2nd in a series on ANC's Presidential Youth Forum at De La Salle University, January 29, 2010
MANILA, Philippines - Presidential candidate Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has softened his stand on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.
At the ABS-CBN News Channel's Presidential Youth Forum at De La Salle University (DLSU) on Friday, Aquino said he still wants Filipinos to be educated on the various methods of family planning and be free to choose which method they prefer.
However, instead of his strong categorical statements in favor of making contraceptives available in all government hospitals, Aquino said he now believes the pending RH bill must be amended.
“There are provisions that I cannot support,” Aquino said. “I was mistakenly labeled as co-author [of the bill]. Actually, I’m listed as interpellator, and I’m waiting for my opportunity."
“But having said that, I still think that this is a problem that we cannot bury our heads in the sand. Kailangan natin tugunan. Habang hindi inaasikaso ang problema, tuloy lalaki ang problem at tuloy ang pasakit sa taongbayan,” he added.
The pro-artificial contraception policy in the RH bill has inspired its advocates but ruffled the feathers of the Catholic church.
Aquino has chosen to use the more careful term “responsible parenthood” in explaining his policy on family planning.
“I think that we will all agree that if you look at one parameter—for instance, education—there is a dearth of classrooms anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000. We are not already able to meet the needs of the people who are already here."
"Responsible parenthood basically says each parent should be reminded, 'May dinala kayong anak sa mundong ito. Meron kayong obligasyon na sila’y paaralin, pakainin, patirahin ng maayos, damitan, at iba pa.' Ano ang solusyon dyan? Meron po tayong educational campaign na ipapatupad,” Aquino said.
In contrast, Senator Manuel Villar--who is second to Aquino in the latest presidential surveys--has always been against the reproductive health bill.
During Friday's debate, he said a well-managed economy would be able to provide a big population “the kind of life that they want.”
“Huwag natin gawing batas. Dapat ang pamahalaan ang mag-ayos ng ekonomiya,” he said.
Deliberations on the RH bill have been stalled in Congress. Villar said there’s no more time to pass it in the 14th Congress.
There are only 3 remaining session days left before Congress adjourns on February 5 for the election campaign.
Aquino used to be all-out for RH bill
Last year, Aquino gave much stronger statements in support of the RH bill.
In sorties and media interviews, he had declared that he wants contraceptives to be available in government health centers.
He said couples should be free to choose the family planning method they prefer based on their conscience and beliefs. He said the Catholic Church, which opposes the use of contraceptives, should not intervene in this government program.
Supporters of the RH bill had latched on to Aquino’s popularity to push public support for the bill.
But Aquino’s stand, which contradicts the position of his late mother President Corazon Aquino, ruffled the feathers of the Catholic Church. It led a number of bishops to speak against Aquino. (Read story: Cebu archbishop dismayed with Noynoy)
It seemed then that Aquino was unaffected by these criticisms from the Catholic Church.
“I don’t care if the Catholic Church will abandon me because of my support for the ‘reproductive health’ bill. I cannot allow a church-run state. The church teaches me that I will follow my conscience. My conscience tells me that we have an overpopulation problem. I have to address it; we need to control the population. We must ensure full availability of contraceptives,” according to an October 2009 www.inquirer.net story quoting Aquino.
Compromise on contractualization
Asked on his stand on labor contractualization, Aquino said the best solution is to find a middle ground between the interests of workers and business owners.
“Gusto kong sugpuin. But at the same time, ayoko namang patayin ang mga negosyong kakaunti na lang nga pong nandyan. Walang makikitang solusyon sa extreme position. Saan ba ang happy compromise dito na tutugunan ang kapakanan ng manggagawa at natutugunan ang pangangailangan ng negosyo para maka-compete sa global market,” Aquino said in Friday's debate.
He said the ideal solution is to upgrade the skills of the workers.
“Our platform stresses education. Education enhances the skills. Job potentials open up because of an enhanced and more skillful labor force. It will hopefully ensure the tenure and potential for meaningful and dignified jobs,” he said.
Closure on GMA controversies
As in previous presidential debates, Aquino reiterated that he will seek “closure” on controversies hounding President Arroyo.
“There should be closure on all of the issues. Kailangan may resolution. Kung sino ang may kasalanan, kailangan may panagutan,” he said.
Asked what he will prioritize, Aquino said, “Mahaba listahan. She has destroyed a lot of institutions. Pati ang simbahan nakwe-question. Ang dating mali, nagiging sistema na."