At Large

Sex talk in the Supreme Court

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As I was boarding our vehicle in front of the Supreme Court building, having sneaked out a few minutes before the close of the second day of oral arguments in favor of the RH Law, I espied a man in a green T-shirt huddled before the fence and shouting.

“Obey God’s teachings!” he yelled. “Don’t follow the devil!” Pedestrians navigating the sidewalk in front of the compound studiously avoided him, while everyone else, including police hovering around the gate, seemed to be oblivious to his presence.

I snickered. The man certainly didn’t sound all that different from one or two Supreme Court justices whose tireless questioning of the law’s chief proponents—former representative Edcel Lagman and Sen. Pia Cayetano—betrayed their relentless opposition to the law, and their almost-obsessive preoccupation with a few provisions in the law and imagined dangers lurking in the future.

It was Lagman, who ends his stint in public life with this final struggle to get the RH Law, his “pet bill” in the last decade or so, out of the clutches of the Supreme Court, who put the controversial measure in perspective.

He told the Court that sponsors and proponents of the RH Law spent one-and-a-half decades shepherding the bill through the legislative labyrinth, “all questions were addressed, all those against were heard and accommodated, and the measure was exhaustively debated.” Thus, he could say that RA 14354 is in “absolute fealty with the Constitution.”

For her part, Cayetano wanted to know: “Why is it so difficult to give women the right to health?” Is it because good health empowers women? she asked. Does the reluctance stem from “a malicious view of women”? Or does it simply reveal “how low the petitioners view women”?

* * *

Cayetano prefaced her argument with a PowerPoint presentation that brought a bracing touch of reality to the by-then stale and stultifying air in the tribunal. She opened with the stories of “real” women, in partial rebuke of the petitioners who had pooh-poohed the pro-RH position by remarking that “only” 15 Filipino mothers are dying every day due to causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

“Only 15 women?” Cayetano asked, proceeding to tell the stories (and showing the pictures) of some of these women—Ana who died while delivering her eighth child (who was also born dead); Marian who had lost her two youngest children at birth and then, after getting pregnant again despite a doctor’s warning that she was putting her life at risk, herself died along with the baby; and Lourdes, who ended up having to give away three of her children because she could no longer afford to feed them and their siblings.

“I sympathize with the mothers,” Associate Justice Roberto Abad remarked when his turn to question the senator came. While he recognized the need to save women’s lives, he said, he was disturbed at the prospect of “placing IUDs and contraceptives” in the bodies of millions of Filipino women of childbearing age to mitigate the risk of unwanted pregnancies. The drugs, Abad noted, posed a greater danger because they could be cancerous, citing a WHO study placing contraceptives under “Category 1” of cancer-causing substances.

To this Cayetano retorted that “Category 1” also covers “things like microwaves, cell phones and TV sets,” meaning that the cancer risk posed was of the lowest possible level.

* * *

Throughout the questioning of both Lagman and Cayetano, Justice Abad, with one or two seeming anti-RH allies on the bench, harped on the “abortifacient” nature of contraceptives, particularly hormonal pills and injectables, and the copper IUD.

Time and again, reference was made to the responsibility given to the Food and Drug Administration to test contraceptives for “safety and efficacy,” including making sure that none of the drugs and devices on the market would cause unintended abortions since neither the justices nor legislators were competent to judge the mechanisms of contraceptives.

This focused perhaps unwanted limelight on Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, FDA director, who sat in front of me in an area occupied by RH supporters. Health Secretary Enrique Ona (seated beside former health secretary Quasi Romualdez) started teasing Hartigan-Go by warning him that from then on the doctor should “get yourself a battery of lawyers.”

Also worth noting is the possibility that never in the annals of the Supreme Court did its chamber echo so loudly, fervently and often with references to “sex.”

When Cayetano protested, in the course of questioning by Abad regarding the teaching of sexuality and reproductive health in public schools, that not everything in the RH Law was about sex, Abad exploded (or so far as a justice could “explode”).

“What do you mean it is not about sex? The RH Law is about reproduction, and reproduction is about sex!” he exclaimed.

* * *

Thank God and rationality then for Justice Marvic Leonen, the youngest member of the Supreme Court who seemed to take it upon himself to “correct” whatever misapprehensions his colleagues may have raised, and whatever illogic these justices might have imposed on the public.

To give an example, perhaps in reaction to Abad’s tirade on sex education, Leonen asked Cayetano: “Does the RH Law promote sex?” To which the senator replied that the law’s intention is to “make information available to those who need it.” Leonen’s follow-up: “Will teaching students about sex make them promiscuous?” No, said Cayetano. Indeed, “sexuality education prepares them to be responsible adults.”

Will the endless debates about the already much-debated RH Law please both sides? No, and perhaps never. But we are still a democracy.

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  • tadasolo

    The idiots represented by Abad are at it again. Their distorted concern about the danger of condom and the pill on women are so unreal and makes you wonder if they live on planet Pluto by ignoring the dangers of millions of mothers and kids living in subhuman and miserable conditions in the Philippines. Only fools can subscribe to this non sense

  • Garote

    Leonen should not be asking Pia Cayetano those important questions which only an expert on that the field of science should be answering. Why take the reply of Pia Cayetano as gospel truth when she is no more knowledgeable than a housewife who cooks for her husband and children. She is just an incompetent mouthpiece of the pharmaceutical companies and Bill Gates, who allegedly gave free vaccines containing mercury to little children.

    • Tommy

      Wow.

      You aren’t very smart, are you?

  • ARIKUTIK

    Most human inventions pose risk to human lives. Machinery, mercury bulb, cell phone radiation, food coloring, sugar laden cola, auto mobiles, medicines almost everything unnatural but none is forced in the mouth of the poor through the power of law. The government is suppose to protect the citizens. Why should there be a law to put the lives of the poor at risk through RH pill? and then justify it as for the benefit of the poor. How can be one be benefited if one is poisoned by RH drugs. If the microwave oven risk is used as justification for the risk of RH pills then give also free microwave oven to the poor through law. Only then the argument of microwave oven as risky too can be use as justification for the risk of RH pill.

  • Tommy

    Seriously, why are they wasting public funds on these hearings?

    The bill has passed the Senate and Congress. The ONLY issue here is whether or not the bill is constitutional. The pro-RH side should NOT be having to prove that the bill is necessary AGAIN. If the anti-RH lot fail to show that the bill violates the Constitution, the bill passes. The Supreme Court doesn’t get to block the law just because they don’t agree with it, that isn’t how the government works.

    So WHY are we wasting public funds on this?

    • ARIKUTIK

      The glaring fact is that RH bill was passed through the power of PDAF, Not through reasons. Let just hope that reasons may prevail in SC. Then after that in case the law is implemented are reasons that it will be accepted by the intended victims. One thing is sure > a caring neighbor is listened to and trusted than corrupt lawmakers. The neighbor will say > “Mare, nakakamatay yang RH pills, marami ng nadisgrasya diyan”. What ever the action of kumare the Pharma companies will always reap billions of profits year after year and govt. officers will always get commissions. These 2 are the guaranteed beneficiary of RH law.

      • Tommy

        ‘The glaring fact is that RH bill was passed through the power of PDAF’

        It really wasn’t, but feel free to keep lying to yourself.

        Oh, and yes, a caring neighbor is more listened to. Hopefully in most cases that neighbor won’t be a moron like Abad.

      • ARIKUTIK

        Pro RH are dreaming. I live among the poor. We know very well how the government of the Oligarch oppressed us, robbing us the right of decent living. We detest this government and we will detest it more knowing that aside from oppression. This government wants our wives to become sick through poison of RH pill and also wants to poison our unborn children. The govt. of the oligarch wants to wage war against us poor Filipinos. Therefore war for war, poor Filipinos vs. the oligarch. There is no more hope in this govt. Rob the rich, create more children as soldiers to defend our lives. We will not die like meek sheep. We will fight for our survival. Non among us will take that poison but instead will wage war against you greedy rich. All my neighbors will realize that this government is against us. Poison for poison, death for death. Kill the ruling oligarch for the salvation of poor Filipinos.

      • Tommy

        Pro-RH based our decision based off facts.

        Pro-RH aren’t calling for murder and class war.

        You are a moron.

      • ARIKUTIK

        You may call that law as Reproductive Health but we know it is genocide against us poor Filipinos. Can you hide the fact that the poison is Only for the poor? That fact I will reveal to all my poor neighbors so that we will create more children as soldiers for our survival. You are the morons who though we are nothing but pesky flies. This too will be revealed to my fellows that we are treated by this government as nothing but flies to be poisoned. There will be war between us. We will not let you just kill us with out a fight. Go ahead impose the genocide of RH law !

      • Tommy

        It really isn’t. It’s giving the poor the same options and advantages the rich have.

        If I were starting a family, I could decide, with my wife, to have two kids. We’d have those kids, then we’d just buy condoms, contraceptives, etc. after having those kids, so we could continue having a healthy, satisfying sex life.

        YOU would deny that option to the poorer citizens of this country. And you call US anti-poor? Get a grip on reality, loser.

        And really, if your ‘poor neighbors’ are dumb enough to listen to you there isn’t any hope for this country.

      • ARIKUTIK

        So many times it was said. A responsible loving couple can practice birth control with out poisonous RH pill. But the government insist to poison the poor. Therefore, that is dictatorial and will never be accepted by us. It only show that this government is hell bent to eradicate us poor Filipinos. Who is this government to dictate us. You are corrupt government of the oligarch out to eradicate the Native poor Filipinos. Eradication for eradication. Killing for killing. Rob and kill all those non native Filipinos ruling this country.

      • ARIKUTIK

        Yes my poor neighbors will listen to me aided by the fact of being sick just after a month of gulping RH poison pill. The pill effect itself will become witness that I am telling the truth of genocide inflicted upon us poor Filipinos. Can anyone argue better than the sick body itself. The pro RH are morons thinking the poor have no body feelings. I have their body as evidence of genocide against us.

      • Tommy

        And which pill was that, exactly? Because I think we both know you’re lying here.

      • ARIKUTIK

        I have warn you that RH pill will enrage the suffering poor to become rebels for survival. I’m not a lying tongue but sleepy eye to hit the bed of dreams. I will command my soldiers to search for you and dump your face in the lap of dried up Pia… weeeeeeee…….. byeeeeeee >>>>>>> out >>>>>>>>>

      • Tommy

        Nope, you’re a complete moron.

        This really isn’t even worth discussing, you simply are.

      • Tommy

        Blahblahblah.

        Just admit it: you hate the poor, and as such do not want them to get more options.

      • darkempire007

        Check every hospital around you, see if you can find anybody suffering from contracepives uses..here is your reason…100 million people living in a tiny island…anymore questions?

      • ahemmm

        For they could not afford to go to hospitals… more funds for basic health care services. Contraceptions should not be a priority when people could hardly buy paracetamol…

  • Rey

    Associate Justice Roberto Abad: “What do you mean it is not about sex? The RH Law is about reproduction, and reproduction is about sex!”

    Sex as used by AJ Abad is just 5 minutes of a 9-month process called reproduction. OMG, how confused can he be?!

  • ahemmm

    More funds for basic health care services! Contraceptions should not be a priority when people could hardly buy paracetamol…

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