30 May 2011
RH Bill to push through
Transcript of interview with Sen. Pia S. Cayetano
Chair, Senate Committee on Health & Demography
Q: Can the bills on the Rights of the Unborn Child and the RH bill be consolidated?
SPSC: First of all, from a rules and procedural standpoint, I need to emphasize that the RH Bill was filed with the Senate Committee on Health while the bills on the ‘Rights of the Unborn Child’ were filed with the Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations. These are two different committees, both of which I happen to chair. The committee report on the RH Bill is almost done; my staff and I have been working on it for almost one full year, and I intend to proceed with this. Of course we cannot deny na may overlapping yan, kasi po on the surface, nakasulat: ‘the rights of the unborn child.’ Pero during the hearing, at pag hinimay mo, ang lumalabas na objective ng bill is to define what are legal contraceptives, what are abortifacients, and what are not. So kung yun naman po ang objective ng bill na ito, hindi natin maide-deny na meron syang relationship sa reproductive health, which I have already covered in my bill.
So no, I am not combining the two because they are covered by separate hearings though necessarily may overlap sya. What does that mean? Well, in the same way that I’m about to file my committee report on PhilHealth. Yung PhilHealth it encompasses all aspects of health including reproductive health, but it doesn’t mean lahat ng issues on reproductive health ipapasok ko doon. So ganun din po iyon, yung sa reproductive health bill, as chairman, I define kung hanggang saan ang scope nya. And I will proceed as scheduled and di rin naman natin pababayaaan yung concerns that were also raised here in this hearing.
Q: So what will happen to the ‘Unborn Child Bill’?
SPSC: To the extent na naco-cover naman yung concerns raised there [Uborn Child Bill] in the reproductive health bill, nandun na yun eh, I can tell you now and when you do get your copy, you’ll see, very clear naman eh. Kasi ano ba ang objective ng mga nag-file ng ‘Rights of the Unborn Child’ [Bill]? Na bawal ang abortion. Nandun naman po iyon sa RH Bill. Nakalagay naman po doon na i-protect ang rights [ng unborn child]. And I think their underlying concern is ma-define kung ano ang mga abortifacients. And that clearly naman is within the mandate of the FDA, which under the RH Bill and even in the PhilHealth Bill, klaro na we recognize the role of the FDA here. So to that extent I’ve already solved those issues. But to the extent na marami pang gustong idiscuss on that bill, willing naman ako to continue hearing this because maganda rin yung point na nai-rase na intrinsically linked ang rights ng mother and rights of the unborn child, because if you look at the Millennium Development Goals, yung health ng infant ay apektado yan kung di healthy yung mother . So one option I have is to have a separate bill [Note: By ‘bill’, Sen Pia was referring to a committee report she intends to file] which would probably be the rights of the mother and the unborn child. Which, I repeat, which if it occurs, will happen independently of the RH Bill.
Q: So Mam may committee report na ba ito o wala?
SPSC: Wala pa tayo doon, basta the bottomline is it is independent of the RH Bill regardless of what its final outcome will be. We’ll come out with something but as I said, part of the concerns raised is already addressed in the RH Bill. Not that I’m combining it, but it has already been addressed.
Q: But will there be a committee report on the Unborn Child Bill?
SPSC: I cannot tell yet because this is a work in progress. We have to cull the information, I’ve to double-check the RH Bill to check what I have addressed, and to my mind, I have addressed significant concerns that were raised in the hearing and we’ll see what’s left to be done.
Q: Mam yung ifa-file n’yong committee report on RH Bill, na-define na po ba doon kung ano ang contraceptives and abortifacients?
SPSC: That is the job of the FDA. It is not the job of the Senate nor the House of Representatives to define exactly because we don’t have the expertise to do that. What we can do in our law is to strengthen the FDA and ensure that it is clear who makes these definitions such that we don’t have a situation where barangay councils abrogate upon themselves the authority to make those definitions, and neither should Congress, because that is why we have the FDA. It is a very specialized area and the purpose of this hearing was really to enlighten us, na magkaroon kami ng better understanding na at what point does conception occur, when I say na better understanding it doesn’t mean na there are no differences in opinion. It was also very clear [in the hearing] na may differences in opinion pa dyan. So kung kami as senators, it is our job to appreciate it and give the proper guidelines for the proper authorities to make the proper definition of what is legal and what is not and what are abortifacients and what are not.
Q: So basically, nagbabanggan po yung dalawang bills at di pwedeng pagsamahin?
SPSC: It depends on who is interpreting it. When I read it on its surface, I can easily say that they can co-exist. But I know the intention. For those who are very conservative in their definitions of contraceptives and abortifacients, they would choose to ban all kinds of medications that would have an abortifacient effect. Now let me explain why this is a problem. Posible po kasi na may isang drug na approved by the FDA for the purpose of being used let’s say for hypertension, or pwede rin contraceptive na sabihin nating pill na pinayagan ng FDA for that purpose, pero may side effect yan, na pwedeng abortifacient. So pag ginamit po ng tao, talagang panadya na pampalaglag, o kaya gamitin ng doctor for let’s say the case of hypertension pero meron ngang risk na ganun, then those are issues that we have to address. So kung very conservative yung view mo, pwede mong sabihin na i-ban na lahat yan. And that is where some medical experts come in and say, “wait let’s be very careful.” E paano kung doctor ka at may hypertension itong pasyente mo, ibig bang sabihin hindi mo pwedeng ibigay yun? I think the logical solution is very strict guidelines for the use of these kinds of medications. So for example, yung pill na ginagamit to prevent ovulation, pag yan ginamit na dinodoble yung dose, or triple, it can be used as an abortifacient. So the important thing is to regulate the use and to strengthen the FDA so that the use is not abused.
Q: Mam di ba maa-accuse kayo na biased for RH Bill kumpara sa Unborn Child Bill?
SPSC: I favor it only because I’ve been working on it for a year to the extent that I’m ready to file it. Of course I am biased towards moving it forward because my staff and I have been working on it every day, even on weekends. That’s why I’m looking at pushing this bill forward.
Q: Tsaka bakit ngayon nyo lang hi-near yung Unborn Child Bill?
SPSC: Because the RH Bill has been pending for 2 or 3 Congresses at least. Even before [in my frst term as senator], so it was the most logical step because it has been pending. My rule in my committee is pag na-hear na yan dati, dapat ituloy, kasi saying naman yung effort in the past.
Q:…Even if the bill was filed last year?
SPSC: Like I said, the RH Bill has been pending for my many Congresses, and I already have previous records on my hearings on that.
Q: Mam yung Protection of the Unborn Child di po ba malinaw dun na bawal ang contraceptives, contrary sa RH Bill na may access to contraceptives? Di po ba magcocontradict yung pag-hear nyo on this bill sa natapos nyong hearing on RH Bill?
SPSC: The hearing of the bill never contradicts any other bill because as a senator it is my job to hear all issues. So just the hearing doesn’t mean anything. But kung ang tanong mo is if the passage of this bill will contradict the RH Bill, again it depends. If this bill will be passed, it would have to be fine-tuned to be consistent obviously with another bill that I am also working on. The beauty of this is that I happen to chair both committees, so it’s easier for me to confer with myself.
Q: So kung inapprove na bill is allowing the uise of contraceptives, then you pass another bill that will not allow this, how will you reconcile that?
SPSC: It is impossible for me to logically prohibit access to contraceptives per se. What I am duty-bound to prohibit and I do believe it is a duty of mine, is to honor the Constitution and prohibit the use of abortifacients. So a contraceptive itself is not necessarily an abortifacient and that is where we defer to the definitions na ibnibigay sa atin ng mga eksperto katulad po ng FDA at mga eksperto nating doctor na idiiferentiate po sa atin yung mga contraceptives na legal at safe, at ang mga abortifacients. Magkaiba po yon, hindi po synonymous ang contraceptives at abortifacients.
Q: Mam yung hearing nyo po ngayon pwedeng makakaapekto sa committee report ng RH Bill?
SPSC: I will look at the bill again to now see if anything I heard in this bill can be easily adopted there. Like I said these are two distinct bills, pero being present in the hearing, I can easily use what we picked up here to further strengthen that bill. But again, as I said I will proceed independently with the two. In other words, this bill will not detract from the work I have begun in the committee report on the RH bill.
Q: So Mam may mga provision na pwede n’yong iadopt sa RH Bill?
SPSC: Again allow me to use the example of the PhilHealth Bill by way of analogy. Necessarily sakop po ng PhilHealth Bill lahat ng klaseng health issues kasama ang reproductive health. So as chairman I draw the line, hanggang saan ko ba idedefine ang RH sa PhilHealth. Ganun din, sa RH Bill I draw the line hanggang saan ko ididiscuss ang similar features sa ibang bill sa ibang committee. I will draw the line because at some point it has to end and at some point I have to focus on other provisions.
SPSC: Just to prevent misunderstanding, nothing is being encouraged and discouraged. If you look at the RH bill we have a very strong statement there that no one will be coerced to use or not to use any kind of contraceptive, so wala po tayong ineencourage. What we are requiring in the RH bill is that the government should give access to information and services to those who want it. #