MANILA, Philippines – “No gain for the Philippines [but] all pain.”
Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said this will be the consequence if the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) law.
The self-styled number one oppositor of the measure took exception to the statement of the country’s leading business groups reaffirming support for the law ahead of the Court’s final deliberations on April 8.
Contrary to the statement of the 4 business groups on Tuesday, March 25, Sotto said the implementation of the law will not help reduce poverty and improve maternal and child healthcare. He said their statement was “all sound bites.”
“If the Supreme Court approves it and it is implemented, in the next few years, they will all see that I am correct, na ang sinasabi ng mga business groups, walang mangyayari. Iyon din iyan. Napagbigyan lang ang Planned Parenthood Federation. Nakinabang ang IPPF, DKT at ang mga lobby groups dito. Gustong-gusto ko nga i-implement na nila para makita nilang tama ako eh, tama kami,” the comedian-turned-politician told Rappler in an interview on Thursday, March 27, on the sidelines of his noontime show Eat Bulaga.
(The effect will be the same. Only the International Planned Parenthood Federation, DKT and lobby groups here benefit from it. I actually want them to implement the law so they will see I am right, we are right.)
The senator was referring to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a global organization promoting family planning and women’s rights, and DKT, one of the largest providers of family planning and reproductive health products and services. He has accused these groups of spending “millions” to push for the RH law.
Sotto said that the business groups only released the statement in favor of the RH law because of their alleged ties to IPPF and DKT. Those who issued the statement were the Makati Business Club, the Management Association of the Philippines, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Employers Confederation of the Philippines.
“It all boils down to business, business of the largest manufacturer of contraceptives, injectables and condoms in the world, DKT,” Sotto said. “Konektado sila doon. Ang magsasalita noon, konektado kasi I can’t imagine ang mga businessman maiisip nila iyon na wala namang epekto sa kanila. Sasabihin nila population control. It’s not in the law. We removed it. We removed any reference to population control.”
(They are connected to those groups. Anyone who says those statements are connected to those groups because I can’t imagine these businessmen thinking of these statements when the law has no effect on them. They say it’s for population control.)
“Hopefully, the Supreme Court will read between the lines. They will see that this wording of poverty reduction, maternal health and sustainable growth, there is a dollar sign underneath,” Sotto added.
The RH law aims to make both natural and modern family planning methods like contraceptives affordable and accessible to the public. It mandates age-appropriate sex education, and provides RH services to women and the poor, especially in rural areas.
The contentious law took Congress 14 years to pass amid strong opposition from Catholic bishops in the predominantly Catholic country. Sotto was the law’s staunchest Senate critic. (READ: The 7 deadly sins of the RH bill, according to Sotto)
President Benigno Aquino III signed the law in 2012 but the Supreme Court soon received 15 petitions questioning its legality. The Court suspended its implementation for over a year now.
‘Removing the next president’s choice’
Sotto reiterated his belief that the RH law is unconstitutional. “It prevents implantation. Contraceptives prevent implantation, therefore, abortion. It will promote abortion.”
Abortion is illegal in the Philippines. The 1987 Constitution says the state “shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”
RH law author Senator Pia Cayetano and other proponents though have long argued that the law does not condone abortion, and instead empowers women by giving them choice. (READ: Pia Cayetano: 5 misconceptions about the RH bill and 10 facts about the RH bill)
Yet Sotto said the law actually removed the “choice” of succeeding presidents by institutionalizing the provision of contraceptives.
“Akala ko ba pro-choice sila? When you are pro-choice, you do not stymie the choice of political leaders now and in the future. What if we have a president that does not want to support birth control or contraception? Wala na. You tied his hand. You did not give him a choice anymore. Wala na siyang choice kasi ginawa ninyong batas eh.” (I thought they were pro-choice? You removed the next president’s choice because you already made it a law.)
After saying the country will get “all pain” from the law, Sotto added that there will be “no effect” whether the Supreme Court upholds the law or not. He explained that the Department of Health is already providing contraceptives to poor patients, as seen in their answers during budget deliberations.
“I think it’s safe because we’re doing it anyway. We removed the issue on abortion, population control. It’s only principle that’s left and removing the choice of the new president.”
‘Fight til kingdom come’
Sotto recalled that he already “exposed” those lobbying for the law during his 2012 speeches against it. He then drew flak from netizens not just for his anti-RH stance but also for plagiarizing online writers, and initially refusing to apologize.
“These lobby groups have been given millions of dollars not only to promote the RH law but also to discredit people like me. Not a single time did they deny the money. They never answered the issues. They just charged me with plagiarism and tried to divert the issue. Sa bagay ganoon talaga, ‘pag talo ka sa debate, you go personal,” Sotto said.
Back then, RH advocate Elizabeth Angsioco addressed Sotto’s criticism, saying local NGOs’ funding from IPPF helped save women’s lives through family planning and education services.
The senator said he is not joining any activity of the pro-life groups ahead of the Supreme Court decision. He said his role was to ensure that references to abortion and population control were removed from the bicameral report on the law.
“I have done my part. The journal of the Philippine Senate, the journals of history will prove me right in the future.”
Sotto said he cannot blame pro-RH groups for lobbying for the law’s implementation but gave them a piece of advice.
“They are passionate about their stand. They are passionate about what they believe in and remember most great wars were because of religion. Kaya don’t touch on people’s religion. Huwag mong inaaway ang relihiyon ng ibang tao. Iyan ang pinakamagandang kilos sapagka’t lalabanan ka niyan ‘til kingdom come.”
(Do not attack other people’s religion. That is the best course of action because otherwise, they will fight you ‘til kingdom come.) – Rappler.com
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