Laguna Representative Sol Aragones, who refiled the prevention of teen pregnancies bill in the House after it languished in the 17th Congress, believes that the bill will meet the President’s pen this time around.
Aragones sounds more upbeat despite the cold reception when she filed it with the 17th Congress.
In the Senate, its counterpart was filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros. The Senate version was approved on the third reading while the House version only reached the committee level.
There are at least 3 versions in the House and two in the Senate in the current Congress.
“I’m optimistic it will be passed this Congress because more lawmakers in both Houses are convinced and being convinced with the merits of the bill,” Aragones told Rappler.
However, Carolyn Sobritchea, head for the technical panel for women’s and gender studies at the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), is not so optimistic, speaking from years of experience as a resource person for Congress.
Ever since the 13th Congress, early versions of the bill have always been refiled. Meanwhile, the number of young girls getting pregnant continues to increase at an alarming rate.
The Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) reported that over a 10-year period about 1.2 million children had children.
In 2017, the National Demographic and Health Survey reported that one out of 10 women aged 15-19 have begun bearing children. The Philippines also had the second highest adolescent fertility rate in Southeast Asia in 2018, with 60.5 births per 1,000 women.
Sobritchea has often been invited to serve as resource person following her decades specializing in women’s studies.
While Sobritchea said the the Senate bill is generally "very exhaustive" in its present state, there are still certain provisions that remain "hilaw" (raw).
She said the inter-agency Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Council was formed well, with agencies designated for both prevention and action for teenage mothers. Education was at the forefront of preventive efforts while the Department of Health (DOH) would deal with the immediate health concerns of the mothers.
However, she described the provisions on what schools could do for teen mothers as “hilaw" (raw) or much could still be expected from it.
“I’m a veteran in seeing laws pass concerning women… Although we have affirmed the importance of the matter due to the statistics and alarming rates, I don’t think the bill will pass this Congress,” said Sobritchea.
Sobritchea said the biggest challenge that the bill in its current state was with the level of expected efforts from the local government units, without further going into much detail.
If passed into law, the implementation of Senate Bill 161, or the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act will be led by an inter-agency Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Council, to be composed of the following:
The council will be in charge of implementing measures concerning the different needs of adolescents, from the prevention level to the social protection of teenage parents.
The following is expected from schools:
From local governments:
Miscellaneous duties of the council:
For social protection of teenage parents:
In cases of sexual violence or emergency situations, teenage mothers will have strengthened social protection, and can receive assistance for legal, medical, and psycho-social services. – Rappler.com