Senate suspends plenary debate on bill seeking to prevent teen pregnancy

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 15 2020 07:34 PM | Updated as of Sep 16 2020 01:03 PM

Young mothers nurse their newborn babies in the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila on June 9, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (UPDATE) — The Senate on Tuesday suspended plenary debates on a bill seeking to prevent teen pregnancy after Senate President Vicente Sotto III noted that several stakeholders were not consulted about the proposal.

The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) - a group composed of 1,520 Catholic schools in the country - raised concerns that several provisions in Senate Bill No. 1334, the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy measure, were already in existing laws.

"In truth, this has already been addressed in our Magna Carta of Women," the Senate President said.

"Their (CEAP's) main concern is it is redundant to the RH (Reproductive Health) Law. If the RH Law is not being implemented well, we should ask them to implement it well," he said.

"This is not just a large but exceedingly high point being raised by 1,500 Catholic schools," he said.

Under the bill, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) shall be a compulsory part of education "with the end goal of normalizing discussions about adolescent sexuality and reproductive health and to remove stigma from all levels."

The CSE shall include such topics as human sexuality, effective contraceptive use, disease prevention, gender equality and equity, and sexual violence, among others.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who sponsored the bill in plenary, said CEAP was not invited to panel deliberations because they were "not in the radar of the committee."

Sotto moved to take the bill "back to the drawing board," saying the bill should have been discussed with other Senate committees.

"If there is a big chunk of the bill concerning sexuality education, we should have also referred it to the Committees of Basic and Higher Education," he said.

The Department of Finance should have also been consulted as the measure bats for incentives for stakeholders who will comply with the proposed policy, the Senate President said.

Hontiveros said she is open to amending several portions of the bill.

About 500 teenage girls give birth in the Philippines every day as more adolescents engage in premarital sex, the Commission on Population (POPCOM) said last year.