I was browsing the internet for information on PHL government efforts to increase maternal health and decrease maternal mortality last week. One of the first links to pop-up in a Google search was the DOH URL: http://www.doh.gov.ph/programs/family_planning/profile. The link led to a webpage containing information about an existing program of the DOH that contains many, if not all, of the MDG’s the RH bill is supposed to address, including things like increasing contraceptive prevalence and decreasing maternal mortality. (Unfortunately, a few hours after I posted the link on Facebook, and many friends began accessing it, it stopped working. Google Chrome started returning the message, “Oops! This link appears to be broken.” But, this is another issue altogether. Fortunately, I was able to save the linked pages as a PDF file.
“By golly!” I exclaimed to myself. The DOH has an existing, funded program that addresses the MDGs touted by the proponents of the RH bill. I then naturally asked the question: “If the DOH already has a funded program with the same Millennium Development Goals as the RH bill will address if passed, why do we need the bill?” The same question applies to other aspects of the RH bill that are already covered by the following existing laws: Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9261), Anti-Discrimination Against Women Act (RA 6725), Women in Development and Nation Building Act (RA 7192), Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act (RA 8505) the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710), and the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 (RA 8504).
I couldn’t help but think, “Is it just the money they are after, a hefty piece of the P3 billion annual budget that, in all likelihood, will only grow bigger?” For the time being, I thought it better to try my best to erase this kind of speculation from my mind, although it is a struggle to do this with reports of government (elected and appointed) corruption and incompetence appearing on an almost daily basis in the headline stories of the country’s major media outlets.
So, why propose to make RH a national law? Is it simply to legislate an immoral sex education program and the unjust criminal sanctions in the proposed bill? I asked a friend of mine who is familiar with government and the law. His answer was that the creation of a law will force compliance and funding for the various aspects of the RH bill that are not yet law, including for those persons who conscientiously object to any provisions on religious grounds.
“FORCE COMPLIANCE AND FUNDING”. These are the key words. Participation by private individuals in the DOH’s existing program is completely voluntary. Indeed, a truly free choice. The enactment of the RH bill into law will use the police power of the State to force our compliance with those aspects of the bill that are not in our national laws, and force us to fund the program by appropriating our tax money into the P3 billion annual budget.