Lagman: Politics hindering full implementation of RH Law

CEBU CITY—Politics, which has been hindering the full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law despite being signed into law in 2012, will also determine its survival, said Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman here Thursday.

“There is politics in the full and faithful implementation of the Reproductive Health Law and family planning; there is politics in sourcing adequate funding for RH and family planning, and there is politics in the ultimate survival of this overridingly important statute,” Lagman said.

“Whether it will be repealed, diluted or denied adequate appropriation is a question of politics,” he added during the 2nd National Family Planning Conference here.

“Politics, with its most benign influence as well as its most obstructionist aspect, could either elevate or debase the law’s enforcement,” Lagman told RH and family planning experts and advocates who participated in the conference.

Over 1,500 RH advocates came to support the call for the full implementation of Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law and President Duterte’s Executive Order 12 which calls for attaining and sustaining “Zero Unmet Need for Modern Family Planning.”

Population Commission Executive Director Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III said the targets they have set under EO12 must be met “to gain the largest economic and health benefits from the RH law.” He said the time to implement it “is now, and not in the next few years.”

Benjamin de Leon, President of The Forum for Family Planning and Development, said the “tremendous success” of the conference sent a message to those who are “hell bent” in delaying the implementation of family planning programs, thereby putting women’s lives in danger every day.

Former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial also lead the signing of the symbolic commitment to implement the revised IRR of the RH law.

Meanwhile. Lagman said the implementation of the RH law is principally the responsibility of the executive branch of government and the Department of Health, with Congress exercising oversight functions.

“Verily, the political departments are in the forefront of the Reproductive Health Law’s implementation,” he said.

Compounding the DOH’s problem of the full implementation of the RH Law is the recurrent changes in its leadership.

Since the enactment of the RH Law almost five years ago, four secretaries have been at the helm of the department, including the “comebacking” Secretary Francisco “Pingcoy” Duque III, who assured the audience he would implement the law.

“Each Secretary has a varying level of approach to RH and family planning, which individual inclination may defy consistency in the implementation of the law. It is for this reason that there is need for a career Undersecretary who must be exclusively in charge in pursuing the full implementation of the RH Law,” Duque said.

When people and policymakers realized that here is urgent need to moderate population growth rate and to conserve depletable resources, he said the concern on reproductive health and family planning meandered from the privacy of the couple’s bedroom to the arena of public discourse and eventually to the domain of politics.

He emphasized that the crystallization of a policy amid confrontation between proponents and oppositors is an exercise in politics.

“The enactment of a law is the product of politics. And I believe that good politics eventually prevail,” said Lagman.

The Bicolano lawmaker cited the passage of the RH Bill on December 17, 2012 by the Congress after 13 years of arduous struggle; and its signing into law as Republic Act No. 10354 on December 21, 2012 by President Benigno Aquino III.

“And policymaking is inherently political,” said the opposition lawmaker, who has been a staunch advocate of RH law and family planning.

He also said there was also political underpinnings even in the adjudicatory process before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on April 8, 2014 declared unconstitutional some provisions of the RH law. He said the actions of the two political departments – the Congress and the Executive – are truly political.

“It did not end with the Supreme Court’s declaration that the RH Law is constitutional in the whole. Reproductive health and family planning continue to navigate the challenging terrain of politics.”

Since the enactment of the controversial law, Lagman noted that the appropriations for family planning supplies have been inconsistent, erratic and sometimes dwindling.

In 2013 or a year after its enactment into law, Lagman said the appropriation for family planning supplies was P530 million. In 2014, the budget allocation was pegged at P1.307 billion. In 2015, it went down to P1.010 billion.

Lagman also related that in 2016, the budget for the family planning supplies was further reduced to P599.9 million until it was drastically downgraded to P165.4 million in 2017.

He said the proposed budget for 2018 is P342.5 million. He said this was increased in the bicameral conference committee due to the expectation that more contraceptives will be certified soon.

According to Lagman, the inconsistency and reduction of funding for family planning supplies and contraceptive commodities must be reversed in faithful compliance with the mandates of RH law and Executive Order No. 12.

EO No. 12 was recently signed by President Rodrigo Duterte to address the unmet needs for modern family planning.

“But I assure all of you fellow RH advocates that the Reproductive Health Law is a superior statute and family planning is a superior program. They will both survive the vicissitudes of politics with the enduring collaborative support of non-government organizations and civil society,” he added.

Topics: Reproductive Health Law , Rep. Edcel Lagman
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