MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang said President Aquino was referring to the same consolidated bill on reproductive health (RH) now pending in Congress when he made a pitch for the passage of the responsible parenthood bill in his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the draft bill submitted by the Palace has been consolidated with the version being pushed by advocates of reproductive health in Congress.
It has the title “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development, and for other purposes.”
The Palace, however, prefers to use the shorthand “Responsible Parenthood bill” in referring to it.
The measure was included in the list of the administration’s priority bills during the meeting of the LEDAC.
“Ang punto po ‘non, ang dulo po ‘non, na-consolidate na po ‘yung anim na pending (bills) in Congress sponsored by Representatives (Edcel) Lagman, (Janette) Garin, (Arlene) Bag-Ao, (Walden) Bello, (Rodolfo) Biazon, (Augusto) Syjuco, (Luz) Ilagan, and (Emmi) De Jesus… into House Bill 4244. Ang title po nito, ‘An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development, and for other purposes.’ So ‘yun na po ‘yon. It has been consolidated with the pending bills,” Valte said.
“The bill submitted by the Palace took into consideration the dialogues that our officials had with members of the Church and also with members of pro-RH advocacy groups. So ‘yun na po ‘yung dulo niya. It’s House Bill 4244.” She added.
The Palace reiterated the President’s position on responsible parenthood. Valte said:
“First, the President is against abortion. This is a reiteration of the President’s position that he has, time and again, enunciated even from the campaign when he was running for president.
"Second, the President is in favor of giving couples the right to choose how best to manage their families so that in the end their welfare and that of their children are best served...
"Thirdly, the President is of the position that the state must respect each individual’s right to follow his or his conscience and religious convictions on matters and issues pertaining to the unity of the family and the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death.
"Fourth, in a situation where couples especially the poor and the disadvantaged ones are in no position to make an informed judgment, the state has the responsibility to so provide.
"And, lastly, in the range of options and information provided to couples, natural family planning and modern methods shall be presented as equally available.”
Asked if the President’s mention of the bill serves an endorsement for its passage, Valte said, “The members of Congress are free certainly to have their own interpretation of what was said by the President. But the President did mention Responsible Parenthood and that refers to the version that the Palace submitted during the LEDAC and to the one that was consolidated.”
Valte said there are no discussions yet if the Palace wants to certify the bill as “urgent.”
No mention of other issues
Meantime, the Palace said the President could not include all issues and mention all sectors in his SONA. But Valte insisted that this does not diminish their importance.
Valte was asked by reactions of different sectors on why the President did not mention the Freedom of Information bill, human rights, overseas Filipino workers, and prices of goods in his SONA.
“Allow me to reiterate na hindi po dahil hindi nabanggit ay hindi importante. Isipin po natin, isang oras at kalahati po ang tinakbo ng talumpati ng Pangulo. Kung lahat po babanggitin natin ay baka hanggang ngayon po ay nandoon pa po tayo. Hindi po ibig sabihin ay hindi po siya inaaksyunan… Again, the SONA is not the end-all and the be-all of the President’s SONA,” she said.
On the Freedom of Information bill, Valte said that the executive has previously written to legislators on the need to pass the bill. She said it was not included in the list of priority bills because the Palace’s version of the bill was completed after the LEDAC meeting. She said the Palace has been assured by Rep. Ben Evardone that the bill will be up for debates at the plenary by August.
The Palace disagreed that the President’s SONA lacked a “roadmap” on how to achieve all the President’s targets.
Valte said the President was able to lay out how he intends to achieve his targets on tourism, infrastructure, and delivery of basic social services.
“Let’s not get stuck in names. Hindi po porke’t walang pangalan—Siguro po ‘yun ‘yung hinahanap natin e ‘yung isang pangalan na kailangan for everybody to recognize that it’s a roadmap. Tingin ko po kung talagang makita natin ‘yung mga sinabi ng Pangulong Aquino, malinaw ‘yung mga gusto niyang gawin. Naglatag po siya nung mga discernable targets,” she said.