Forum Stirs Renewed Interest in Population
|Scene in a publlic debate regarding the
Reproductive Health Care bill.
, the country’s newest political quarterly,
sponsored a public debate on reproductive health care in the Philippines.
Entitled “Who’s Afraid of the Reproductive Health Care bill?”
the debate brought together staunch opponents and major allies of
the controversial House Bill 4110. The activity was held Thursday
morning, 26 July 2003 in Century Park Hotel in Manila.
House Bill 4110, also known as the Reproductive Health Care bill,
wants to create an integrated national policy and program on reproductive
health (RH) that will ensure universal access to RH services, information,
The Catholic Church has strongly opposed
the proposed measure,
saying HB 4110 threatens life, promotes promiscuity among the youth,
undermines marriage and family, and endangers women’s health, particularly
through encouraging widespread contraceptive use.
The pro-HB 4110 panel was composed of Bukidnon Rep. Nereus Acosta,
one of the authors of the bill, columnist Rina Jimenez-David, and
Ramon San Pascual of Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population
and Development (PLCPD).
On the anti-HB 4110 side were Dr. Ricardo Boncan of Defensores Fidei,
Celia Villanueva of Daughters of Mary Immaculate, and Atty. Dominador
Chipeco of the Ligaya ng Panginoon community. The three belong to
Catholic lay organizations.
Rep. Acosta, who had flown in from a reproductive health seminar
in the US the same morning, said in his opening speech that, “the
reality is, women are dying from motherhood every day
out of ten women die during childbirth.”
David, a journalist and women’s party-list representative, supported
this claim and cited the ill effects and dangers to women’s health
when they have poorly planned births.
“Motherhood can kill,” added David to underscore why HB 4110 needs
to be passed in Congress. She said, “Women’s bodies are not machines,”
adding that women should have the right to decide how many children
they want to have and the space between births.
Armed with statistics on global trends in population control, Boncan,
who is the secretary of Defensores Fidei, claimed that those who
were for HB 4110 were “treating pregnancy as a disease.” Boncan
also said that if society is sincere in empowering women, instead
of focusing on RH it should fight the “culture of pornography” that
is prevalent in media today.
Villanueva, National Chair for Pro-Life of the Daughters of Mary
Immaculate, stated, “HB 4110 is anti-life, anti-family, anti-child,
and anti-marriage.” If the bill gets passed into law, she said,
parents will lose “stewardship” over their children, because as
young as 13 years old they can have access to contraceptives.
Advocacy officer of Ligaya ng Panginoon, Chipeco warned that other
than encouraging promiscuity, the bill was “not what it seemed,”
saying the public should look beyond the “impressive language and
Chipeco explained the bill was a product of international conventions
in Beijing and Cairo. Documents arising from these meetings, he
said, have been circulated among governments around the world. Chipeco
said that, as stated in these documents, among the ways to curb
population growth was abortion.
PLCPD’s Deputy Director San Pascual countered this by saying HB
4110 does not legalize abortion. He added that enemies of HB 4110
were “reading too much into the bill.” “I just hope they actually
read the bill and won’t deal with imagined contents,” he said.
The debate, moderated by Jonathan Malaya, Editor-in-Chief of
, is the first in a series of activities
designed to spark active, liberal exchange of ideas.
“We at Liberal Philippines
feel that population policy was
an important topic and that we should not be afraid to take on this
issue,” said Malaya.
In the future Liberal Philippines will continue to host
seminars, workshops and fora
to help the public form a reasoned
and well-informed opinion on pressing issues of our time.