Archive for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ Category

Repeal penalty on abortion

May 27, 2006

(published letter to the editor, The Manila Times, November 14, 2005)

IN 2000 estimates showed that despite the illegality of abortion, 473,400 Filipino women induced abortions (Alan Guttmacher Institute and the University of the Philippines Population Institute, 2005). Out of every 100 pregnant women, 18 induced abortions. And because of
the illegality, about 78,900 women were hospitalized, and many others died from complications from clandestine and unsafe abortion. This has led to high maternal mortality, with a ratio of 200 deaths per 100,000 live births (UNFPA, 2005 State of the World Population).

Recognizing that criminalizing abortion does not lessen the number of abortion but makes it dangerous for women, the Cairo and Beijing conferences urged countries to review penalties against women who undergo abortions, and the United Nations Committee on the
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women recommended that state parties remove punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo abortion.

The United Nations Committees monitoring the implementation of treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights have all linked high rates of maternal mortality with illegal and unsafe abortion. The same committees have recommended state parties to review their legislation criminalizing abortion.

Having ratified the abovementioned treaties, the Philippines is obligated to repeal the Revised Penal Code provision imposing penalties on women inducing abortion and those assisting them. Predominantly Catholic countries such as Spain, Italy and Belgium make safe and legal abortion available for their women. Indeed, our laws should be compassionate and responsive to women’s realities.–Clara Rita A. Padilla


Gay rights

May 27, 2006

(published The Manila Times, December 04, 2005)

THE criminal complaint for violation of Quezon City Ordinance SP-1309, S-2003, prohibiting homosexual workplace discrimination, against Miriam College top officials, gives face to gay discrimination in the workplace in the Philippines in the person of private complainant Marlon T. Lacsamana, former librarian of Miriam College.

Marlon and his boyfriend celebrated a symbolic wedding. Unfortunately, three days his wedding, he received a letter from Miriam College informing him that his contract as a librarian would not be renewed. He faced comments from Miriam College officials such as, “Miriam College is a Catholic school and it could not tolerate gay weddings” and “you’re like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protects homosexuals against discrimination. In the 2003 Concluding Observations on the Philippines, the Human Rights Committee, the United Nations agency tasked to monitor the implementation of the ICCPR, urged the Philippine government to “strengthen human rights education to forestall manifestations of intolerance and discrimination.”–Clara Rita A. Padilla

"Secretary Dayrit’s business"

May 26, 2006

(published The Manila Times Monday, September 27, 2004)

Risking the lives and health of Filipino womenand men is certainly not the business ofSecretary Manuel Dayrit and the Department ofHealth. Estimates show that Filipino women haveone child more than they want, almost half ofbirths are unplanned, one out of six pregnantwomen resort to clandestine abortion and, out of100,000 childbirths, 240 women die fromcomplications.

Widespread access to contraceptives reducesunwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions,transmission of HIV/AIDS, and mortality andmorbidity from pregnancy, childbirth, unsafeabortion and HIV/AIDS. Yet, Dayrit continues todeny access to contraceptives.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee notedthat the state’s duty to fulfill the right tolife under the International Covenant on Civiland Political Rights includes “measure[s] takenby the state to help women prevent unwantedpregnancies, and to ensure that they do not haveto undergo life-threatening clandestineabortions.” Women experiencing difficulty inaccessing contraceptives was found discriminatoryand violative of the ICCPR.

In countries like the Netherlands, which has thelowest abortion rate in industrialized countries,contraceptive use is high among youth, andemergency contraception has been widely availablefor decades. In the United States, an estimated51,000 abortions were averted with use of EC in 2000 and EC accounted for 43 percent of thedecrease in total abortions between 1994 and 2000.

Filipino women and men have a right tocontraceptives. Under the Convention on All Formsof Discrimination Against Women, Beijing and ICPDConference documents, the Philippines isobligated and committed to provide informationand access to family-planning methods.

Dayrit is muddling the issues. Reproductiverights activists do not equate reproductivehealth with contraception and abortion; it is thereligious right who does so. The religious rightoppose “reproductive health” and “reproductiverights” without regard for other basic issuesconcerning reproductive health care such asmaternal and childbirth care, reproductive tractinfections, HIV/AIDS prevention and othersexually transmitted diseases, and infertility,among others. Fundamentalists are the ones who oppose reproductive health care bills thatsupport all the elements of reproductive health.

The continued denial of access to Postinor, anemergency contraceptive pill, for almost three years and the manifest disregard of the WorldHealth Organization’s findings on EC as a proven,safe, and effective method of moderncontraception are surely not health department’sbusiness. The discriminatory act of denyingaccess to modern contraceptives while divertingP50 million for the sole promotion of naturalfamily planning by the Couples for Christ is notDOH’s business. Indeed, the Couples for Christhas no business using government funds toestablish its “religion.” It is also presumptuousof the DOH and Couples for Christ to engage insuch promotion given evidence that show 34percent of Filipino Catholic women have usedmodern contraceptive methods despite prohibitionby the Catholic Church and 90 percent of marriedCatholic women approve of family planning.

The business of DOH is good governance and publicservice, not religious propaganda.–Clara Rita A.Padilla

Population: women’s rights issue

May 26, 2006

(published Phil. Daily Inquirer, Aug 11, 2004)

I AM concerned about how House Bill No. 16 has made population its central issue. The bill seeksto provide information and services onreproductive health care to arrest the growthrate of our population, not to allow women toexercise the right to choose whether and when tohave children. Its preferential incentive onscholarships for children of families with twochildren discriminates against poor childrenbelonging to larger families.

The bill mistakenly presumes that all kinds ofabortions are hazardous. Clandestine abortion isunsafe and dangerous, but safe and legal abortionis not. An abortion performed under properconditions is even safer than childbirth.

The bill also makes it a point to maintain theillegality of abortion under the Revised PenalCode. It fails to recognize that the illegalityof abortion does not lessen the incidence ofabortion but only makes it dangerous for women.It also fails to recognize that, having ratifiedthe Convention on the Elimination of All Forms ofDiscrimination Against Women, the Philippines isbound to remove punitive provisions imposed onwomen who undergo abortion.

Dangerous pronouncements have also been made,such as the statement of Rep. Ace Barbers to denyfree health care services to women who have morethan two children to discourage multiple births.This places poor women’s health and lives atrisk. A clear illustration of how widely accessible health care services save lives is thefact that, in the United States, only eight womendie out of every 100,000 live births while, inthe Philippines, 240 women die out of every 100,000 live births.

On the other hand, the Catholic Churchhierarchy’s stand against modern contraceptivemethods is not new at all. The Church can say allit wants but the duty of the government is toprovide access to information and services on thefull range of contraceptive methods regardless ofwhat the Catholic Church hierarchy professes.

Catholic women around the world–including morethan 60 percent of Catholic women in Trinidad,Tobago and Botswana, and 28 percent in thePhilippines–have used contraceptive methods,showing that Catholic women exercise freedom ofconscience. What we need is a reproductive healthcare policy that assures access to informationand services for all women regardless of theirreligion and the number of their children.–ClaraRita A. Padilla,

GMA’s policy to save life

May 26, 2006

(published Philippine Daily Inquirer,Aug 08, 2004)

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared in herState of the Nation Address that “[she] usedpolicy to save life,” and that “[t]he governmenthas no policy to sacrifice life.” If she wants to be true to her statement that thegovernment will not sacrifice life, then she mustoverturn the Department of Health policydiverting P50 million of its contraceptive fund to the Couples for Christ to promote theso-called natural family planning method. She must also overturn the Bureau of Food and Drugs’decision to delist Postinor, an effective andsafe emergency contraceptive pill as declared bythe World Health Organization. Policies that ensure access to the full range of contraceptivesprevent the need for abortion.

GMA has also stated her desire to address socialjustice. To be true to this pronouncement, shemust support the repeal of the 1932 Revised Penal Code provision penalizing women who undergoabortion and those assisting them. An example ofa social justice policy is the repeal ofPresidential Decree 772 on anti-squatting thatwas seen as an injustice to the urban poor andnot a solution to the problem of squatting.

Estimates show that out of every 100,000 livebirths, 240 Filipino women die. And about 80,000women end up hospitalized and many others die dueto complications from clandestine and unsafeabortion. Unsafe abortion and its complicationshave been the number-three leading cause ofhospital discharge from 1994-99.

Another six years is a long time to continuedenying women’s access to the full range ofcontraceptives and to safe and legal abortion.GMA will not be running for re-election in 2010.There is no excuse for courting the Catholic Church hierarchy and taking on its restrictiveposition.

If GMA comes out with policies promoting thereproductive right of Filipino women toself-determination, she will not just save anAngelo de la Cruz but thousands of Filipinowomen.-—CLARA RITA A. PADILLA,

Discrimination against gays

May 26, 2006

(published Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 1, 2004)

THE STATEMENT of Marissa Laguardia, chairpersonof the Movie and Television Review andClassification Board (MTRCB), censuring thetelevision show “The Buzz” for airing a lesbianwedding, shows how a portion of our Philippinesociety obstinately preaches intolerance withoutrealizing that they are breeding hatred,discrimination and violence against lesbians,gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBTs), all ofwhom are entitled to equal treatment under thePhilippine Constitution. Her statementillustrated how some people refuse to heed theinternational trend toward recognizing the rightsof LGBTs.

The International Covenant on Civil and PoliticalRights (ICCPR) protects LGBTs againstdiscrimination. In the 2003 ConcludingObservations on the Philippines, the Human RightsCommittee (HRC), the United Nations Committeetasked to monitor the implementation of theICCPR, urged the Philippine government to “takethe necessary steps to adopt legislationexplicitly prohibiting discrimination” and “topursue its efforts to counter all forms ofdiscrimination” pertaining to sexual orientation.The Committee further urged the Philippines to”strengthen human rights education to forestallmanifestations of intolerance anddiscrimination.” Contrary to Marissa Laguardia’s statement that”homosexuality is an abnormality,” the HRCrecognized, in its General Comment 19, that theconcept and structure of family may differ fromstate to state and that the right to marry andfound a family may be based on diversedefinitions of families and relationships.

The Philippine government and its officials havethe duty to fulfill its obligations underinternational laws. Ms Laguardia, as an officialof the MTRCB, is duty bound to protect LGBTsagainst discrimination.–CLARA RITA A. PADILLA

Election, the Catholic Church hierarchy, and contraception

May 26, 2006

(published The Manila Times,Monday, May 03, 2004)

IT is obvious that President Arroyo would doanything to win this election. First, she iscourting the Philippine Catholic Church hierarchyand its fundamentalist allies by allocatingP50-million government funds specifically for thepromotion of the so-called natural familyplanning method (NFP) in collaboration with theCouples for Christ. And now, despite her pastacts and in a lame attempt to coax support fromreproductive rights activists, she claims to havean administrative policy that is “based on freechoice” but goes on to say that she pushes for“family planning based on Christian values.”

No matter how she couches it, she cannot distortwhat is apparent—that she is taking thePhilippine Catholic Church hierarchical stance todeny access to modern methods of contraception.She is denying Filipino women and men their rightto choose modern methods of contraception byspecifically endorsing and allocating governmentfunds merely to promote NFP.

What the constitutional guarantee of separationof Church and State safeguards against is adominant church unduly influencing governmentlaws and policies. GMA’s imposition of NFPinfringes on the rights of others who do notshare the same views—infringing theirreproductive rights, and freedom of conscienceand religion.

The establishment of a formal relationshipbetween the Department of Health and Couples forChrist, a Catholic Church-backed group opposed tomodern methods of contraception, furthers thebeliefs of the Catholic Church violating theconstitutional guarantee of nonestablishment ofreligion.

It is the duty of the president to ensure thatlaws and policies do not further the views of onereligion but rather ensure that the rights of allcitizens are protected.–CLARA RITA A. PADILLA

Legalizing Abortion Will Save Filipino Women’s Lives

May 26, 2006

(published in Today, April 28, 2003)
The police recently arrested six “abortionists” in Obando. Police Chief Supt. Eduardo Matillano, director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), even said that abortion should be made a heinous crime.

Estimates show that despite the illegality of abortion, 400,000 Filipino women induce abortions annually. About 80,000 women end up hospitalized and many others die due to complications from clandestine and unsafe abortion. Unsafe abortion and its complications have been the number three leading cause of hospital discharge from 1994-99.

Those who impose their morality on women are oblivious to these facts. Women who undergo abortion are faced with unwanted pregnancies. Mainly married women with three or more children are the ones obtaining abortions. Many of these women are unable to practice contraception while others are rape and incest victims.

Prosecution of women who undergo abortion and those who perform abortion is not the answer. Recognizing that the criminalization of abortion does not lessen the number of abortion but makes it dangerous for women, the Cairo and Beijing conferences urged countries to review penalties against women who undergo abortions and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women recommended that state parties remove punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo abortion.

The Philippines has a commitment to make abortion safe and legal for Filipino women. Where abortion is legal, like in Canada and Turkey, abortion rates did not increase while the Netherlands has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world. Deaths due to abortion fell 85 percent after legalization in the US. Matillano erred in likening a fetus with a child. Such statement is not supported by Philippine law. As a civil servant, he should not use his position to further his religious beliefs and impose his morality.

Increasingly, countries worldwide are permitting abortion on broad grounds including Spain and Italy. Just as Presidential Decree 772 on anti-squatting—seen as an injustice to the urban poor and not a solution to the problem of squatting—was repealed so must the 1932 Revised Penal Code provision penalizing the woman who undergoes abortion and those assisting her be repealed.

Dayrit’s Stand on IUDs is Mistaken

May 26, 2006

(published in The Manila Times, March 10, 2003)

Health Secretary Dayrit’s statements on intra-uterine device (IUD) are misleading and unfounded. IUDs prevent pregnancy. They do not cause miscarriages. Pregnancy begins with the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine wall. In medical practice, IUD is not used once a pregnancy is established.

The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines affirm IUD use is safe for women who are at low risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The laws and policies of countries worldwide provide women’s access to IUD. More than 100 million women worldwide use IUDs. Contrary to Dayrit’s uncertainty of IUD not being an abortifacient, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has definitively stated that IUD is not an abortifacient.

His statement that IUD does not work in the pre-fertilization stage is patently mistaken. Researches have shown that prevention of fertilization is the dominant mode of action of IUDs. The WHO cited that the “antifertility effects” of IUD “take place before the ova reach the uterine cavity.” Evidence show the pre-fertilization action of IUDs by interfering with sperm motility and survival, hindering ascent of sperm to the fallopian tubes (where fertilization occurs), and impeding egg development.

Dayrit’s statement relating the Constitution and prosecution of abortion is erroneous. The penal provision on abortion is based on our outdated Revised Penal Code. The Constitution provides equal protection of the life of the unborn from conception. Hungary’s constitution also protects life from conception but allows abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation. His statement is removed from the realities women face, completely disregards women’s lives and health, and utterly ignores women’s rights. Estimates show that Filipino women have one child more than they want and, out of 100,000 childbirths, 240 women die from complications. Yet, Dayrit seeks to deny access to IUDS.

Women have a right to contraceptives. Under the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Beijing and ICPD Conference documents, the Philippines is obligated and committed to provide information and access to family planning methods. Denying access to IUD is a blatant violation of the woman’s freedom to decide whether and when to bear children. Such denial risks women’s lives and health.

The Philippine government should not countenance his acts. This is an imposition of his morality on the whole Filipino populace. His office demands good governance and not such conduct of disinformation prejudicial to public service. As the secretary of Health, he should ensure women’s access to the full range of contraceptives including IUDs.–Clara Rita A. Padilla

Women’s realities and abortion

May 26, 2006

(published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 18, 2002)

I have noticed much reluctance and defensiveness in the way abortion rights had been discussed in recent newspaper columns and letters to the editor. Much about reproductive rights is also
misunderstood. Reproductive rights include the woman’s right to prevent pregnancy and to terminate her pregnancy. I will not skirt around the issue and say that abortion is indeed a part of it.

In upholding these rights, legislators are counted upon to show impartiality in the face of the massive disinformation campaign launched by Catholic fundamentalists who purposely appeal to morals and religious devotion and allegiance, which the state must be dissociated from. Catholic fundamentalists have turned a blind eye to the realities women face today. Women are dying because they are forced to resort to clandestine, illegal and unsafe abortion to terminate their unwanted pregnancies.

The Philippines is one of a few predominantly Catholic countries where Catholic dogma has prevailed in law. It has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world-even penalizing the woman who undergoes abortion. And it is one of the remaining countries in the world that deny emergency contraception, specifically, levonorgestrel. One glaring example is the outdated Revised Penal Code provision penalizing the woman and the person assisting the woman for undergoing abortion. Another example is the 1987 constitutional provision equally protecting the life of the mother and the life of the unborn. This particular provision was not in the 1935 and the 1973 Philippine Constitutions. It is unfortunate that the religious commissioners during the 1986 Constitutional Commission had used their position to insert this provision in our Constitution-a blatant violation of the principle of separation of church and state. We cannot let fundamentalist Catholics and any other religion to perpetuate the imposition of their morals and religion in our law.

To those who are imposing their fundamentalist morals and religion, I will pose these questions: If you or your daughter were raped, would you or your daughter bear that child even if it was not your or your daughter’s choice to get pregnant? If you already have several children and are hard up with money and your husband forces you to have sex, will you bear that child even if it was not your choice to be pregnant?

If we are to engender women’s reproductive rights and we are to be compassionate and responsive to women’s realities, then women’s right to safe and legal abortion as well as right to emergency contraception should be recognized and protected by Philippine law.–Clara Rita A. Padilla