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At Large

The battle shifts

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Of the senatorial candidates who landed in the “Top 16” of the latest Pulse Asia survey, only five are identifiably “pro-RH,” advocacy groups have warned.

This may not augur well for the full and meaningful implementation (especially in terms of funding) of the new Reproductive Health Law, but the same survey’s findings also point to more room for maneuver in the next few months.

Pulse Asia pointed out that only three out of every 10 Filipinos have drawn up a complete list of their senatorial choices, with only 34 percent of respondents saying they had a complete senatorial slate while 8.6 percent said they do not support any of the candidates. What’s more, the top rankers are either reelectionists or relatives of established political figures.

But what do the poll numbers have to do with the future of the RH Law? Rep. Edcel Lagman, who led the fight for the law in the House of Representatives, emphasizes that the “battle is not over.” At the recent celebration of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), Lagman appealed to everyone to vote back into office lawmakers who voted in favor of the RH Law. (This in the face of declarations of the anti-RH camp, led by Catholic bishops, to work against the reelection bids of pro-RH candidates and support those who’ve declared themselves anti-RH.)

In a report in the news website Rappler.com, Lagman cites four remaining “major challenges” for the RH camp: the promulgation of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) which, he emphasizes, “should not dilute the essence of the RH Law”; overcoming the pending petitions before the Supreme Court seeking to nullify the RH Law; making sure Congress provides sufficient yearly funding for the implementation of the RH Law; and monitoring the implementation of the RH Law.”

* * *

Lagman could not emphasize enough the need to work harder in the run-up to the elections. “We must ensure in the coming May elections that the RH advocates get the people’s mandate so that adequate and responsive appropriations will be allocated for the RH Law,” he said.

Among those present at the PLCPD gathering were former lawmakers who had worked for the passage of an RH Law many years previously. Among them were Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, who is seeking to return to the House this year; and Lagman’s own daughter, Cielo Krisel Lagman-Luistro.

Speaker Sonny Belmonte, also present at the event, talked about the close shave the RH legislation went through before passage. “We finally managed to get it through because the other side thought they had the numbers. The numbers were quite fluid…. It was really close. Even if we were really in the minority, we did it.”

* * *

Indeed, even as RH advocates bask in the afterglow of legislative victory, the battle shifts to the electoral arena. More organizing and advocacy work needs to be done to keep, if not bolster, the number of RH supporters in the House and in the Senate, and perhaps even more crucial, in local governments. Numbers are needed to ensure continuing funding for RH programs—at both national and local levels—and guarantee the meaningful implementation of the law.

The first few years of the program are crucial to prove that a renewed focus on reproductive health could soon translate into impactful indicators such as maternal health, infant mortality and child survivability. If it isn’t funded properly, then reproductive health could be written off as an unnecessary program that creates too much social friction to be worth the political risk.

Recall that in the 1970s, the Marcos government adopted enthusiastically a family planning and population program, resulting in the creation of a Population Commission that went beyond the crafting of policy and actually implemented community-based grassroots programs.

But after several years of success, the population program began to lose steam. Studies have shown that this was due mainly to the steady reduction of funding support, since by then the main finance institutions were headed by members of the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei who, in the words of a critic simply “turned off the taps” and starved the entire program of money and thus effectivity. Let’s not let that happen again.

* * *

The public has until the end of the month (Feb. 28) to submit their nominations for the “Journalists of the Year” (JOY) awards, cosponsored by the Metrobank Foundation Inc. and the Probe Media Foundation Inc.

Nominees should be Filipino media practitioners currently residing in the Philippines. They must have been working in the media industry for at least 10 years (from 2002 to 2012) and must be practicing in any medium (print, radio, television or online) of journalism on a regular basis and as a primary source of income.

Three winners will be chosen and each will receive P300,000 and a special trophy. Each winner will also be named the Metrobank Foundation Fellow in Journalism, given the privilege to share expertise and experience through professional lectures in academic venues. The program “will highlight the journalists’ contributions to both the industry and society and give the public a chance to learn from these noteworthy individuals.”

Nominations are open to everyone of legal age, and self-nominations are allowed. Nominees must be endorsed by their current supervisor, superior or editor, provided that the endorser is attached to a bona fide media organization or news agency.

For further inquiries, please visit www.mbfoundation.org.ph or www.probefound.com or call the Probe Media Foundation Secretariat at Tel. No. (02) 4330456 or e-mail metrobankfoundation.joy@gmail.com.


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Tags: 2013 Elections , At Large , Elections , opinion , politics , pulse asia , reproductive health law , Rina Jimenez-David



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