At Large

Peace women


I can imagine the elation of supporters of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law gathered in Baguio, in Manila, and elsewhere in the country over news that the Supreme Court has, by and large, ruled that the RH Law is constitutional.

I say “by and large” because the high court, while upholding the constitutionality of the law, struck down fully or partially eight provisions mostly involving the rights of private and/or religious institutions or health practitioners. One such annulled provision was one punishing or sanctioning private doctors or institutions that refuse to provide RH services or refer their patients to others who would provide these services.

Alarming to me was the decision to also annul a provision allowing a married person not in a life-threatening situation to access RH procedures without the consent of the spouse. This means that a woman who wishes to, say, undergo a ligation can be prevented by her husband from doing so. But so will the husband who wants to undergo a vasectomy. Still, it’s a gross invasion of personal privacy, offensive and impractical.

I have other reservations regarding the eight provisions, but I say these concerns matter little, or not as much, when arrayed against the rest of the law. Finally, the government has the mandate to fully fund and implement its reproductive health policies, including giving young people age-appropriate, accurate and practical education on matters regarding sex, sexuality and personal responsibility.

Finally, we can make headway in the struggle to reduce the number of Filipino women (estimated at between 12 and 14 a day) dying due to causes related to pregnancy and childbirth; the number of babies dying at birth or very soon after; the number of teenage (or preteen) girls getting pregnant; and the number of families staggering under the burden of having too many mouths to feed with very little resources.

Congratulations to everyone who fought the good fight, and a warm embrace to the women whose lives have been and will be saved!

* * *

A “SECOND-CLASS woman” was an accusation—a jibe, a putdown, an insult?—hurled at Miriam Coronel Ferrer, chair of the government panel in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the heat of an “intensive” discussion on “power sharing” in the new Bangsamoro entity. Ferrer thinks the “second-class” label was an allusion to her “aspiration” to be a man.

In other instances, the government panel members’ counterparts in the MILF panel would make references to the women panelists’ penchant for “kitchen economics,” meaning their attention to the details and intricacies of the proposed arrangements. “Some feminists would have been irritated or angry by such housewife-jokes,” Ferrer would write in an article. But she says she and the other women in the panel chose to ignore the barbed comments “since it was producing results.” Later on, she recalled, the men realized just how much their attention to detail was needed to push the agreement forward.

Ferrer was speaking at a “roundtable” that featured the women who had played major roles in the government peace panel. Aside from Ferrer, the women included Teresita Quintos Deles, the presidential assistant on the peace process, panel member Undersecretary Yasmin Busran Lao, Defense Undersecretary Zenonida “Zen” Brosas of the National Security Council, Iona Jalijali who headed the secretariat, and Anna Tarhata Basman who headed the government legal team.

* * *

FACILITATED by broadcaster Cheche Lazaro, the discussion was by turns animated and candid, with the pressure to keep matters confidential lifted with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

“My job was not to lose hope,” confided Deles, when asked if there were times when she foresaw failure. She admitted, though, that at times “you could see it wouldn’t move forward.” In such times, she said, she counted on “the gift of faith,” crediting a crew of “prayer warriors,” including Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, for keeping their spirits up.

From the beginning, confided Brosas, they were determined to present a human face to their MILF counterparts, introducing themselves by talking about their families and encouraging their MILF friends to do the same. Not such an easy task, she points out, since she was dealing mainly with hardened MILF military leaders.

But the panel members were likewise impressed by the concern that the MILF leaders, particularly chair Murad Ibrahim, had shown toward their own people, particularly their fighters. It was the MILF chair, they pointed out, who brought before the President his concern that “the fighters should be taken care of.”

* * *

THE women all credit the “professionalism and good faith” shown by both sides. “The men were not full of themselves,” conceded Lao. “They were all looking forward to the end goal, which was peace.”

And while acknowledging the needs and roles of women was hard going in the beginning, the women in the government panel acknowledged that gradually, but genuinely, their counterparts began opening up to the idea of women as partners in the creation of the Bangsamoro, to the extent of even recruiting women to sit in the peace panel and the technical working groups.

Deles cited the “persistence and fidelity” of women, not just in the peace panel or in the advisory bodies, but even of women in the peace movement, to believe in and work on the cause of peace even at the darkest, most hopeless times.

“You just need to show up all the time” was her simple, powerful exhortation.

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  • josh_alexei

    One step at a time Ms. David..Consent of spouse for now but sometimes in the future, it will be a decision between the woman or the man and their doctors at the exclusion of all others…

    It was only in l969 when we partially legalized Abortion in my part of town, with soo many Criminal Restrictions and sometimes in the 1988 the SC (R v. Dr. Morgentaler) upon challenged Struck down the Abortion Law and there is no longer an abortion law and it is now a health issue between a woman and her doctors and can be had on Demand and must be covered under the Universal Care..and since then the Abortion Rate declined and per Capita is much lower than that of the Philippines which is estimated at more than Half a million Illegal abortions a Year…

    This RH law, implemented to its spirit hopefully will reduce the rate of Illegal Abortion and will decrease the incidence of Unwanted Pregnancy…it was a historic Decision by the SC even with the Part of the Law stricken down…one step at a time…

  • tra6Gpeche

    That the government has the mandate to fully fund and implement its reproductive health including young people age-appropriate, accurate and practical education on matters regarding sex, sexuality and responsibility is sweet to my ears. By educating our young people, there will be less unwanted born babies and possibly secret abortion. Couples will learn how to space having babies. Less children means better future for them. Couples will learn the meaning of responsibility. And definitely, ignorance and “bahala na” culture will be cured. Start the RH implementation now. Time is precious!


    I CONGRATULATE THE WOMEN OF THE PHILIPPINES for taking on the corrupt senators and assert themselves to repossess their bodies from male-dominant alpha-male senators.


    The only thing Rina did not and does not want to touch is the liberty and dignity of housemaids. She is always quiet about maids. Maybe she is treating their maids like slaves just like Abrahm Lincoln.

  • bgcorg

    I am not too comfortable with undue assertion of feminine rights which, more imagined than real, creates a false sense of reality in women who thought they are deprived of their rightful places in society: ditto Rina David or Abraham Lincoln about their maids. Often, right or wrong after taking a very strong position, one can only be the slave of that position and one will continue to believe and put on one argument after another to justify holding to that pet peeve and nobody can convince this person that at some point he or she is holding on already to a big lie. What is the self-liberating truth?

  • josh_alexei

    Yes, Ms David, one down and many more issues to go..equal pay for work of equal value…that means that Housemaid should get equal pay with those earning the minimum or better as per the Country’s labour Law, not the lower pay for housemaid, that is Discrimination..including their maximum hours of work, day offs and sick benefits.

    With Senator Santiago who shout from the top of pedestal of the land, you and few more “feminists” could do a lot for the womenfolks.. In our part, our Government already give our mothers who were abandoned by their spouses or low income, what we proudly call MOTHER’S allowances to care for their children and themselves and if our woman wanted to have a baby instead of using contraceptives, she can take as Long as one year of Parental Leave with PAY (mandatory 17 weeks of maternity leave) and if she has a partner whatever the sex, can divide the remaining Parental leave to look after the baby or it is called bonding and the taxpayers foot the bill mostly…I just don’t know who fought for these Rights, but our Charter clearly stated that we are Equal, but our women folks are sometimes more equal…but nobody is complaining… (parental leave is also good for male partners for adoption)

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