Press Release
September 15, 2011


Metro Manila youth are poised to prove student power, by asking Congress to take an early vote on the controversial reproduction health (RH) bill pending in Congress.

This developed at an intra-university forum held at the UP college of law, sponsored by the UP Law Center human rights institute.

The students came from UP, Ateneo, Miriam, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, New Era University, FEU, Centro Escolar University, San Beda College, San Sebastian-Recoletos, Trinity University of Asia, Arellano University, Lyceum, Our Lady of Fatima University, Quezon City Polytechnic University, Technological Institute of the Philippines, and Messiah College.

The speakers were two UP alumna: Miriam Defensor Santiago, author and co-sponsor; and Pia Cayetano, sponsor of the bill.

Both senators expressed fears that the bill, which has been undergoing debate, would again be shelved this year, once the two chambers schedule plenary sessions on the budget, which normally takes until the yearend.

This is reportedly the fifth Congress that is debating the bill, because the interpellation is always dragged out to prevent a vote, until Congress adjourns.

Opposition to the bill mainly comes from the Catholic church, which frowns on any form of contraception, except the natural rhythm method, which refers to abstention from sex.

All other Christian churches, led by the Iglesia ni Cristo and Protestant churches, and even including the assembly of Islam clerics, support the bill.

"The bill simply gives women, specially the poorest of the poor, the freedom of informed choice. It merely teaches her about the various family planning methods. It does not compel her to adopt any particular method," Santiago said.

Cayetano said that the bill will give age-appropriate sex education to adolescent youth to help them avoid pre-marital sex.

The speeches were followed by a question-and-answer session, during which students expressed support for the bill, and impatience at the lengthy debates conducted in both chambers of Congress.

Compounding the problem of an early vote on the bill are Santiago's scheduled monthly trips abroad to campaign for a seat in the International Criminal Court.

Some students said they would continue to campaign for the RH bill in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

"Social media is the way to go. It is very democratic and it is the platform of choice among young people," Santiago said.

The forum also featured reactors consisting of former health secretary Esperanza Cabral and former UP law dean Raul Pangalangan, Santiago's former student.

Opening remarks were delivered by UP law dean Danilo Concepcion,and the student delegations were introduced by Prof. Elizabeth Pangalangan, director of the institute of human rights of the UP law center.

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