MANILA, Philippines – Advocates of the reproductive health law gathered Tuesday night, February 5, to celebrate the historic passage of the controversial measure, recognize the champions inside and outside Congress, and look ahead.
RH law proponent in the House of Representatives Albay Rep Edcel Lagman reminded everyone that the battle is not over. To continue the fight, Lagman underscored the importance of backing the re-election bids of lawmakers who voted in favor for the RH law.
Lagman cited 4 major challenges:
1) The promulgation of the Implementing Rules and Reguations (IRR). Lagman said the IRR should not dilute the essence of the RH law;
2) Overcoming the pending petitions before the Supreme Court seeking to nullify the RH law;
3) Making sure Congress provides sufficient yearly funding for the implementation of the RH law;
4) Monitoring the implementation of the RH law
“We must ensure in the coming May elections that the RH advocates get the people’s mandate so that adequate and responsive appropriations will be allocated for the RH law,” said Lagman.
Some members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) have threatened to campaign against the candidates who voted in favor of the RH law.
Also present were the lawmakers who initiated the advocacy back in 1999 – during the 11th Congress. They were former Aurora Rep Bellaflor Angara-Castillo and Lagman’s own daughter former Albay Rep Cielo Krisel Lagman-Luistro.
Aurora Gov Bellaflor Angara-Castillo is seeking to return to the House of Representatives.
It took almost 14 years or a total of 5 Congresses before the measure became a law in December last year. (READ: RH law: the long and rough road)
Iloilo Rep Janette Garin shared with everyone how in the 13th Congres, former Speaker Jose De Venecia Jr admitted to them it was hard to push for the measure because the Catholic Church was against it. But Nueva Ecija Rep Josefina stood up to De Venecia and insisted on sponsoring the measure before the plenary – the first time it reached that stage.
Garin narrated: “Para kaming [tinamaan] ng kidlat when former Speaker JDV came to us and said: ‘Mahirap. Nakikiusap ang simbahan.’ I was very much discouraged. We started sitting down with all energy lost. It was Tita Josie who said ‘Hindi pwede.’ She said it very slowly. Pero may dalang takot sa mata niya. Speaker De Venecia couldn’t do anything.”
Also present at the party was former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, who incurred the ire of the Catholic Church when she pushed for programs that distributed free contraceptives.
“I think that I really stimulated rage from the Catholic hierarchy when I was secretary of health as well as secretary of DSWD,” she recalled.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said: “We finally managed to get it through because the other side thought they had the numbers. The numbers were quite fluid… It was really close. Even we were really in the minority, we did it,” he said. – Rappler.com