No More RH Delays

By Manila Standard Today | Posted on August 01, 2012 | 12:01am |

If our senators and congressmen truly see themselves as servants of the people, they must end all debates on the long overdue reproductive health bill forthwith and vote to pass or reject it.

In the current Congress alone, the bill has been debated extensively for more than a year, both inside and outside the legislative halls. But the real debate has been going on for much longer.

Since 1998, when the first version of the reproductive health bill was filed, the issue has been vigorously debated. Yet all efforts to even bring the measure to a vote in Congress have failed, derailed by a Catholic Church-backed opposition that has favored dogma, rhetoric and ignorance over science, logic and education. Thus far, these forces have used fear, veiled threats and delays to stifle any suggestion of population management. They will seek to do it again.

Is it possible that we have been unable to examine this issue from all possible angles after more than a decade of discussion and debate? The reasonable answer that presumes some modicum of intelligence on all our parts is “no.” Given the years of discussion in Congress, in church and town halls, on radio and TV talk shows, and on countless pages of newspapers and magazines, we must agree with Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Pia Cayetano, who say that the time is ripe to put the bill to a vote.

But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile disagrees, and raises the possibility that debates may be revived in the Senate yet again, ostensibly to take into consideration his latest reasons for opposing the bill. He dismisses their suggestions for an immediate vote and even mocks them, saying: “It’s ripe for them but not for us. I don’t know what they mean by ripe. It is not a banana, a mango or a durian.”

Senator Enrile’s latest objection to the reproductive health bill is based on the phenomenon seen in some industrialized countries where a shrinking population of young workers must pay for the care and upkeep of a larger, aging population. This, he warns, could strain or even bankrupt the national pension system.

Why the senator had not brought this up before is anybody’s guess—but now he has put the idea out there, along with thousands of others that have already been digested by his colleagues and the public at large. There is no need to further delay a vote simply to debate that point.

Besides, one might argue that a graying population is one of those “good problems to have,” in view of the current situation in which millions go hungry every day because we simply cannot sustain our birth rate, or the millions who will grow up stupid and dull, simply because their parents cannot afford to give them the proper nutrition and education they deserve.

But Mr. Enrile already knows this.

“Who will become policemen, soldiers, workers, laborers? Who will plant [rice] for the public to eat?” he says. It is gratifying to see that Mr. Enrile, in his advanced age, has his priorities straight.

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