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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Groups to Congress: Put RH bill to a vote!

A group of sectoral leaders who are gathered today for the civil society press conference on the highly clamored Reproductive Health (RH) bill calls on Congress to heed the call of the majority of the Filipino people, stop the hypocrisy and pass the RH bill now.

According to Ramon San Pascual, Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), civil society groups are now challenging lawmakers to vote on the RH bill. “More than ten years of continuous and repeated debates on it is too much already,” San Pascual said. “Stretching the legislative process on such an important piece of legislation is detrimental not only to women but to the country as a whole.”

The RH bill is a very crucial piece of legislation that responds to the country’s long-standing need for a national law that will provide stable universal access to medically safe, legal, affordable, effective and quality RH care services and information. That is all to it, San Pascual explains. “All you read in the bill is all you get, no other agenda. All these talks coming from the anti-RH lawmakers are part of the grand design to block the imminent passage of the bill,” he stressed.

RH bill is supported by no less than the President of the Philippines, his cabinet members, government agencies and by almost all sectors—academe, economists, youth, women, faith-based groups, business, labor, development agencies, non-government organizations, local government units, civil society groups, community organizations, celebrities and personalities—while various surveys conducted by prestigious survey institutions have shown time and again that majority of Filipinos want RH education and services and they want the government to fund it, San Pascual said further.

“Yet, there are some lawmakers who are stubbornly refusing to understand that point,” he said. “Is it because the very powerful Catholic bishops and groups affiliated to them are opposing it? It is the poor, especially poor women who are denied with the RH services and are needlessly dying every day who will benefit from it,” he added.

San Pascual stressed, “Why can’t Congress pass the RH bill which is broadly and strongly supported by various sectors? What is in it for the lawmakers who are strongly opposing the bill to the point of exhausting all possible means to derail it?”

Meanwhile, Dr. Junice Melgar, Secretary General of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) and Executive Director of LIKHAAN Center for Women’s Health explains that the sentiment of the whole nation is to pass the RH bill. But according to her, while it is acknowledged that the voice of the people is the voice of God, after more than ten years, Congress has not voted on what the people want – an RH law.

“The whole country, ironically except Congress, has made up its mind that it needs an RH law. It is very lamentable that they are choosing not to abide by their sworn obligations – to enact laws that will protect the rights and welfare of their constituents,” she said. “It is with the strongest conviction, that we, women, say it is time for our lawmakers to heed the voice of the people. Vote and pass the RH bill now,” Melgar ended. Vigie Benosa-LLorin, PLCPD

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