Crunch time

published Dec 12, 2012 page A5, Manila Standard Today

12.12.12.  This date could be fortuitous or ominous depending on who is talking. Barring any unforeseen events, our lawmakers are expected to vote on the controversial reproductive health bill today.

For RH supporters, its passage would be the conclusion of a long and bitter struggle spanning several congresses.  A national RH policy would mean that the state officially recognizes the need for couples to be informed of the options available to them in planning their families.  They are free to choose which method of family planning—natural or artificial—would be best suited for them according to their beliefs and their lifestyle.

An enlightened citizenry would be able to make better decisions.  Because people know what they are getting into, there would be less accidents, more deliberateness.

More mothers would be able to seek medical help as they need it, because they would know if and when they need it.

There will be fewer women who would be tempted to commit abortion —which the bill does NOT support, by the way—because they would be able to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

Young people would undergo RH education, which would mean they would not be getting information about sex from the Internet or from mass media or from their older peers.  Instead, in school, they would be taught about the changes they should expect in their bodies and their emotions as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood. This would be good complement to advice from their parents as well; but if there is no advice whatsoever, then it will ultimately be better than nothing.

If and when the bill gets passed, however, that is just one hurdle. The next challenge, and perhaps the bigger one, is making sure that its objectives are met, down to the last, most remote village, down to the last woman needing help.


Unfortunately, in this late stage, many choose to take the so-called high ground and use scare tactics to frustrate the passage of the bill.

A few weeks ago, we heard a Philippine bishop ask the faithful to use the “Catholic vote” and refuse to vote for those who support the bill.

More recently, a Church official blamed the tragedy wrought by typhoon Pablo on the same issue.

Last Sunday, I was stunned to hear a priest actually expound on this. According to the priest, Pablo came as a result of President Aquino’s pressure on congressmen to pass the measure.

What is happening to the world these days, he asked. Women are aborting their pregnancies. Divorce and same-sex marriage are made legal. What god would not be angry? What god would not be moved to punish mankind because of this?

It does not matter that other countries have passed their own versions of the reproductive health bill, We Filipinos should know better. God is about to punish the world and it is up to the Philippines to do something about it.

(At that point I remembered the Mayan prediction that the end of the world would come about on 12.21.12—nine days from now.)

He then recalled the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, pointing out that one can negotiate with God. God told Abraham he would not wield destruction if he could find 50 righteous people. The number then went down—45, 40, 30…10.  It was only when he discovered there weren’t even 10 righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah that he decided he would go ahead and punish, anyway.

It is easy to get swept away by all this talk. All around us we see things that are disturbing. Natural and man-made calamities wreak havoc, snuff out lives and displace millions. Erratic weather patterns. Increasing frequency of earthquakes. Countries fighting each other.  Armies turning against their own people.  Hunger and disease and evil ways. Repent! The end of the world is near!

But come to think of it, when did the world ever not struggle? When were we ever at absolute equilibrium?

We should not allow ourselves to be distracted from the real task at hand. That, for now, is for our lawmakers to show up and vote, and for us citizens to keep close watch on what they do and don’t do.

It is to make at least one woman realize that despite her poverty and lack of education, she can take control of her life instead of passively accepting whatever comes her way, mistaking it for her destiny.

Let’s make history today.