BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Long-time reproductive health (RH) advocate Chi Vallido’s daughter was still a young girl when Chi started lobbying for a law mandating universal access to contraceptives and RH services.
“My daughter was still in all fours when I started working on the advocacy for reproductive rights. She was still crawling. Now, she thinks she’s in love with Justin Bieber. That’s how long it’s been. She is turning 16 and entering college this June,” she told Rappler.
It was a long time coming for Vallido, an advocacy specialist from the Forum of Family Planning and Development Inc, and the pro-RH supporters when the Philippine Congress finally enacted Republic Act 10354 or an Act Providing for a National Policy on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health. President Benigno Aquino III signed it into law in December 2012.
But the decision on whether the landmark legislation – which took a total of 13 years and 4 months to pass – will be implemented is now up to the Supreme Court (SC). (READ: RH law: The long and tough road)
The SC in its Tuesday, April 8, en banc summer session in Baguio City is set to decide on the constitutionality of the RH law. Various groups earlier petitioned the Court to declare the law unconstitutional.
Pro-RH vs Anti-RH in Baguio City
Former Baguio City Mayor Peter Ray Bautista, a staunch RH advocate, is hopeful the law will be declared constitutional.
“I have always been pro-choice. But being a chief executive of a city, I saw how much the city has suffered. All the problems that confronted me were all related to overpopulation. More people meant more crimes, problems, garbage. More people meant less land, water and food,” he said in an interview.
His city, a known tourist destination, is now ground zero of the clash over a law that funds the distribution of free contraceptives, requires government hospitals to provide RH services, and mandates public schools to teach sex education. (READ: RH law advocates on vigil, predict victory)
There are those who believe the funds to be channeled to implement the law can be an instrument of corruption in government.
Virgilio Duldulao, a 77-year-old grandfather of 14 living along Asin Road in Baguio City, is one of them.
“Tutol kami sa kultura ng kamatayan: divorce, euthanasia, abortion, total fertility control, homosexuality, and sex education… Being a Catholic, we are against that. We will support whatever the CBCP decision [is],” he said, while joining a prayer vigil in front of the SC compound in the summer capital.
(We are against the culture of death: divorce, euthanasia, abortion, total fertility control, homosexuality, and sex education. Being a Catholic, we are against that. We will support whatever the CBCP decision [is].)
As early as 9 am on Tuesday, both the pro- and anti-RH camps have started gathering on opposite ends of the street fronting the SC compound in Baguio City where the magistrates will be voting on the highly contested law.
Watch this video of the gathered protesters from both sides below.
Duldulao, a member of the Knights of Columbus from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baguio, stands firm following the preaching of his bishop.
At 9:30 am, the anti-RH camp was still reciting a special prayer for a favorable decision from the SC justices.
Vallido, who is on the other end of Duldulao’s camp, said she is used to the sight of clashing forces.
Her only daughter, who studied in a Catholic institution, goes to school seeing banners proclaiming RH law to be “anti-life” and going home to purple ribbons as part of the paraphernalia in Vallido’s advocacy work.
Vallido and Duldulao may be on the opposite ends awaiting a High Court decision that can spell victory or defeat for either side, but they are both optimistic.
“Optimistic kami sa yung pinaglalaban namin. Andiyan ang Diyos na magbibigay ng blessing,” Duldulao said. (We are optimistic in what we are fighting for. God is there to provide blessing.)
Vallido, on the other hand, said it is the story of a poor mother in Tondo, Manila, who walked to Quezon City to avail of RH services and many stories like hers that give her hope that the justices will rule in their favor.
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