Overwhelming majority of Filipinos (92%) believe it is important to mitigate fertility and plan their family
Filipinos do not only recognize the importance of family planning, they also strongly approve of government’s allocation of funds for modern contraceptives.
The latest Pulse Asia Survey concluded just before the 2007 elections showed an overwhelming majority of Filipinos (92%) believe it is important to mitigate fertility and plan their family.
A fourth committee of the House of Representatives has endorsed H.B. 5043
A fourth committee of the House of Representatives has endorsed House Bill 5043 or the proposed “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008” principally authored by Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman.
The Committee on Rules approved today the plenary consideration of the controversial bill which mandates government to provide information and services on all forms of family planning and allocate adequate funds for the reproductive health program.
“It is distressing that the miracle of life means death to 10 mothers daily in the Philippines,” Rep. Edcel C. Lagman of Albay stressed during the 2nd National Multi-Sectoral Conference on Population and Development last August 15, 2007.
The Bicol solon is the principal author of House Bill No. 17 or the “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2007”.
Presidential Approval of 2008 GAA Affirms Executive-Legislative Common Agenda
The Presidential approval of the P1.227 trillion 2008 General Appropriations Act with minimal direct item vetoes is a reaffirmation of the Executive-Legislative common agenda of providing adequate basic social services and enhancing infrastructure development.
It also signifies the Executive’s guarded concurrence with the congressional thrusts on non-confrontational debt service reduction policy and accelerated impartial stress on reproductive health and population management.
While there are no contraceptives for rabbits, for willing couples and women there are accessible and available legal contraceptives certified by the Food and Drug Administration under Section 9 of Republic Act No. 10354 (Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law).
Most people will continue to breed like rabbits, despite Pope Francis’ injunction, if they are denied or forbidden access to contraceptives. Regular abstinence and self-control are difficult disciplines to follow.
Fr. Ruben Tanseco, SJ, in a 2004 column,succinctly depicted the frailty of natural methods of family planning: “The poor are already deprived of so many things, and to deprive them of lovemaking when they spontaneously feel like doing so is to make their lives even more miserable.”
The enabling core of the RH Law is freedom of informed choice. No man or woman is compelled to use contraceptives. No religious dogma against modern contraception is defied. The option is wide open. Government will assist only those who have made their choice to contracept.
But even before the passage of the RH Law, countless Catholic couples and adherents had already chosen to use contraceptives to limit the number of their children. This fact is beyond debate.
The RH Law’s implementation will benefit those who have made their option clear, and will inform and educate those who have not. Implementation of the law is the challenging task ahead. Enforcement is the indispensable sequel to the RH advocates’ crusade.
There was no magic wand to effortlessly effectuate the RH advocacy when Congress approved the RH bill, when President Aquino signed it into law, and when the Supreme Court unanimously declared that on the whole the RH Law is constitutional.
The ultimate magic wand will only come when the RH Law is faithfully and expeditiously implemented. There is no foolproof potion for success. Achievement is the product of indomitable will, the result of steadfast commitment, the outcome of earnest collective effort. RH advocates have manifested such sterling qualities before, and they will show these once more to pursue the law’s implementation. And implementation will run the gamut of the three great branches—the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.
Congress must appropriate adequate amounts for the implementation and resist all attempts to dilute or repeal the law.
It is important to note that the General Appropriations Act of 2015 has a P3.27-billion allocation for family health and responsible parenting in the budget of the Department of Health. An amount of P132.82 million is in the budget of the Population Commission as provision for grants, subsidies and contribution in support of population programs.
The DOH also has a P5.52-billion allocation for a health facilities enhancement program, which includes birthing facilities and programs for maternal and infant health.
Unfortunately, neither the National Expenditure Program nor the GAA provides a specific amount for age-appropriate RH education for adolescents in private and public elementary and secondary schools. RH advocates in Malacañang and in Congress overlooked the importance of this funding. The solution is to source funds from the appropriations of the Department of Education.
The principal onus for the implementation of the RH Law is lodged on the executive branch, with the DOH as the lead agency, and also with the collaborating local government units that shall receive technical and financial assistance from the national government.
The creation of the National Implementation Team headed by former health secretary Espie Cabral, which will assist the DOH in implementing the RH Law, is opportune and necessary.
Also in focus is the indispensable role of the FDA, which has to complete and update its task of issuing recertifications and certifications of contraceptives that are not abortifacient. Medical studies consistently validate that contraceptives are not abortifacients.
The DOH, Department of Finance, and Department of Budget and Management must allocate and release the billions earmarked for public health, including RH, from the new sin tax revenues.
The executive branch, through the DOF, highlighted that the latest sin tax bill was a health, more than a revenue, measure. Accordingly, Section 8-C of RA 10351 unequivocally provides that after deducting the mandatory allocations, 80 percent of the remaining balance of the incremental revenue derived from the new Act shall go to universal healthcare under the National Health Insurance Program, the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and health awareness programs, and 20 percent shall be allocated nationwide for medical assistance and health enhancement facilities program.
That provision necessarily includes allocations for RH because under the RH Law, there are RH complications covered for free by PhilHealth; the MDGs include improvement of maternal health, reduction of infant mortality and universal family planning; and health enhancement facilities programs likewise include RH.
Perforce, there must be actual appropriations for health from the sin tax revenues—not mere attributions, as was done in the past.
In the event cases are filed in court, including the Supreme Court, petitioners are reminded that the high court has spoken that the RH Law is constitutional, except for a few provisions that are mostly related to penalties and protection of minority views. It is expected that the high court will maintain its previous adjudication.
After an arduous 13-year crusade to enact the RH Law, no time must be wasted for its full implementation. Alacrity in enforcement must compensate for the inordinate delay in its passage.
While rabbits will never learn to contracept, people appreciate the import of reproductive self-determination.
Edcel C. Lagman is a former representative of the first district of Albay.
(Eulogy for former Rep. Miguel L. Romero delivered on
20 January 2015 at Christ the King Church, Green Meadows)
Our condolences again to Menchu, the composed and ever gracious widow of former Representative Miguel L. Romero, and their bereaved children, grandchildren, in-laws, Mike’s surviving sisters Mary Ann and Chinky and other relatives.
There could be no better friend than Mike Romero. In fact, he was the best of friends to countless of us.
Mike went out of his way to help friends in need; he fought for friends under siege; and he even defied conventions for friends in distress.
That was “Don Miguel”, as we fondly called Mike, with his big heart and boundless generosity.
I was closely associated with Mike shortly before Martial Law when we formed the Romero and Lagman Law Office at the 10th Floor of Sarmiento Building on Ayala Avenue. Mike was the “rainmaker” as he brought in the clients, and I was the advocate who serviced them, of course together with Mike.
Romero and Lagman later became Romero Lagman and Pasamba Law Office. Atty. Eladio “Ely” Pasamba, a tax lawyer and a certified public accountant, passed away almost a year ago.
With the entry of two more partners, the law firm became Romero Lagman Pasamba Evangelista and Ermitaño Law Office.
Later on, at a new location in Gammon House along Rada Street, the law office was renamed Romero Lagman Chato and Torres. Atty. Ruben Torres became Secretary of Labor and subsequently Executive Secretary of President Fidel Ramos.
I recall listening to Mike while he was on the phone when he said “Comadre, (talking to President Cory Aquino) Atty. Ruben Torres will be a good Secretary of Labor.” The rest is history.
Our law firm produced three Congressmen: Representative Miguel L. Romero, who represented the Second District of Negros Oriental; Representative Edcel C. Lagman, who represented the First District of Albay; and Rep. Ruben D. Torres, who represented the Second District of Zambales.
Mike and I were together in the House of Representatives from the 8th to the 10th Congresses (1987-1998). Although we differed in some controversial issues, we collaborated in the enactment of important statutes principally authored and co-authored by Congressman Romero, among others, the following:
(1) House Bill No. 10 which was incorporated in the Local Government Code (Republic Act No. 7160) providing for an equitable share of local government units in the proceeds from the utilization and development of the national wealth in their respective areas;
(2) R.A. Nos. 7256 and 7274 increasing the bed capacities of hospitals in the cities of Bais and Dumaguete;
(3) R.A. No. 7875, An Act Further Restructuring the Medical Care Benefits under the Philippine Medical Care Plan;
(4) R.A. No. 7638, An Act Creating the Department of Energy;
(5) R.A. No. 8282, An Act Providing for Increased Investments in Housing under the Social Security System;
(6) R.A. No. 8626, An Act Designating the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company as the Philippine National Folk Dance Company;
(7) Republic Act No. 6655 establishing free secondary education; and
(8) Republic Act No. 8050 upgrading the practice and education of optometry in the country.
The range of the subjects of the laws Congressman Romero authored and co-authored reveals that he was able to balance local and national concerns in his legislative agenda.
As a neophyte legislator in 1987, Mike headed the House contingent in the powerful Commission on Appointments and became Vice Chairman of the Commission.
Mike was also an enterprising businessman. He owned the majority shares in Guitarmasters, Inc. and Asian Trading Corporation (ATC), which was the exclusive distributor of the Toro Turf Irrigation Sprinklers in the Philippines.
Under his stewardship, ATC installed the turf irrigation system at the Luneta Park, Puerto Azul Golf and Country Club, Wack Wack Golf and Country Club, Valley Golf and Country Club, Alabang Golf Club and the Paoay Lake Golfclub.
The only golf course of consequence at that time which ATC was not able to irrigate was the Malacañang Golf Club. The reason was that I was considered a “security risk” as an activist even as I was Executive Vice President of ATC.
We also referred to “Don Miguel” as “no problem Mike”. To him, there was no problem without any solution. And retreating from or avoiding a problem was not an option. To Mike, this enduring philosophy applied to all aspects of life: law, politics and family.
I surmise Mike must be telling all of us now: “There is no problem. I simply passed on after a good life.”
Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code is an archaic provision that is anathema to a constitutional democracy and a secular society. It infringes on the freedom of expression which is accorded primacy among the people’s rights. As the Supreme Court held in Chavez vs. Gonzales (Feb. 15, 2008), the freedom of speech “is an indispensable condition for nearly every other form of freedom.”
The challenged penal provision reads: Article 133. Offending the religious feelings. The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.
Verily, Article 133 is prior restraint on free speech. It forbids a citizen from expressing views which purported offended parties would subjectively consider “notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.” This is vastly different from the victim’s objectively ascertainable death in murder, bodily infliction in physical injuries, damage to property in arson, or even a damaged reputation in libel.
In Article 133, the proscription of an act under pain of penalty is a veritable prior censorship or restraint on the freedom of expression because one is foreclosed from expressing his opinion or forced to fossilize his thought on a public issue that demands articulation.
What the Constitution protects is more than docile and conventional speech. It truly safeguards controversial and provocative views which challenge audiences.
In Terminiello vs. City of Chicago (1949), it was ruled that the function of free speech “is to invite dispute… Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea.”
Likewise, in Chavez vs. Gonzales it was held that “[t]o be truly meaningful, freedom of speech and of the press should allow and even encourage the articulation of the unorthodox view, though it be hostile to or derided by others; or though such view ‘induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.’”
There was global outrage over the desecration of the freedom of expression in the aftermath of the terror assault in Paris against the editors and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo.
The caricature of Prophet Mohammad is widely considered seriously offensive to the religious feelings of Muslims, but the world community, including Muslim leaders, consider the controversial lampoons as protected freedom of expression.
“We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech, even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures,” said the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the United States.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the barbaric incident “a murderous attack on free expression.”
The All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, Virginia, one of the region’s largest mosques, issued a statement that “[a]s Muslims, we encourage responsible speech and reject hate speech in any form, but we firmly believe that all speech, even if mocking and satirical, and even if deeply offensive, should and must be protected.”
Charlie Hebdo finds affinity in the case of Carlos Celdran, who has been convicted, albeit not finally, of violating Article 133. His alleged crime is that in an ecumenical program at Manila Cathedral, he displayed a placard on which was written the word “Damaso,” a reference to a fictional friar in Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” who embodied the priests’ dalliance with local maidens and interference in secular affairs of friars.
The information against Celdran reads in full: “That on or about Sept. 30, 2010, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously disrespect, disregard and offended feelings of various religious leaders in the persons of Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Papal Nuncio, Ambassador de Villa, and other leaders of different Christian denominations, by then, and there displaying a placard/board bearing the word “Damaso,” while ecumenical service was going on inside the Manila Cathedral Church, Intramuros, which notoriously offended the feelings of the faithful, represented by Msgr. Nestor Cerbo y Cerda, Rector of the Manila Cathedral Church, Intramuros, this City.”
Aside from alleging Celdran’s display of the “Damaso” placard, no other “inculpatory” act was attributed to him in the information. Incidentally, the “offended” religious leaders mentioned in the information, Cardinal Rosales, Papal Nuncio Edward Joseph Adams, Ambassador Henrietta de Villa and Monsignor Cerbo did not testify for the prosecution. They must have realized that Celdran’s advocacy for modern-day Filipino priests and bishops to shun the sordid reputation of Padre Damaso is a reform shibboleth which does not ridicule or castigate, but on the contrary challenges, even elevates.
Celdran’s act was neither an insult to any religious faith nor notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful. He was not attacking any religion or dogma. His mission was to challenge clerics to reform themselves by not embracing the importuning of Padre Damaso. This is absolutely protected free speech. Its articulation cannot be subject to prior restraint or subsequent penalty. The liberating mantle of freedom of expression must not be tainted by the obscurantism and unconstitutionality of Article 133.
Edcel C. Lagman is a former representative of the first district of Albay.