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At Large

Bono and the bonehead Sotto

/ 04:06 AM December 18, 2019

I am sorry to say (because it reveals my age) that I’ve never been a U2 fan, at least of the band’s music. Though I am well aware of the stature that lead singer Bono holds not just as a rock star but also as a global activist, champion of causes as far-ranging as the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, apartheid, poverty and inequality, the environment, and gender equality, U2 never quite captured my fancy.

But now I am a fan. This is mainly because during their first (and so far, only) live concert in these parts, U2 devoted a portion of the proceedings to pay tribute to women and human rights activists, singling out beleaguered sister in the trade Maria Ressa. Segueing from “Beautiful Day” to “Ultra Violet (Light My Way),” Bono gave words to his vision: “Human rights drown out human wrongs, that’s a beautiful day. When sisters around the world go to school with their brothers, that’s a beautiful day. When journalists don’t have to worry about what they write, that’s a beautiful day. When women of the world unite to rewrite history as herstory, that is a beautiful day.” “For Maria Ressa,” he intoned.

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The huge screen backdrop behind the band then lit up with faces of women, including Ressa of course, and revolutionary mother figure Melchora Aquino, former president Cory Aquino, activist Lidy Nacpil, schoolgirls from St. Scholastica’s gathered in protest, and a few controversial individual Filipino women. They were joined by women from around the world, including Greta Thunberg, the latest Time magazine Person of the Year.

It was a stirring sight, even if only glimpsed in fuzzy images on social media and in television and newspapers. It was an affirmation as well as a morale booster for women (most of them anyway) fighting the forces of darkness and evil here and elsewhere. Thank you, Bono, and may that “beautiful day” dawn over our islands soon.

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Even with this moving tribute by U2, though, the status of ordinary Filipino women remains on shaky ground, with fundamental freedoms under threat from misogynistic men in positions of power.

I’m talking specifically of women’s reproductive rights which, the world community agrees, are indeed basic human rights. But when women cannot access or choose, much less use, the means by which they are to exercise their reproductive rights, then they remain under the boot of those who want to keep them ever “barefoot and pregnant.”

The exemplar of such folks has got to be Senate President Tito Sotto, who last month called for the stoppage of funding for the procurement of progestin subdermal implants, claiming these devices cause abortion. This, despite a ruling by the Food and Drug Administration contradicting that claim, a position backed by no less than the World Health Organization.

Calling Sotto’s action “regrettable,” Commission on Population executive director Juan Antonio Perez III said no new authoritative scientific evidence has surfaced proving the senator’s assertion. Removing funding for implants which are a popular desired option for women of reproductive age, said Perez, would “remove the ability of the Department of Health… to comply with the directive of President Duterte” who had earlier approved a “zero population growth” target.

The implants, marketed under the brand “Implanon,” are inserted beneath the skin where they release doses of progestin, enough to protect a woman from unplanned or unwanted pregnancy for three years. If a woman wants to get pregnant during those three years, she can have the implants removed. It is proving to be very popular among Filipino women, experts have said, because they appreciate its benefits of long-term protection without inconvenience or undue cost. Maybe that’s why Sotto and others of his ilk are so dead-set against them.

What would a “ban” on implants mean for women? Says Lia Savillo, writing in the website Vice: “Calling to remove funding for implants is insensitive, especially for a man who will never have to worry about getting pregnant. I have to go through trial and error, trying out different kinds of birth control, just to see what fits me. Some, like the implant, have come close. But how are we supposed to know what’s best for our bodies if our options are limited?”

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TAGS: At Large, Bono, U2, Vicente Sotto III, women's rights
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