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MANILA, Philippines – Advocates of the reproductive health (RH) law on Tuesday, March 15, endorsed Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo, as well as senatorial bets Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, and Walden Bello.
“Napagpasyahan naming sumuporta sa mga kandidato sa parating na halalan at tumawag sa bawat Pilipinong botante na suportahan din sila sa paniniwalang ang mga kandidatong ito ay magsusulong at paninindigan ang RH,” said former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, lead convenor of the Purple Ribbon for RH Movement.
(We have decided to support these candidates for this coming elections, and to call on every Filipino voter to support them as well because we believe these candidates will support and stand for the RH law.)
Cabral led the launch of Purple Vote 2016, the electoral campaign of the Purple Ribbon for RH Movement – the largest network of RH and women’s rights advocates.
Advocates called Robredo a lawmaker who walks the talk. They also lauded the administration bet for lobbying for important bills in Congress, such as the Freedom of Information bill and the anti-discrimination bill.
Former lawmakers Hontiveros and Bello championed the RH law in the House, while former justice secretary De Lima was vocal against the Manila contraception ban while she was Commission on Human Rights chair.
Cabral, who also chairs the National Implementation Team of the RH law, said they only endorsed 4 candidates because they looked beyond a candidate’s pronouncement that he or she is pro-RH.
“Bagama’t pinakaimportante na sumusuporta [sa RH], importante rin ang track record sa ibang bagay: human rights, freedom of information, at korapsyon,” she said.
(While it is important they support RH, their track record on other issues is also as important: human rights, freedom of information, and corruption.)
Cabral said there are about 100 member-organizations of the Purple Ribbon for RH Movement, each with an average of 100 members.
“That is only the members. Of course they’re going to campaign, and they have family and friends who will support [these candidates],” Cabral told Rappler.
The endorsement comes more than two months after the health department’s budget suffered a P1-billion cut meant for the purchase of family planning commodities for the poorest of the poor in the country. The advocates vowed to make the budget cut an election issue.
Aside from the cut, the RH law is also facing other challenges, including the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order on the distribution and sale of implants, and local ordinances that violate the law. Cabral said one such ordinance is the declaration of Sorsogon City as a pro-life city.
Hontiveros on universal health care
Robredo and Bello sent representatives to Tuesday’s launch, while Hontiveros dropped by in person to thank the advocates for their support. She said the endorsement is “very important” for her candidacy.
“Nasa puso, front and center, ng advocacy ko for universal health care lahat ng mga batas pangkalusugan: reproductive health, lahat ng batas sa maternal and child care para sa karamihan ng mamamayan, lalo na ‘yung mga mahihirap pati na ‘yung sa kanayunan,” she told Rappler in an interview after the launch.
(All health measures are at the heart – front and center – of our advocacy for universal health care: reproductive health, and maternal and child care for many Filipinos, especially the poor and those in rural areas.)
During the launch, the senatorial candidate, a former PhilHealth director, briefly talked about her plans for the country’s universal health care:
- On ‘super’ barangay health centers – Equip centers with in-patient facilities and enough manpower
- On PhilHealth – Expand benefits for senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and indigents; and develop a PhilHealth benefit package for women’s health care
- On barangay health workers – Increase the allowances and benefits of barangay health workers, and equip them through training and accreditation
- On Republic Act 8344 – Give more teeth to the law to ensure no hospital will refuse to treat patients in emergency cases just because they cannot pay a deposit
‘Shame campaign’ vs Sotto, Pacquiao
On Tuesday, the RH advocates also deemed Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Sarangani Representative and boxing icon Manny Pacquiao as senatorial candidates as “unworthy of the people’s vote.”
“[Sotto and Pacquiao] are shameful bigots who have no care for the welfare of women, children, and Filipino families,” the Purple Ribbon for RH Movement said in a statement.
Romeo Dongeto, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, said the group will campaign against the two legislators in the provinces.
“We were not surprised that Sotto himself allowed the removal of the P1 billion budget for the RH law,” Dongeto said in Filipino, referring to Sotto.
Advocates blame Sotto and Senator Loren Legarda for allowing the budget cut. They say no lawmaker who claims to be pro-RH wil remove a budget needed to implement the law.
The shame campaign against Pacquiao, meanwhile, stems from his controversial statement in February, when he said couples in a same-sex marriage are “mas masahol pa sa hayop (worse than animals).”
“Walang puwang sa Senado ang isang tao na nangmamaliit at yumuyurak sa karapatang pantao ng kahit sinong mamamayan (There’s no place in the Senate for a person who looks down and tramples on the human rights of any citizen),” Dongeto said.
He added: “Si Pacquiao ay mahusay na boksingero, pero hindi po siya magaling at hindi karapat-dapat na kongresista. Siya ang may pinakamaraming absent dahil nagbo-boxing…. Kwestyonable ang track record niya bilang kongresista. Mag-boxing na lang siya.“
(Pacquiao is an excellent boxer, but he is not an excellent nor worthy congressman. He has the most absences in Congress because of boxing. His track record as a congressman is questionable. He should just stick to boxing.) – Rappler.com