Senators want parental consent for RH services

The Senate votes to require parental consent before minors can have access to contraceptives from public hospitals

'GO AHEAD.' Sen Ralph Recto says giving minors access to contraceptives without requiring parental consent is like telling them to go ahead and keep having sex. File photo by Ayee Macaraig

MANILA, Philippines – “Let’s be real. Sinong batang gustong makipag-sex ang magpapaalam sa magulang?” (Which child who wants to have sex will ask permission from his or her parent?)

A flabbergasted Sen Pia Cayetano asked this question as she rejected Sen Ralph Recto’s proposed amendment to the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill on Wednesday, December 12.

Recto wanted public health facilities to provide minors access to family planning methods like contraceptives only with a written consent from their parents or guardians.

The amendment was the most contentious change Recto proposed for the day but the Senate eventually voted 9-7 to accept it. It was the only Recto amendment that the Senate accepted via nominal voting Wednesday.

Cayetano, RH bill principal sponsor, was emotional in opposing the amendment.

“If we want to live in our bubble, the world we grew up in, fine. But we won’t address the needs of the youth today,” Cayetano said, citing the rise in teenage pregnancy and HIV cases as arguments against Recto’s amendment.

She added, “I’ve answered this exhaustively. ‘Di ilalako o ipapamudmod [ang contraceptives]. It’s just that kung kailangan nila, the DOH will provide and also provide counseling [to promote] responsible behavior.” (The DOH will not peddle contraceptives. It’s that when minors need this, it will provide the contraceptives along with counseling.)

Recto was not convinced. “Parang sinasabi natin [sa mga bata], sige magsex kayo nang mag-sex.” (It’s like we’re telling minors, go ahead, keep having sex.)  

“Hindi naman ako papayag na ang mga menor de edad, napakadaling kumuha ng contraceptive sa health center,” added Recto. (I won’t agree that minors can easily access contraceptives from health centers.)

‘Even nuclear explosion can’t stop sex’ 

Staunch RH critic Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III agreed with Recto, saying parental consent is needed even for Filipinos below the age of 18 to get married.  

“If we allow this provision, does that mean that the state allows kids to have sex regardless of age as long as they are protected from getting pregnant? Pagka-ganoon eh alisin na rin natin ang MTRCB, ang mga classification of minors, panonood lang ng TV yun eh, may classification of minors, ito IUD, condom, injectable, ‘di po ba?”

(If that’s the case, then let’s abolish the MTRCB. Even for watching TV, there’s a classification of minors, how much more for this: IUDs, condoms, injectables?)

RH bill co-sponsor Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago argued against the amendment.

She said, “This is not a question of whether the state allows or disallows something. Sex is above anything else on heaven or on earth. When two people want to have sex, there’s nothing that can prevent them. Even a nuclear explosion will be unable to prevent the sex!”

Another RH critic Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile backed the Recto amendment. In the end, the chamber voted to require parental consent.

The RH bill aims to provide access to both natural and modern family planning methods, and to promote sex education and family planning. The House of Representatives has its own version of the billl, which the chamber plans to vote on by Wednesday.

One of the most contentious measures in Congress, it has been pending for over a decade. The Catholic Church is staunchly against the bill, saying it promotes a contraceptive mentality and promiscuity.

President Benigno Aquino III has expressed support for it, saying he would vote for the measure if he were still a lawmaker.

Opt-out provision, penalties defeated

While Recto won one amendment, he lost in the voting for the other changes he wants introduced.

The Senate voted 9-6 to reject his proposal to give parents the option not to allow their minor children to attend classes on reproductive health, and sexuality education. Recto called it the “opt-out” provision.

Cayetano again objected, saying sexuality classes are needed so young girls will avoid becoming victims of predators and substitute wives.

Recto was consistent in his intention to remove responsibilities from local government units (LGUs), saying they did not have enough funds for RH services.

He proposed that the responsibility for training barangay health workers for the promotion of reproductive health be removed from LGUs. Voting 7-9, the Senate thumbed down Recto’s amendment.

Recto also proposed the removal of penalties for public officers who hinder the full implementation of the law. The Senate voted 8-8 on the amendment, with the tie meaning that the proposal is lost.

Cayetano accepted Recto’s other amendments concerning LGUs.

Sen Edgardo Angara proposed that instead of penalties, the bill should offer incentives for LGUs that promote reproductive health.

Sotto to vote for RH if…

As the amendments dragged on, at one point, Recto joked that Cayetano should do what Sen Franklin Drilon did with the sin tax reform bill. Drilon is the sponsor of the sin tax bill.

I propose that you adopt the Drilon model: accept all the amendments and take them all out in bicam if you want,” Recto said in jest.

In opposing the ratification of the sin tax bill, Recto said all of his amendments were removed in the bicameral conference committee report.

Sotto ended the deliberation by saying he will be prepared to introduce his amendments on Monday, December 17. Sotto has said he has 25 amendments. The Senate is set to vote on second reading on the same day after Sotto’s amendments.

“Hopefully we will vote on third reading not only on Thursday but possibly Wednesday if the study that I asked will give me a positive response because I have a remedy I’m thinking of which we can adjourn on Monday, resume on Wednesday evening for the third day that’s if all my amendments will be accepted.”

“I will propose such and vote in favor of the RH bill,” Sotto said.

Cayetano said she will be ready for Sotto’s amendments. – Rappler.com 

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