RH BILL (HB4244) SPONSORSHIP SPEECH

Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, AKBAYAN Partylist

Session Hall, House of Representatives

March 8, 2011

Ginoong Speaker, mga kapwa kongresista, sa mga kabaro ko at sa milyong milyong kababaihan sa buong mundo, magandang araw sa inyong lahat.

Sa mainit na debate tungkol sa RH bill, hindi ka pa nga nakakapagsimula pero agad agad ka nang ikinakahon. Pro-life ka, anti ako. Immoral ka, pro-God ako. Sila ang pro-choice, kayo anti-women. Mahirap makipagusap o makipagdebate kung lahat nagsisigawan. Yung pro-RH, evil. Yung anti, sila ang tunay na Katoliko. Sa panahon ngayon, kung merong mang may karapatan na sumigaw, sila yung mga ordinaryong Pilipino na matagal nang may posisyon na issue na ito.

Mister Speaker, majority of Filipinos are eagerly awaiting the passage of the bill. In the October 2010 Ulat ng Bayan national survey of the Pulse Asia, seven out of ten Filipinos support the enactment of the measure that we are tackling today. This support is not just in Metro Manila or in one corner of the country. It cuts across all geographic areas, whether in the urban jungles of Metro Manila or in the rural communities of Mindanao. Hindi rin ito agenda ng mga mayayaman, kundi agenda ng lahat kahit ano pa man ang katayuan nila sa buhay.

In another survey done also by Pulse Asia in 2010, Filipinos expressed their desire to have the government install a range of reproductive health programs, and not just the promotion of natural family planning methods. 87% believe that the government should fund support for contraceptives, including IUDs, condoms, ligation, and vasectomy. Only 4% said that it is not important. Klaro ang ating instructions – dapat kumikilos nuon pa man ang pamahalaan sa issue ng RH bill.

The debate is not about who’s pro-life or pro-choice. As members of the House of Representatives, as the voice of the people, the debate is about who’s willing to listen to the people and who wish to turn their back to this truth: there is a consistent and overwhelming demand for reproductive health programs and services. Pano pa at naging kinatawan tayo ng mga mamamayan kung hindi natin sila gustong pakinggan?

At the core of the bill that we hope would be passed soon is a fundamental human right – the right to choose. Gusto lang natin siguruhin na kinikilala natin at binibigyan ng kapangyarihan ang mga karapatan na kalagay sa ating Konstitusyon. The bill seeks to ensure informed choice through free and full access to adequate, relevant and correct information. In this case, a full range of family planning methods and devices. Hindi natin idinidikta kung anong serbisyo o method, kung artificial lang o natural. Instead, the bill provides for a wide range of services that are allowed by our laws. It only seeks to empower Filipino couples, so that they are aware of all the methods and they have the capacity to decide what is best for them.

HB 4244 will provide RH information and services to all who need it, and an important element of this is providing appropriate and medically correct information on sex and sexuality to young Filipinos. Binibigyan natin ng armas ang mga kabataan laban sa mga sexually transmitted infections at laban sa mga pangaabuso. It seeks to counter myths that reinforce fears and flawed beliefs about the functions of our bodies. It seeks to counter ignorance and misinformation. Sa isang pag-aaral, nakita na 80% ng mga batang babae ay walang kaalaman kahit tungkol sa kanilang menstrual cycle, at ano ang relasyon nito sa pagbubuntis. They don’t even have the basic knowledge about the safe and unsafe time to have sex.

Adolescence is a period where forging one’s identity means exploring all matters related to one’s life, especially sex and relationships. Education is especially important given the risks the youth face today because a growing number of them are engaging in risky behaviors without understanding its consequences. They are at risk and they are vulnerable because they lack access to information about their reproductive health.

It has been said repeatedly and wrongly that the bill would only promote premarital sex. Here’s the news – unmarried young Filipinos are already engaging in sexual activities. It is not because of sex that they are at risk. They are at risk because there are no programs that can help them eliminate these risks, educate them about healthy sexual behavior, and arm them with tools to prevent sexual abuse. Filipino women, most of them young, resort to abortion – 800,000 a year, according to the World Health Organization – not because they are promiscuous or immoral but  because they have no knowledge on how to plan their pregnancies.

Studies have shown that the right sexuality education for children and young people do not hasten sexual initiation but instead promotes safer sexual behaviors, and reinforces the sense of responsibility on our young people in terms of their sexual behavior. The RH bill will teach the youth to be responsible, and not the other way around.

HB 4244 will not undermine the roles of parents and families in educating their children. It will instead support parents in ensuring that their fears of what their children are learning about sex and relationships do not come from irresponsible and misguided sources – but from trained teachers who can provide correct information and responsible guidance. At the same time, this will also encourage our children our youth to be more open with their parents, to discuss such important matters with them, and communicate their problems. HB 4244 requires the DepEd, CHED, DSWD, TESDA, and DOH to provide concerned parents with adequate and relevant scientific materials on the age-appropriate topics and manner of teaching reproductive health education to their children.

Ginoong Speaker, as we celebrate today the International Women’s Day, I wish to remind this august chameber of the primary goal of this bill – the recognition of the dignity of our women, especially poor women. Ang gusto lamang ng bill na ito ay bigyan ng patas na karapatan ang mga mahihirap na babae at pamilya na mamuhay ng marangal.

Regardless of our religious or ideological persuasions, we must at least unite that families must be given a choice to plan their families according to methods that suit their faith and condition. We must at least agree to stick to the truth, scrutinize the text of the bill, without embellishments. In our disagreement on this bill we must not lose our integrity and our sense of truth. As legislators, we must not lose our commitment to uphold and defend the text and substance of our Constitution. At bilang mga kagalang galang na kinatawan, sana ay di natin makalimutan na tayo ay nandito para pakinggan ang boses ng bayan.

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat, at mabuhay ang mga kababaihan!

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