me what my body needs? Babae lang nakakaintindi nun. Alam nya ba yung feeling ng menstrual cramps?

KD: Bakit di ka ganito sa Senado?
PSC: Ganito ako. Kulang lang sa exposure. Ganito ako kagalit parati. Namumuti yung buhok ko sa kakapaliwanag. Imagine, sabihin daw na naglalako ako ng condom? Ganito ako kagalit. Lagi akong ganito kagalit. [laughs] Dahil sa so much misrepresentation, so much lies, and so much insult to women.

KD: Alright, now Senator Tito Sotto had said you can’t even trace where the DOH spends P500 million on condoms?
PSC: You know what we have [P39 billion] being allocated to CCT. Di ba may P500 na ipamimigay? You have to hold the government agencies accountable. You can’t just say, ‘I don’t like RH, therefore let’s not spend any money. I don’t like bridges, therefore ‘wag na tayong mag-infrastructure.’ Eh di itigil na natin ito di ba? You just have to hold these agencies accountable. And as you know social media, NGOs, they’re all there to also help. I’m not saying that this is full-proof. This is not an isolated case. Anything in government needs to be guarded. Safeguards should be in place.

Ano, babantayan mo yung babae? “O ilan na yung ginamit mong condom? Ibalik mo nga sa akin yung naiwan na condom?” Come on! That’s a gender issue naman di ba? May trust factor ka naman. You know you kinda have to estimate how much a person needs.

Having said that, condom is just one aspect of family planning. There could be natural family planning, there could be ligation; there are so many other options.

KD: How come the injectable is not discussed? I mean it’s what’s used in Europe. And at least, a follow-through is easier. Ang pill kasi, pag nakalimutan mo yung isa, wala na. Pero ang injectables, tuluy-tuloy for three months.
PSC: Correct. The only reason why these are not discussed in detail is because I leave that up to the DOH. If anyone has a question, I answer the question. Pero mukhang yung mga anti-RH advocates, ang galit nila ay particularly sa condom. Kasi feeling nga nila, it’s a bulk purchase of so many items.

KD: Yes, and with a company earning a lot…
PSC: But then I go back to that argument, o di para mo na ring sinabing, ‘Let’s stop all our trade with all countries!’ Because, the truth is, we’re an import-oriented country and so ‘wag na lang tayong makipag-trade sa kanila. Isara na natin ang ating ports kasi ayaw nating may kumita. It’s a ridiculous argument.

KD: How do you deal with the amendments of each senator? Sen. Lacson, I interviewed him, he said he’s one of the co-authors but he does have amendments…
PSC: I think meron lang syang gustong i-clarify. I can’t recall at the moment what it was, but we have discussed that. And it’s not a problem, as far as I’m concerned. That’s going to be a little bit tedious because everybody’s going to want to put in amendments. But I’m used to that. We’ve gone through this process. So my burden now is to get them to submit their amendments. To do it now, to take it up. Because time is running and I need time to address each of their concerns. If pwede, tatanggapin ko naman lahat. Just on this issue, I’ve heard so much press releases saying, ‘When you see our amendments, di n’yo na marerecognize yang bill na yan!’ You know what? I’ve always been open to this process, that’s part of the process, but don’t scare me. Di ako matatakutin, ok? Give me your amendments. What [kind of statement] is that? ‘Di mo na makikilala yung bill na yan!’ Well, makikilala ko yan, [kami] nagsulat nyan eh. [laughs]

KD: But it could be because it would not have funding. That’s what some people told me, ang plano nila is the bill may pass Sen. Pia, but it will not have money.
PSC: The thing is, if you look at the current practice now, we have a President and DOH secretary who are supportive, so there will always be a budget there. And we’re wording the appropriation such that it is a requirement to put the funding. It’s a little bit different because like I said, when you speak of the budget for DPWH, it’s really infrastructure. Eh eto kasi consumable. So to lessen the controversial issues, I chose na rin na wag na lang natin ilagay. Support na lang natin yung DOH budget. Then again a pro-RH senator later on might tell me to put something in, and I’ll have to consider that.

KD: Sen Miriam, has she consulted you, because she is pro-RH?
PSC: Of course, I consult her every time. And these amendments that we put forth, the committee amendments, my staff and her staff worked on it together.

KD: Now how do you work on someone like Senate President Enrile who said that in conscience, I cannot support the RH bill?
PSC: Eh di mag-NO na lang sila. Yun na nga lang yung sa akin. I keep saying it, I respect your view, vote NO on it. That’s your prerogative. I’m not gonna work on them. I cannot change their position on this. But don’t delay the bill, and then they get sensitive if I use the word ‘delay.’ Eh ano pa ba tawag dito?

KD: I’m so impressed, you’re really like, hardcore, I’m so impressed that you want it na no more drama, let’s get on with it.
PSC: Yeah. Because we owe it to the women, you owe it to the families who want to see this measure passed. My staff and I put together different excerpts of the four-part turno en contra of Senator Sotto.

KD: I’ll ask you that in the next gap, but quickly: The argument that everything you want is already in the Magna Carta of Women?
PSC: Oh no, that’s a lie. And I’ve already addressed it on the floor so many times also. Sa title pa lang, ‘Magna Carta of Women.’ Para sa women yan. We don’t address teen pregnancies. We do not address sexually transmitted diseases in general. So one aspect lang ng bill ang reproductive health ng women. Having said that, even the reproductive health provisions of the Magna Carta of Women are very general in scope. Kasi I know, I’m an author of the Magna Carta of Women, there’s a provision there that says that further laws would be necessary to further strengthen this bill. Because when that was passed, ang objective mo lang was to get a whole Magna Carta para meron na tayong general framework and then the different aspects should be subject to [the passage of] different bills.

KD: It’s not the same?
PSC: It’s not the same. It’s a far cry. It’s one aspect.

KD: Let’s go blow-by-blow on Senator Tito Sotto’s speech.
PSC: We wanted to be sure that for those who heard his speech, we would be able to get back and explain to them what their concerns are.

KD: Number one, Sen Tito Sotto: ‘The pill is ineffective.’
PSC: First of all, there is no drug in the world that does not have a certain percentage of side-effect, or different effect on people. And it’s all there in the contra-indications. If you open a box of pills, ganito kahaba ang contra-indications nun. Ang papel nun, back and forth, na font number nine lang yata. Kasi gamot yan eh, so kailangan alam mo lahat.

KD: Kahit naman paracetamol mayroon…
PSC: Exactly. So kailangan dyan alam mo, and the health care provider will tell you how to use this so you maximize the efficacy and you minimize the risk.

KD: But do you believe his story that it was ‘Diane’?
PSC: Let me just base it on the information that I have also received. Diane was available in the market worldwide in 1978, and apparently in Asia in 1985. So it’s kinda impossible for any other person to have used Diane at an earlier year.

KD: The population issue. Senator Tito Sotto brought that up.
PSC: Again, naiinsulto ako as a woman kasi sinabi nya na panlilinlang daw ang Reproductive Health bill dahil sa totoo lang, ito’y isang population control measure lang. And to me, speak to any woman who never had the ability to plan, and she has six kids, eight kids, ten kids. Alam ko yan, I see them all the time in Taguig because I’m on the ground there. Population issue ba ito sa kanya? No. It’s a matter of feeding her child. Ano’ng population issue? It’s a matter of giving parents, a mother, the ability to plan so that they can be responsible parents as they are meant to be, as they are required to be.

KD: Sen Tito Sotto says do we need a law for this? When we can already do that today?
PSC: Well, did it happen during GMA’s time? It didn’t happen because what happened is ang RH nagiging based dun sa whims ng presidente natin. So for nine years under GMA, wala. If Tito Sotto was the president, eh di wala rin.

KD: Or the mayor or the governor, by the way…
PSC: Yes, you can be proactive also if you have a mayor or a governor like that.

KD: But you can also take it out…
PSC: Yes you can also take it away. Exactly. So what we’re really trying to put in place is to institutionalize this practice so that when politicians come and go, hopefully nandyan pa rin yan. Will it still have effect what their personal choices are? Syempre meron. I mean di ba, we’re still governed by people, but at least nandyan yung institution. And that’s where yung NGOs, yung private sector, media, can come in and pressure the politicians to say, ‘Hey, follow this law [RH]. It’s a law.’ You know you can’t play around with it kasi carved in stone na yan, klaro.

KD: In fact I read the RH bill and it’s not even that specific. I’d be more aggressive actually when it comes to after so many births, a local government can introduce ligation. It’s not even there…
PSC: You’re right. I personally would also like to do that. And believe it or not, I have spoken to a few senators who would like to, but we don’t even do that because ito pa nga lang na napaka-general, sinasabing ‘population control’ na. I’m going to be a senator for four more years, and at the end of the day, once this is passed, or any version of this is passed, I’ll work on more specific measures to help strengthen that because there are so many things we can do to strengthen parents and their role as responsible parents. Like really educate them. Ano ba talaga yung goal mo para sa pamilya mo? Then they could have guidelines for LGUs. Like what you said. Like at some point, introduce ligation, hindi naman masama yan eh. But we’re not doing it intentionally. But the problem is when I was discussing on the floor, ang sinasabi sa akin ni Senator JPE noon, ‘So you’re going to sterilize people?’

KD: You know my mom was ligated…
PSC: And so was my mom…and I’m saying, well you know you also have to choose the proper terms here. You want to make them feel na parang pilitan ito, that’s not we’re trying to do. We’re trying to give people a choice.

KD: The other big issue is the age of educating teens or children. I think Sen Lacson had said, either he had wanted it thirteen years old, or at 11 or 12-up, something like that. What is in the bill?
PSC: Again, my bill is silent. Because I really want to leave this to the educators. I have never believed that kaming mga senators have to impose our will, our personal choices, on the experts. Right now, we have a priest who’s the head of DepEd. Wala pa ba kayong tiwala dyan? Can’t you just let them do that? I’ve had a conversation with my two daughters, this was when we were just starting RH. At that time, they were sixteen and thirteen…

KD: That’s a good argument ha? Leave it to the priest… [Bro Armin Luistro, DepEd secretary]
PSC: Di ba? Anyway my two daughters were teens, and I asked them, ‘What age do you think children should learn about sex?’ And my sixteen-year-old then, who was in fourth year high school, she talked to her friends and they were debating, first year HS… grade seven… grade five. These kids know so much, grade five dapat! Because they know, these kids know.

And then I also had to have these arguments with my colleagues who say, ’Hindi, hindi dapat turuan yan!’ [And I was] Did you freakin’ ever check the internet and check what’s on there? Did you even open a glossy magazine, and see how they talk about orgasms? Talk about different positions, how you can have sex, to make it more exciting? What kind of sex you can have in the car? I mean, and you don’t want to talk about this in an academic and a scientific way? I mean you know it boggles my mind.

KD: So why do you think are we faced with these issues? I’m just curious, when you’re right, it’s so obvious. It’s out there. It’s almost sometimes hypocritical. So why do you think are we facing this?
PSC: I think it’s because as a people, as children, we grew up and it’s a cultural thing that we need to now break. Parang nahihiya tayo, we’re in denial that people have sex. We’re in denial. I mean how many people you know can call their body parts by the proper name? When I even talk about, when the term ‘masturbation’ was taken up in the Senate, and abortion, parang sabi ko, parang no one even wants to talk about it, like it doesn’t exist. But you know these are things that happen, that people know about, pero parang doble-kara tayo. Like maybe the girls, the girl-friends will talk about it, pero in front of other people, biased ka. I don’t know.

KD: Now is the President pushing it? Some say the President clearly supports it, but is he pushing it? He hasn’t certified it as urgent.
PSC: In the House I believe he’s done some stuff, but I’m not aware in the Senate. Maybe because he came from the Senate, he’s giving his colleagues, us, some space to work it out on our own. But I think it is time that he also makes his thoughts clear because I kinda need help here. I mean, I’ll face my battles, I’ll run this to the finish. Pero iba rin yung may kasama ka. Iba rin yung you have supporters who are backing you up.

KD: Because the President has mentioned on different occasions, ‘family planning,’ ‘responsible parenthood,’ but he has not openly mentioned the RH bill?
PSC: This is my personal opinion: I think it’s his compromise with the Church. Like, let’s call it ‘responsible parenthood.’ The funny thing is they keep saying: ‘O, Malacanang is supporting the Responsible Parenthood bill ha? So does the Church.’ But they never gave me a copy of that bill [Malacanang’s version] and I’m the sponsor. I never saw that version. And I’ve had how many hearings? It’s been pending on the Senate floor for a year. I mean, tell me what you want me to put in there. Tell me the wording. They don’t approach me, they don’t come to me. So you know what I mean? Like, ano ito, all talk? Pero when it comes to working with me and telling me what to put in there, wala naman.

So at the end of the day, in fairness to the President, I’m referring to the Church, so the President’s trying to be kind and gentle by saying, ‘Sige, let’s call it Responsible Parenthood.’ Pero wala naman yung laman nun, eh. I’ve done my best. I’ve inserted the word ‘Responsible Parenthood’ in my amendments.

KD: But you will not allow it that the bill will be changed to the Responsible Parenthood Bill?
PSC: I don’t even know what that bill is. [laughs] I’ve never seen such a bill.

KD: [Inaudible] like a Reroductive Health bill?
SC: Well yeah like I said, until I see a copy of that ‘Responsible Parenthood Bill’ I don’t know what they’re talking about. But I’m assuming, just from the reports, that they want to focus this bill on, yun nga, responsibility ng parents. Which is totally fine with me, but all I’m saying is there are other aspects of Reproductive Health, like yung teen pregnancy, di ba? Eh how do you tell a teen to be responsible in their behavior? Di naman parenthood yung iniisip nun. So hindi ko rin naman pwedeng i-limit. But then again, show me your bill and I’ll work as close as I can, you know, to make everybody happy.

KD: Alright, last words. What’s your timeline, what’ your calendar? When do you want this on the floor to be voted upon? Maka-calendar pa ba ‘to for voting?
PSC: Hindi pa sya naka-calendar for voting because we’re in the period of amendments. Naka-calendar sya for individual amendments. So everyday para akong naglalako dun ng kung ano, ‘Sino’ng pwedeng mag-amendment today?’ [laughs] Nakakapagod, actually. But unfortunately we’re going on break at the end of this week, so when we resume, there’s gonna be a few weeks of session and I’d really like to finish the amendments then, and then right after that, we can go into voting.

KD: But what’s your timeline for the voting? Hopefully when?
PSC: Kasi we will start the budget debates, if not mid-November, end-November. So I want to finish this before that. Because when we do the budget, most likely, sidelined lahat ng bills namin.

I’m psyched up, I’m totally prepared to see this through and I just hope that my colleagues would be responsible enough to do their job and take their stand on every measure that is pending on the Senate. You want to vote NO? Vote NO. I’m prepared to accept that. But let’s take it to a vote.

KD: Alright. Senator Pia Cayetano, thank you so much! #

NOTE: Replay of ‘Headstart’ episode with Sen Pia Cayetano is this afternoon (Sept.18), 6:00 pm on ANC.

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