09 May 2017
Pia to UN rights council: PH upholding rights of women and children
Geneva – House Deputy Speaker Pia S. Cayetano on Monday defended the human rights record of the Philippine government before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), particularly in the area of ensuring the rights and welfare of women and children.
In her brief presentation that followed the delegation’s country report at the UNHRC, the Taguig City lawmaker cited President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No.12, which seeks to accelerate the enforcement of the Reproductive Health Law (Republic Act 10354).
“Under the current administration, one of the first executive orders issued by the President was on the full implementation of the RH Law,” said Cayetano, the measure’s principal author in the Senate.
“The right to reproductive health is a basic human right that the Philippines upholds, although it (took) a long and difficult journey for this to be put into law,” she added.
“As the sponsor of this law in the Senate, I can attest to the difficulty we faced in passing this law, but we did (pass it). The next battle was in the Supreme Court, where the constitutionality of the law was questioned. But we won that too.”
She noted: “We are now facing another case in the Supreme Court where the petitioners have asked, and the Supreme Court has granted, a different set of standards to be imposed on our Food and Drug Administration’s process for the registration of contraceptives.”
“The effect of this is that 43% of contraceptives’ registration will expire this year and the rest next year. If the Supreme Court does not clarify this, we will have no contraceptives in the Philippines.”
“Can you imagine a country where women have no access to contraceptives?” asked Cayetano.
She said the legal impasse over the RH Law has pushed back many of the administration’s programs on maternal health, family planning and children’s health.
“Many of the administration’s programs on maternal health, family planning, infant health and mortality rate, which our President when he was the mayor of Davao City has implemented, will be affected in this administration.”
Responding to concerns raised by delegates from other member-nations at the Philippines’ Universal Periodic Review, Cayetano said the protection of vulnerable and marginalized groups has always been on top of the Duterte administration’s agenda.
Cayetano cited the passage of the Foster Care Act, which addresses the plight of street children and neglected children, as well as the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act, which seeks to protect minors in times of disasters and emergencies.
She added: “We also strengthened our Universal Health Care Act and we have a Sin Tax Law that raises (funds) from alcohol and cigarettes. The proceeds are now a huge source of funding for our health care programs.”
She acknowledged that much still needs to be done. “Measures on the equal rights of married women regarding property and the like remain pending in (Congress).”
Cayetano recalled that since the Philippines last underwent a review in 2012, it has already enacted several laws shielding the rights of the most vulnerable sectors, which also include indigenous peoples, persons with disability and the elderly.
“We have paved the way over the past years to come up with a package of laws addressing their various needs. Let me emphasize that these laws are a product of circumstances that are particular to us,” she explained.