RH victory in Philippine Congress, a historic leap forward for women
Akbayan (Citizens Action Party) joins the Filipino people in celebrating our historic victory in the passage of the Reproductive Health bill in the second reading of the House of Representatives. Through Representatives Walden Bello and Kaka Bag-ao, Akbayan reiterated the voice of the people when it voted for life, choice, and reproductive health rights. We join the people in enjoying the fruit of more than a decade of struggle—a long and arduous journey towards the enactment of a law that will uphold and safeguard their right to a better future. Finally, after years of perseverance, the people have emerged triumphant.
This would not have been possible if not for the countless Filipino women who courageously took responsibility to lead this difficult task. Now, we have a key policy tool that does not only provide the people with the widest array of options to plan and manage their families but also, and more importantly, aids in restoring the dignity of women and in improving the quality of their health. Truly, the RH Bill’s victory in Congress is a significant leap forward for the Filipino woman.
Likewise, we laud the 113 members of the House of Representatives who voted for the passage of the RH Bill. We laud their decision to cross party lines and unite under the banner of reproductive health rights to heed the people’s popular clamor. We hope that they will display the same fervor in the passage of other equally important pieces of legislation such as the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill, the amendments to the Cybercrime Prevention Law, and the Security of Tenure Bill, among others.
We urge the Senate to show the same determination in passing the RH Bill. More than a decade of waiting is enough. The Senate must not prevent the inevitable. We hope our senators will not make our people wait a day longer.
We also call on the Catholic church hierarchy to join the people in treading a new path to ensure a better and sustainable future. Contrary to the church’s belief that the RH bill’s passage was railroaded by a few, the approval of the bill was powered by the Filipino people. The people have already spoken. The church must recognize and respect this.
Lastly, we commend President Benigno Simeon Aquino III for putting the weight of his opinion in favor of the RH Bill. We look forward to seeing President Aquino investing the same amount of political capital and courage in the realization of the people’s other important reform measures. If there is strong political will, the momentum of reforms will not only be sustained but also broadened.
Akbayan lawmakers vote for life, choice and reproductive health rights
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello
This bill will go down as one of the most progressive pieces of legislation enacted by the House of Representatives. Indeed, it is the most significant piece of legislation passed in the last 30 years.
Let me just say that once it becomes law, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Bill will immeasurably advance the rights and welfare of women. It will be an important instrument with which families and the country will wage the struggle against poverty and inequality. It will assist immeasurably in bringing about that sustained and comprehensive development that has so far eluded our country.
This bill is about promoting free and informed choice. It is about advancing reason and dispelling ignorance. It is a bill that respects the responsibilities of the state towards its citizens. It is a bill that respects the relationship between the Church and the State. It is a bill that is a model of how legislation should be crafted--that is, a process that transpires with great sensitivity to the opinions of different constituencies with a plurality of opinions.
Akbayan is proud to be one of the principal sponsors of this historic bill. I would also like to commend the Speaker, the Majority Leader, and the House leadership for their role in pushing this bill while respecting fair play and ensuring a just process. And, of course, I compliment the president for the courage he displayed in pushing the national debate on this bill to its conclusion. I would likewise wish to personally thank Rep. Edcel Lagman for his epic leadership in the 14-year struggle for this law.
All of us here today, members of the House and all the citizens present in this hall today, will look back to the passage of this measure with pride and immense satisfaction. ###
Akbayan Rep. Kaka Bag-ao
Mr. Speaker, the passage of this bill is now inevitable. It is inevitable not because our arms are being twisted by Malacanang to have the bill enacted, or because it is being railroaded by the majority.
It is inevitable, not because we chose to discard our conscience, but precisely because we cannot forever ignore that overwhelming weight that our own conscience has to bear because of a status quo where lives are lost due to preventable conditions and pregnancy-related complications. It is not just a question of religion or of faith, but of integrity. I never could deal with my own conscience and call my own pro-life while allowing to die hundreds of women due to the absence of RH programs.
It is inevitable, and this inevitability is not reflection of the weakness of Congress, but rather of its strength. Our vote today speaks of the prayers of many Filipinos, and in the fierce and oftentimes sanctimonious debate on this bill, we have repeatedly allowed the divisive sectarianism of the few to create a wall between Congress and the people. That's true weakness, Mister Speaker - when we let the voice of the few who does not know what women are going through the birth dominate relative to the voice of Mom poverty.
We are weak if we allow the wealthy few to decide the fate of families who are impoverished by the lack of choice, because they have no option but to live in ignorance. We are weak if we privilege the authority of the Church leadership and not the voice of the people, if we solely listen to the position of the bishops, and not the prayers of Filipinos who lost their loved ones precisely because we don’t have an RH program.
Today, with this vote, we are strengthening our democracy because we are listening to our people. I am proud to be lending my voice to the majority, one of whom is Lola Apolonia. She is 85 years old, from Dinagat, with 15 siblings and she spent her life to care for her siblings. Neither she attended school.I vote yes, and I vote yes along with Lola Apolonia, along with millions of Filipinos who are have long casted their votes to finally make this bill a law.