Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

3rd reading explanation of vote to RH Bill

Last week, I already mentioned my reasons for co-authoring and supporting the RH Bill. Today I wish to address some erroneous statements and assertions against this measure.

First, reproductive health, critics aver, is a foreign concept. But what do they mean when they say it is foreign or alien to Filipino culture? Is it an imported legacy similar to many of our organized religions? The components of reproductive health – maternal health, child care, adolescent reproductive health to name a few – are not foreign but universal principles. Like democracy, justice, human rights.

Second, critics argue that the introduction of reproductive health education will do more harm than good to our young people.

Why deprive young people of the right to be properly educated about their sexuality and reproductive health inside the classroom? We teach young people how to use a computer, how to drive safely on the road, how governments work; yet we do not want them to be knowledgeable about their own bodies, how to protect themselves from sexual diseases and gender violence?

RH education will not breed a new generation of promiscuous Filipinos; on the contrary it will be a very important intervention that will empower young people.

I agree, sex education has its limits in the same way that dangerous drugs education didn’t totally eradicate drug dependency among our students. But the integration of age-appropriate RH topics in the curriculum is a better alternative compared where young people currently get their facts about the angry birds and the wild bees in the academic webpages of Wikipedia, soft-porn magazines, and social networks.

Third, the RH Bill is criticized as a population control measure. This is the time to inform our people that the legislative battle is not only between the pro and anti RH sides. Even among RH advocates, there is a silent struggle between those who want to reduce RH as a population management tool and those who primarily seek to push the state to provide essential and free RH services to the people, especially the poor.

I am a witness to the consistent efforts of Gabriela and other women’s groups to expunge the dangerous population control provisions in the bill, and they have succeeded. Still, the RH measure could still be interpreted and implemented by bureaucrats, experts, and even health practiotioners as though it is a license to blame the poor for the country’s problems and demonize the impoverished from producing more babies.

The next battle, then, after the passage of the RH bill into law, is to ensure that its original aim of advancing women’s rights will not be distorted.

The RH Bill may still be loaded by one, two, or several lines that indirectly embrace the population control rhetoric but this is not enough reason to reject this measure. It is still, overall, a landmark legislative measure which can provide immediate benefit to our women, the poor, and the young.

Let us pass this measure again, not to control population but to advance the reproductive rights of our countrymen.

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