Press Release
December 17, 2012


I vote "YES" to enacting the RH bill into law. It's an affirmation of our basic human rights, especially the rights of women, and the right to reproductive health.

At the moment, we have to respond to the challenges that threaten our country:

1,000 women continue to die yearly during pregnancy and childbirth; about 150,000 children are born from teenage mothers every year; women who cannot support their children put them into orphanages or labor work; we have almost 2 million orphans from 0 to 17 years of age, and about 4 million child laborers ages 5 to 17; about 9,000 Filipinos are afflicted with HIV/AIDS; and, at 100 million, we're the 12th most populous country in the world.

These numbers will continue to rise, if not for the enactment of the RH bill. The RH bill's provisions on family planning information and services, emergency obstetric care, and reproductive health education intend to respond to these challenges.

We have to consider that maternal deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth are unique to women alone. Without family planning, women will continue to bear children. As they do so, they continue to be exposed to the risk of life-threatening complications. And so, they will need to have access to obstetric services. Failure to provide such services Mr. President, constitutes discrimination against women, because it is only women who face this risk of dying, once pregnant.

On top of these, the United Nations General Assembly ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979 to address these very issues. The CEDAW was agreed upon by 177 states, including the Philippines. CEDAW mandates that states should provide services that prevent maternal deaths and provide family planning information and services, among others. It has been more than 30 years since that agreement, and yet we haven't done anything about these issues.

Today I do not just speak as a long-time advocate of public health legislation, and the principal author of PHILHEALTH Law and the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers. Today I speak as both a lawyer and a lawmaker.

I acknowledge the grave concerns of my fellow Roman Catholics and our leaders in the clergy. I do not see anything in the RH law that forget the moral dimensions of sexual relations, which undermine the Filipino family.

In the first place, the RH bill does not legalize abortion. Second, unwanted pregnancies are the leading cause of half a million abortions yearly. Third, the RH bill does not impose any family planning method, but leaves the Filipino couple free to choose whichever method they want. Finally, to withdraw from enacting the RH bill because one church opposes it is inconsistent with our constitution of the separation of the church and state. We have to consider that not all Filipinos are Catholics. While Catholics comprise 70 percent of our population, we also have Muslims, Protestants, Buddhists, non-believers, and others. Regardless of religion, it is the right of the state to enact the bill for the best interest of our nation, especially for our mothers, our wives, and our sisters and daughters.

Mr. President, today I vote as a Filipino, a lawyer, a public health advocate, a husband, father, and grandfather. I vote YES to the RH bill. May God bless our people.

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