Thursday, November 15, 2012

The revised RH Bill

THE persistence of legislators who authored the Reproductive Health Bill and their backers is simply amazing. And so is the obsessive tenacity of its supporters, including the media, and mostly foreign sponsors and financiers. If such doggedness and massive lobbying—that reportedly dangles largesse enough for one or two electoral campaigns—are applied to other legislative bills such as the Freedom of Information Bill and others that are in single pursuit of the common good, then hope for this country should be larger than meets the eye.

To say that the single motive of the RH campaign is patriotism pure and simple is like saying, “c’mon, give it to the marines!” Besides, there are a hundred and one bills that can really serve the honest interest of this country and will certainly appropriate the commitments of patriots, rather than this one that obviously is dictated and bankrolled by foreign groups, interests and philosophy.

All the arguments to shore up the purported validity of this bill, like the ones that appeared in a one-page ad this week in some national dailies, are remakes that have already been debunked—such as the ones on economy, population and health.  But with the daily blasts by paid media and PR companies, conjectures and half-truths have turned into solid “truth” especially for those that have become easy targets of such massive promotions.

And yet there is that debacle of social unacceptability—despite social surveys that tell or doctored to tell the contrary. This debacle was the only reason why the Reproductive Health Bill had to undergo amendments—otherwise why the need for a hasty makeover. At first blush, one would think that the grounding of the debacle is the Catholic Church, and in fact some observers have been saying so.  But on deeper scrutiny, one finds that truth is the real barrier.

Now the Bill is dressed up and ready for debates at the plenary. The proponents are, of course, hoping that this version will at least be tolerable if not wholly acceptable. The only rub is, the Catholic Church is still thumbs down. The Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, through its chair, Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, already issued a clear statement that found the revisions superficial.

Says Bishop Reyes, “Despite some good amendments, this latest version remains harmful because of the bad provisions that are still there. I will cite only one example: the promotion of contraception or artificial methods of birth control is still very much a part of it. In fact, the promotion of contraception is a constitutive or an essential part of this latest version.”

Disputable as it may seem, but both the premise and the philosophy of the Reproductive Health Bill is right at the base of its unacceptability. It penetrates deeply into the core of cultural and religious values or beliefs. That being the case, this bill even if legislated will continue to be a snag.

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