Transcript of Interview with Senator Pia S. Cayetano / Chairperson, Senate Committee on Health and Demography / May 17, 2011
Q: When can we expect the committee report on the RH Bill?
Hopefully in two weeks.
Q: Ano na po ang status ng bill?
It has undergone many revisions based on the numerous hearings that we’ve had and technical working groups and consultations. So I’m literally line-by-line going through all the recommendations to finalize the version. The bill is with me, we have been going through it with my staff for the whole break and malapit na sya.
Q: Ico-consolidate po ba sa bill ni Sen. Miriam Santiago ang version ni Sen. Ping Lacson?
When we started the hearing it was only the version of Sen. Santiago that was filed. But it doesn’t really matter because lahat naman ng comments that we’ve received have been incorporated.
Q: Alin po yung mga nadagdag (sa version ni Sen. Santiago)? Highlights…
It’s basically protecting the lives of women and children. It’s requiring that the government, both the national and local government, provide facilities and services to save their lives through reproductive health. In other words, ina-address natin yung mataas natin na mortality rate of mothers under MDG 5 (UN Millennium Development Goals). And kasi ‘di mo pwedeng ihiwalay yung life ng unborn child, so kasama yan, because the mortality rate of the newborn is directly affected with the health of the mother. So magkasama yan. This includes yung access sa natural methods and artificial modes of contraceptives; this includes awareness campaign. So basically yun, nade-define yung mga responsibilities ng iba-ibang sectors, including of course yung freedom of each individual to make their own decisions based on their personal, religious and moral convictions. Of course, highlight din natin ang separation of Church and State, that is in the Constitution, and that is why dito sa bill na ito, regardless of what your religion is, makaka-avail ka ng services. Wala tayong sinusundan na isa lang na religious code ng isang religion, kasi maraming nagbigay ng mga suggestions, pero sa atin po, it is my job as a legislator to be sure that everybody has the freedom to practice their own beliefs, based on their religion and moral values.
Q: So in two weeks po?
Should be. The reason na ‘di ko lang basta-basta mai-file is because I’m actually working on two important bills, yung PhilHealth (law amendments) and Reproductive Health and both have been prioritized by my committee for the past one year. And both gusto natin ma-tackle before we adjourn this June, so both of them are very important. So di ko mauna ang isa sa isa, so sabay ko itong tinatrabaho.
Q: So safe to say na pag nag-start na ang debate sa plenary you’ll be ready?
I’ll be ready. Once I submit the committee report and give my sponsorship speech, tuluy-tuloy na yun. Kasi ako naman, personally ang style ko, once na ibinigay ko na yung committee report, ibig sabihin ready na ako i-defend yun.
For me, I’ll be ready if ready na rin yung iba na mag-interpellate. Marami na rin naman akong colleagues na nagsabi na they’re waiting for it, na ready na sila to support it. So sabi ko, sige lang, allow me to fine-tune it para naman I can defend it properly. Kasi sa ayaw at gusto natin, merong mga difference of opinions di ba? So I’m trying as much as I can to find a common ground para comfortable ang lahat. Imposible sigurong mangyari yun na comfortable ang lahat. Pero at least I can say na, for the one thousand versions we’ve gone through, we tried to accommodate all the different points of view.
Q: Sinu-sino na po ang nagpahayag ng suporta?
A handful na rin. Easily a handful, na di ko sila nilalapitan.
Q: Majority na po ba?
Ay hindi naman. Pero may mga nagtatanong na, ‘O, Senator Pia kailan na yan? Ready ka na?’ Sabi ko, ‘Oo malapit na, ready na.’
Q: Nape-pressure po ba kayo ngayong umiinit na ang issue?
No, I’m not pressured, it’s part of my job and I know what I’m doing naman. I’m not pressured, but I just know na medyo magiging mahabang talakayan yan. Yun lang.
Q: Ma’am sa call na civil disobedience ng mga pari? What is your reaction?
Like the President, umaasa po sana tayo na pag meron po tayong mga religious views that we believe in, we want all the religious sectors to know that those views are respected. However, because of the separation of Church and State, it is not correct for any one religion to impose their views upon the State, because to do so would be requiring that a legislator, or the President for that matter, violates the Constitution. Mali naman yun.
Q: Mam yung warning po na magca-campaign po ang Simbahan against those who’ll vote for RH bill?
Nasa kanila po iyon. Ang sa akin, ang ilalagay ko sa sponsorship speech ko, ang magiging panawagan ko sa lahat ng kasamahan ko, 23 lang naman po kami, is that regardless of your personal beliefs, I would ask that each one of us would be able to look at the bill and see kung ano ang pwede nilang gawin to save more lives. To save the lives of women, especially those in the province–and even in urban areas na conservative ang views ng, pagpalagay mo na yung LGU executive–are denied the access to reproductive health services because of the views of somebody else. So yun yung panawagan ko. Kung ikaw hindi ka naniniwala, tama po ba yun na as a legislator na i-impose mo yung views mo sa iba? Tama po ba yun? Yun yung magiging challenge ko sa mga kasamahan ko.
Q: Argument po ng Catholic Bishops is that the RH Bill is anti-life and promotes abortion. Does that apply to our Senate version?
Imposible pong anti-life ang RH Bill kasi because of this bill, more mothers’ lives will be saved. Sa ngayon isa sa pinakamataas ang maternal mortality rates natin sa buong Asya. And it’s very embarrassing considering yung level of economy natin is kaya naman natin i-save yung buhay nila. E bakit nagka-ganto naman tayo? Because in the past administration, hindi po binigyan ng pansin ng former president natin. So the RH Bill will actually save lives of both mothers and unborn children. Right now, the estimated number of abortions occurring in the Philippines is 500,000 (annually). Half a million babies are killed in the womb. So pag sinabi mong these unborn babies, we have to save their lives, how do we save their lives? We have to improve our programs on adoption, di ba yugn support for women? Pero in truth noon, tulungan din natin ang mga pamilya na magplano.
Tatanungin ko ho kayo ng derecho, ano ho bang mas gugustuhin nyo? Na mag-condom ang mag-asawa sa isang pamilya, or magpa-abort sila? Yun lang ho ang tanong ko. Ano’ng mas gusto natin? Kanya-kanyang punto, pero alin ang mas tama, na gumamit sila ng contraceptives o i-abort nila ang baby nila? Because the truth is 500,000 babies are killed every year because of abortion, because of lack of access (to reproductive health services), and hindi rin po sila naturuan, hindi nila alam kung paano mag-family planning.
Q: Ibig sabihin po ba pro-RH kayo, Mam?
You know I’d like to veer away from that ‘pro-‘ or ‘anti-RH’ (labeling). Di rin ho ako naniniwala sa ‘Pro-Life’ and ‘Anti-Life’ kasi in the Philippines wala ho tayong ‘Anti-Life’ kasi wala ho tayong abortion. Yung term na ‘Anti-Life’ nagsimula po yan sa Amerika kasi meron po silang sektor na nagpo-promote ng abortion. E wala namang nagpo-promotre ng abortion sa atin, and so lahat naman po tayo ‘Pro-Life’ and to a certain extent, I believe na maramai po sa atin ay pro-RH. I think it’s fair for them to call themselves anti-RH, pero di rin naman tama, kasi pag dina-dissect po natin para sa kanila yung ibang provisions ng bill, ay sumasang-ayon naman po sila dun. So nagbo-boil lang po yung issues natin sa contraceptives.
Q: So Pro-RH po kayo Mam…
The bill that I will be filing is a Reproductive Health Bill. And I will be the principal sponsor who will be defending that bill.
Q: Are you open to meeting with the Church half-way? Or even crafting a compromise bill?
The (Catholic) Church has always been invited, but after going through two or three hearings di na po sila um-attend. That was their choice, they were never dis-invited, and they decided not to attend, that’s up to them. There’s nothing to meet halfway po because lahat ng views ng tao, I have attempted to incorporate their views hangga’t kaya. #