‘RH Bill will save lives’

News Release
6 June 2011

Transcript of interview with Sen. Pia S. Cayetano (Excerpts) / Update on the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, Senate Version / Senate Media Center

SPSC (Opening Statement): Maganda na ma-highlight po natin what the RH Bill is, and what it is not. Lilinawin po natin that the RH bill does not promote abortion, but we are providing family health care services and facilities to all Filipinos regardless of religion, and all within the boundaries of the law. And we will emphasize that the RH Bill will be a law that will save lives. It will save mothers’ lives and it will save the lives of their children. So yan po ang pinaka-gist ng RH Bill which I’m very proud to sponsor and which I could not do without the research and all the inputs not only my staff, but also of the staff of other senators, other senators, NGOs and other government agencies na tumulong.

Q: Kailan n’yo po balak i-sponsor?
SPSC: As soon as na-complete ko na ‘yung signatures, then I will file it. My sponsorship speech is done. So it’s just a matter of timing, kasi po alam naman natin na may iba-iba rin kaming priorities. Like today, we’re planning to finish the debates on ARMM [polls postponement]. Ok naman tayo, we’ll wait for our time. But I hope to do it this week (Tuesday or Wednesday).

Q: Ilan na po ang nakapirma sa committee report? At sinu-sino na po?
SPSC: Di ko pa po nabilang pero kukumpletuhin po natin ang signatures nila. I don’t know kasi my staff had a few people sign after session last Wednesday, so di pa rin ako updated.

Q: May in-adopt po ba kayong provisions from the Rights of the Unborn Child (RUC) Bill?
SPSC: Di ako per se kumuha ng provisions doon kasi strictly speaking, the committee that heard the bills on the RUC ay iba pong committee: the Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations. But because I chair that and I am also familiar with it, siyempre inaral po natin kung merong similarities. And needless to say, which I already said in the last presscon we had, talaga naman pong may overlapping parts. To the extent na ang objective sa tingin ko ng mga nag-file ng RUC Bill is to perhaps ban contraceptives or ban abortifacients. Wala pong problema yun, that’s already in the RH bill na, based on the Constitution and boundaries provided by law, eh meron naman tayong limit sa paggamit ng contraceptives.

Q: Ano po ang relevance ng inclusion ng contraceptives sa ‘essential medicines’ list?
SPSC: That is important because ang objective po natin ay magkaroon ng access ang lahat ng Pilipino sa different modes of family planning. And one way to achieve that is ma-consider siyang part of the essential medicines list.

Q: In-adopt po ba nito yung ‘two-child policy’ sa bill ni Senator Lacson?
SPSC: Wala tayong ideal family size. In fact we have a provision that specifically states that every family will determine it. Actually if I’m not mistaken, ganun din naman ang kay Senator Lacson: It will allow the family to determine the family size. And based on the Constitution, it’s the State’s responsibility to support them any way it can.

Q: Paano po yung incentives for families limiting their children to two?
SPSC: Wala akong ganun sa version na ito, pero tandaan natin na sa proseso ng lawmaking, kasama po sa process na yun ay yung interpellation and amendments stage. So there will be a lot of opportunities for the authors of the measures and even those who did not author but who would like to include their inputs and make recommendations. As committee chair, di po ako naglagay ng recommendation ng kahit anong family size. But the author or any senator is more than free to take it up on the floor and discuss the merits of the proposal.

Q: May recommended age po ba sa age-appropriate sex education?
SPSC: Hindi ko rin ini-specify yun because ang pagtuturo ng sex education is a very sensitive matter to many. I have my own views, I come from a family where my mother is an educator. I have my personal views on educating the young on sex education. However sensitive po yan, maraming ayaw, so I’m very happy and very prepared to discuss this on the floor. As early as three years old may understanding na rin naman ang bata tungkol sa ‘sex’ – we may not call it ‘sex education’ – pero [cites example] pag nakita nilang nagbuntis yung mommy nila, alam nilang yung baby, yung kapatid nila, nandun. So that’s already part of ‘sex education’ but if I put there on the bill that it will start at 3 years old, baka himatayin yung ibang mga kasamahan ko.

Pero actually there is already the component of sex education [in the example cited] if you think about it. Kasi, otherwise, the alternative is this: Tinuturuan po natin ang mga anak natin ng Philippine literature ['Si Malakas at Maganda'], and what’s in the Bible, like the story of Adam and Eve. Gusto ba nating paniwalain ang mga anak natin na yung mga tao ay nanggagaling sa kawayan? So I would like to think that we are responsible enough and that there is a component of sex education in all levels. But the important thing is that it is ‘age-appropriate.’

Q: Gaano ka-confident po kayo na maii-sponsor nyo na ito ngayong linggo sa plenary?
SPSC: I’m confident that I will have the signatures and I certainly intend to sponsor the same. Kasi ang objective ko is that during the break, mapag-aaralan na ng mga colleagues ko yung RH bill, including my explanation [in my sponsorship speech]. Pero kapag ang nai-file ko lang ay yung Committee Report na wala yung sponsorship speech, eh sayang naman yung karagdagang impormasyon na makukuha sana nila mula sa sponsorship speech.

I will give them enough time to study. In fact pag resume namin sa end of July, di na po nila pwedeng sabihin ‘to give them more time to study it.’ Over the break, I also hope to release a briefer tungkol sa RH Bill para wala ring misinformation tungkol dito. Pwede silang magdagdag doon, pwede rin nilang tanggihan yung version ko. Pero at least klaro sa lahat kung ano ang intensyon ko sa kung ano ang mga inilabas ko sa aking committee report.

Q: Sa bill, sino po ang makaka-access sa contraceptives?
SPSC: The law does not distinguish: The bill says ‘all Filipinos.’ The objective really is to fine-tune that during the deliberations. If you ask me, there are many ways to skin the cat. For example, yung matter ng access sa RH, nabanggit sa akin si Sen. Recto na di sya sang-ayon na ang teenager ay pwedeng makakuha ng contraceptives. Pero kung tatanungin n’yo ko, kayo po, magbukas kayo ng radio, maririnig n’yo na karamihan ng mga tanong ng kabataan ay tungkol sa sex, sa pagbubuntis. So at the very least, I do believe that accurate information should be made available. I’m talking about information. As to access, let’s hear the experts. Let me give them the explanation na ibinibigay ng mga experts, and then let’s decide as a collegial body. Kasi naniniwala naman po ako na hindi naman ako lang ang tama, kaya yung ibang provisions gine-renalize ko [‘I generalized it’] with the intention para bunuin namin ito on the Senate floor.

Q: Magkano po ang budget na nire-recommend sa bill?
SPSC: In the bill, wala pa ho tayong ini-specify. In the Senate, marami ho tayong financial experts dyan, so what I will do pagdating sa parte ng appropriations is that I will present the current budget and then ang ating estimated budget, which I have to explain, the bulk really will go to the establishment of health facilities. And health centers that have the equipment para makapagpaanak ng bata, and yung hiring ng midwives. This refers to government-hired midwives all over the country. Karamihan ng budget will go to that. Maliit lang yung magiging parte nito for actual contraceptives. Misleading din po yun na sabihin that the bulk will go to contraceptives. Di po totoo yun.

Q: Will the health committee hold a hearing on the citizens’ petition to investigate contraceptives, and will this affect the bill?
SPSC: Actually from what I heard on the Senate floor last Wednesday, the majority floor leader said they still have to review the compliance of the citizens’ petition with the requirements. May mga affidavits po dapat yan, so there will still be a second step bago pa yan mapunta sa committee on health. And if you ask me, dapat in the first place, dapat po nagawa na yun [ie, check the petition’s compliance with Senate rule requirements] bago pa nai-set yung joint hearing of the committee on rules and committee on health. That is what the rules say. The rules provide that the Senate President should have looked into the petition’s compliance with these requirements, and if the President decides to give the citizens’ petition to the appropriate committee, then it would have been the Committee on Rules that should have looked into this bago pa yan nai-set for a hearing. So yun lang, on the administrative level, it is the Committee on Rules now that would have to do its part.

Q: Confident po ba kayo na maipapasa ito sa Senado?
SPSC: Naniniwala ako na kaya ko pong ipaliwanag nang maayos ang bill na ito, and open minded din po ako sa mga probisyon na mapagbibigyan ko ang mga concerns ng ibang senador. I’m quite confident na maipapasa ito. I’m also sure that there will be some na di ko kayang kumbinsihin, na kahit anong paliwanag ko, ‘set’ na ang minds nila. Pero ang aking magiging pakiusap ay simple lang: Kami po ay mga senador na halal ng bayan, and under the Constitution, it is required na pagsilbihan namin ang bawat isang Pilipino kahit po kakaiba ang kanilang relihiyon or moral standards sa atin. So ang magiging hiling ko, sundin po natin ang Constitution and wag nating pabayaan na ang ating religion interferes with our mandate as senators to pass laws that will be beneficial to everyone. Dahil once na pinilit po natin na ang relihiyon natin ang magdidikta sa lalamanin ng batas natin, eh hindi na ho natin nasundan yung ‘Separation of Church and State,’ and hindi na natin napahalagahan yung karapatan ng bawat tao sa sarili nyang relihiyon. Because then, we will be imposing our religious beliefs on them.

Q: Sa RUC Bill mayroon pong provision na dapat ilista ng FDA ang mga contraceptives at abortifacients. Sang-ayon po kayo doon?
SPSC: Sang-ayon ako doon, pero hindi ko naman nilagyan ng details [sa bill] because that is the job of the FDA. Ang nasa batas po natin, ni-rerecognize natin na ang may trabaho na magdesisyon tungkol sa mga gamot, including sa mga gamot na ginagamit bilang contraceptives, ay FDA. We acknowledge that because that is already in the law. If there is any senator who wants to further strengthen that provision ay ok naman tayo.

Q: Ano po ang non-negotiable na provision para sa inyo?
SPSC: Of course yung access to facilities and services. Non-negotiable naman po yun. Once na sinabi mo na hindi dapat magbigay ng ganitong serbisyo ang national and local government, that is non-negotiable to me. Kasi kung halimbawang nangangailangan ang isang tao ng ganung serbisyo, di naman pwede na pupunta pa sya sa ibang probinsya o sa kabilang barangay. But as to paano bubuuin yun [health facilities], I’m open to discussing it. Sa sex education, I’m very open to the sentiments and wisdom of my colleagues kung anong mga guidelines ang gusto nilang gawin dyan. Yung concern din po sa availability ng mga contraceptives na nako-konsider na abortifacients, open din po ako kung paano at anong wording ang ilalagay natin dyan para very strict ang access dyan.

Kasi right now, nandyan na ang role ng FDA para i-regulate ang availability nyan. Pero we know very well that, not just for contraceptives that would have to be prescribed, but a lot of medicines na dapat may prescription, eh pag pumunta ka sa drugstore, ibinibigay sa yo kahit wala kang prescription. So these are the implementation problems that we have, and kung gusto itong ma-strengthen ng colleagues ko, ok. Kung gusto nilang lakihan ang budget ng FDA, which is really what is required para maging strict ang implementation dyan, ok din ako dyan.

Q: On women with post-abortion complication services, bakit po in-emphasize na dapat bigyan sila ng ‘humane, non-judgmental and compassionate’ treatment?
SPSC: Napakarami na ho kasi nating documented cases ng mga babaeng pumupunta sa ospital na may post-abortion complications. Ibig sabihin po, either sadya nilang ipinalagalag o sa iba pang dahilan ay nalaglag pong kusa [ang kanilang ipinagbubuntis]. Lalo na po yung mga pinaghihinalaang nagpalaglag ay hindi po sila binibigyan ng compassionate care. Iniinsulto sila, minumura pa sila, and may cases pa nga na tinataboy sila at pinapalipat sila sa ibang ospital. Bawal po yon.

Kumbaga [cites example of] sina Mary Magdalene at si Jesus. Ang sabi po ni Jesus: ‘Sino ba tayo para humusga ng bang tao?’ Nagawa po nya ang kasalanan nya, but that woman needs compassionate care. Di po natin sila tinutulungang mag-abort, hindi po iyon ang tanong. But we are now trying to save her life kasi meron po syang ‘post-abortion complications’ at buhay na nya ang nakataya. The point is any person who is bleeding to death requires compassionate care. #

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