MANILA, Sept. 7, 2012–A bill purporting to provide Filipinos a “choice” actually leaves a number of sectors with no other choice but to bow down or else face imprisonment.
In Wednesday’s debates over the reproductive health (RH) bill, Sen. Ralph Recto bared that local governments, hospitals, religious institutions, and private schools would be forced to act against their consciences under the measure, all in the name of RH.
Under Senate Bill No. 2865, penalties for those who refuse to extend RH services include imprisonment of up to six months and a fine of up to P100,000.
Recto pointed out that more than 50% of local government funds are already spent on health. Another mandate on RH will add to the burden of local government units (LGUs) that have been saddled with mandates under the Local Government Code without funding support from the national government.
“Ano ba ang tingin ninyo pagdating sa LGU mandate? Kung ayaw sumunod ni Governor Vi?” asked Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, noting that Recto’s wife is the governor of Batangas.
“May kulong,” Recto answered. “[There are provisions], some of them written not so well, na kapag humingi sa ‘yo at ayaw mo bigyan, may kulong.”
“Ay matindi,” Sotto said.
“Sapilitan, kaya nga mandate. May pilitan eh, may kulong pa nga pag ‘di mo ginawa eh,” Recto said.
Recto said this extends to religious institutions such as private schools that will be required to teach sex education using materials crafted by government agencies.
“Di bale kung sa publiko. Ngunit ‘di dapat pilitin ang mga private schools lalo na kung Katoliko sila na ituro ito sa ganoong edad,” Recto pointed out.
Likewise, religious hospitals should not be forced to provide RH services against their consciences, he said.
Recto pointed to another conceptual problem of the bill – the provision on the “ideal family size” of only two children.
He asked: “Sino nagsabi noon na ang tama na ideal family size ay dalawa ang anak? Paano nila nalaman na iyon ang tama?”
Recto said two children will only replace their parents. The Philippines, meanwhile, has the advantage of average fertility at three children, which should bode well for the economy, he said.
“Sa 2015, sinasabi ng mga dalubhasa sa ekonomiya that we will be hitting a point in our population na mas maraming magtratrabaho kaysa sa mga bata na inaalagaan at mga seniors ,” he noted.
In Europe, the problem is a shrinking productive population, leading to problems in social security viability and immigration issues.
He also asked: “Bakit kaya ang titulo ng batas ay reproductive health? Hindi ba reproductive is to reproduce, hindi dapat magbawas ng fertility?”
In that case, half of the budget for the bill should be allotted to those who want to have children, he said.
Recto also warned that the RH bill would lead to higher Philhealth premiums to cover RH services under Philhealth, aside from forcing employers to provide free contraceptives to their workers. (Dominic Francisco)