Malacañang gets the RH Bill passed, but do the ends justify the means?

The Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill) was passed on Monday, December 17, in both houses of Congress here in the Philippines on the third and final reading. All it takes now for it to become an official law is for President Aquino to sign it and voila, we have the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012”.

Filipinos were watching the progress of this bill closely. To many of us, it seemed like a “battle” between progressive thought and the seemingly unyielding forces of primitivism embodied in the Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines. The passage of this bill is considered a big step forward for the rights of women, progressive thought, etc.

Senator Miriam Santiago even went on record calling President Aquino a “hero” for finally putting an end to a more than 10 year old stalemate on the RH Bill.

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[Photo courtesy Yahoo! News.]

However, if you look beyond what appears on the surface you will also see that what was done to get this bill passed isn’t as clean or clear-cut as it seems.

Did Congress allow itself to be influenced by the Palace again?

President Aquino certified the RH Bill as urgent after it cleared the second reading in Congress during the week of December 10. According to an RH bill co-author, what made the bill easier to pass is that some of the lawmakers decided to follow the wishes of President Aquino. The presence of Palace officials during the second reading certainly drew flak from the lawmakers who opposed the bill, and they considered it a case of the executive interfering/meddling with the legislature, a co-equal branch of government. President Aquino, of course, insisted that there was nothing wrong with it.

Is it just me, or does this look eerily familiar to the way 188 congressmen were herded into rushing the impeachment complaint against former Chief Justice Renato Corona last year? Related to that impeachment complaint is that Congressman Edcel Lagman was quoted as saying that the solons who refused to sign the complaint would have been deprived of their share of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF), better known as the pork barrel. In the case of the RH Bill, Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes accused the Palace of dangling the pork barrel once again in order to get their way. Reyes claimed that he knew five (5) lawmakers who consistently voted against the RH Bill but changed their mind when faced with the prospect of losing their share, though he did not name who they were. Malacañang, unsurprisingly, denied the accusations.

The bottom line is, whether the accusations of pork barrel being dangled are true or not, Congress has shown once again that they are all too easily swayed by the executive. They are in effect abdicating their position as a co-equal branch of government, and have reduced themselves to being a rubber stamp of the sitting President. From what it looks like, if Malacañang hadn’t “intervened”, then this RH Bill would have languished in oblivion on the Lower House for who-knows-how-long. As Jojo Robles wrote, apparently we elected clowns who are most likely putting their own interests above the people whom they were elected to serve. Indeed, a little political will goes a long way here in the Philippines, and our politicians show that they don’t really have it; they need to be motivated by dangling money in front of them (allegedly, of course).

Has the Roman Catholic Church become the next target for opposing Noynoy Aquino?

President Aquino, on the other hand, is now going to look like a saint to many Filipinos because of his “efforts” to get this bill passed. On one hand, you have the image of Noynoy as the champion of anti-poor progressive thought and the rights of women, and stuff like that. Strange, though; his mother Cory Aquino was a devout Catholic, and yet here he is defying the church as an institution and supporting a bill which they are unshakably against. On the other hand, you have the image of Noynoy Aquino the vindictive one. Here is a guy who is unyielding towards those he considers as enemies, or plain simply, those who are on the opposite side of whatever stance he takes. I bet if you ask people such as General Delfin Bangit (Ret.), Gloria Arroyo, and Renato Corona, they would tell you that Noynoy Aquino simply doesn’t want to plunge a dagger into you, he wants to twist it too. Perhaps, Noynoy is simply telling the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the other ministers of the Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines: I don’t need you. Like other people or institutions who have found themselves on Aquino’s opposition, he is simply putting them in their place. “You defy me, you get burned”. The RH Bill looks like only the start of the RCC’s “battles”: a Divorce Bill is now in the works.

Somewhere along the road, I just have to say: it doesn’t add up.

Did President Aquino really solve a “divisive issue”?

Ok, let’s assume President Aquino is sincere in his wanting to resolve a “divisive issue” such as the RH Bill as soon as possible. I am highly inclined to disagree that putting your foot down and not allowing Congress to resolve the division on its own is the solution to the issue; it resolves the issue but not the divisiveness. Sure, Congress is such a lethargic body when it comes to passing big issue bills, but that’s another matter entirely. Going back to President Aquino, he’s got other divisive issues to resolve: his obsession with using the “laban” color yellow, for one. His “you’re with me or against me” attitude and his hypersensitivity to criticism, for another, are two issues that are also clearly dividing the nation.

Considering the source, I am disinclined to believe the reason stated in this article as to why President Aquino supports the RH Bill:

Why does the President support the RH bill? In his speeches on the measure, he is fond of going back to a personal experience: meeting a teenage mother in Baseco compound in Manila.

“At 16 years old, she already has two children. How can she manage to feed the kids, or to send them to school, given that she and her husband don’t have jobs?”

“Who is responsible for this? What pushed them into this situation? How did such heavy responsibilities end up on their shoulders?”

“And the most important question: What can I do about this?”

If I take this statement by itself, doesn’t it seem like a non-sequitur? One of the main contentions I have with the RH Bill is this: “If you give Filipinos the choice, does it necessarily mean they will make the right one?”

The opponents of the RH Bill claim that it is merely a redundant bill, and that it is a potential haven for government corruption and kickbacks from the companies involved. Then again, what isn’t anyway, wherever the Philippine government is involved?

Maybe we should give President Aquino credit where it is due. He has shown that he can get things done, when he wants to. As I mentioned above, he is going to look good to a lot of people now; he will be seen as a champion of the RH Bill. It keeps him popular. It certainly won’t hurt his political party the Liberal Party (LP), now that the 2013 mid-term elections are near.

I quote from a movie to answer my statement earlier that things didn’t seem to add up:

It adds up. You just don’t like what it adds up to.

At the end of the day, let’s ask ourselves: do the ends justify the means? Did the passing of the RH Bill justify the “railroading” that was used in order to accomplish it? Think about it; even if we feel that we may have won a “battle” against the forces of primitivism, what did we sacrifice for it? If I were to try to answer that question, I would say that we sacrificed any semblance of the idea of Noynoy not acting like a manipulative dictator. I would say that we sacrificed the idea of a Congress that truly represents the people who elected them, and doesn’t put its own interests first.

Did we, the people, just get hoodwinked again, or what?

27 Replies to “Malacañang gets the RH Bill passed, but do the ends justify the means?”

  1. Let him suffer the ghost of his own undoing! He is destroying institutions! And restoring the dictatorship we all fought against, that is why he is there! What more he is capable of doing? After the Church, what else? Who and what can stop this man?

    1. Jun,

      Please join us in prayer at the Greenbelt Starbucks this Sunday. We shall pray for that love of our Lord, Jesus Christ, shine into the hearts of our misguided brothers.

      Last week, as I spoke in tongues (Assyrian and Chaldean, I believe), I saw a vision or perhaps a prophecy. I see the Philippines in the midst of a spiritual battle that will determine if our country will be destined for ruin or prosperity. Only if we follow the teachings of Christ can we avert our own destruction. Let us pray for our salvation!

      God bless.

      See you at Starbucks 🙂

      1. Cut that crap pastor! You must have spent a fortune of your flock’s tithes at starbucks that resulted in an overdose of caffeine drinking immoraly and scandalous priced coffee. And now you’re hallucinating as a result just like those smelly caffeine drunk goat herders of long ago. And after praying, what will you do pastor? Stare at the goats dressed as waiters?

        1. Alconce,

          I do not understand your hostility towards Starbucks. It makes for a great venue for Bible Study. The place is clean, air conditioned, and has wi-fi.

          As for our tithe system, fear not for it all goes to a good cause. We shall be doing missionary work in Vietnam and Malaysia in the next few months. All of this would not be possible without the donations of our church members who understand that “to those much hath been given, much is expected.”

          Despite your antagonistic posts, you are welcome to join us. If Jesus can love his enemies, I can certainly do the same for you. We must not only talk the talk but also walk the walk.

          God bless.

      2. So you also saw the fates of countries who dont follow Christ?


        Pastor Ernie can unlock the mysteries of the future as revealed to him by Christ. Repent. Convert. He wants to Christianize the entire world.

  2. As an Englishman, I have to disagree. Did the end justify the means? Certainly! What do you want – another fourteen years of rule by bishops whose only concern is to impress a very conservative Vatican by showing that they can run a country and make it “more Catholic than the Pope”, as the Irish say, regardless of the awful human cost, or would you rather see the utterly spurious doctrine of “the separation of the powers” tweaked just a little?

    Remember – we are a functioning representative democracy which regards the dangling of carrots in front of the legislature by the executive as entirely legitimate, not least because we don’t really draw a line between the two – our executive is drawn entirely from elected members of our legislature, and without the Party Whips, whose job it is to get members of the legislature to do what the executive wants, by any legal means, our government would not function at all – neither would any other Westminster style democracies – which vastly outnumber the hopelessly inefficient American style democracies – add them up:

    US style: USA, Philippines

    Westminster style: UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa…and the rest!

    As Bismarck rightly observed, the making of laws resembles the making of sausages – the result may be delicious but you don’t want to observe the process.

    The Philippines Legislature is actually starting to work, for the first time in a great many years, because Ninoy Aquino knows how to pull the strings – don’t knock it.

    1. I can appreciate the frustration of watching this country flounder along with little to no progress. It breeds the hope that someone will come along and “fix it”. A “benevolent dictator” perhaps? Unfortunately, if you truly want a successful republic with respect for the rule of law, no individual can be above that law. If the law is wrong then change it. Don’t justify breaking the law because it resulted in something you like. Perhaps a parliamentary or Westminster style government would work better but it’s hard to say. The 1987 Constitution is a mess. When the representative republic was forced on the Philippines it came with a lot of strings attached and is in my view a bastardization of the concept.

      1. I agree that the 87 constitution is a mess, but let’s look further back.

        The USA’s founding fathers were concerned to weaken the Executive, and when the Philippines adopted a version of the US constitution the powers of the executive were weakened further for fear of Quezon’s tendency to “behave like a datu”.

        That didn’t work and the result was the “benevolent” (??) dictatorship of Marcos.

        In fairness to Marcos, a good many technocratic reforms were put in place during his rule which are still in place and working well today. The POEA for example was well run and years ahead of its time – I personally think that exporting labour is the wrong idea, but if you are going to do it the Philippines does have a good system for doing it.

        Having said that, Marcos’ power grab was illegal and fraudulent and did nothing to promote respect for the rule of law

        The ’87 Constitution then further weakened the executive…

        Ramos tried, half heartedly and a bit late, to get the constitution changed to a parliamentary model, but wasshot down by opponents appealing to the “danger of dictatorship”.

        No need to rehearse what happened next..

        I don’t know a single foreign observer of the Philippines who thinks that the nation is at risk of its elected president turning into a dictator… this is a fear confined to Filipinos.

        To a foreigner, weak and inefficient institutions, concentration of power in the hands of the elite and corruption of the voting process by vote buying are real dangers to the safety of the republic, not the threat of dictatorship.

        1. You covered many things I agree with. The 1987 Constitution is an obvious over-reaction to the Marcos regime. It was assembled with the questionable goal of appeasing everyone. It seems there is some erroneous belief that the Constitution is some type of sacred document equal to the tablets Moses brought off the mountain. Any attempt to change it is met with fear and allegations of a power grab.
          I don’t know if Aquino actually “coerced” the legislators; I haven’t seen any proof, only the same tired accusations common in Filipino politics, but if he did, then the ends do not justify the means.

      1. I entirely agree that the Philippines is not a functioning representative democracy.

        However, what I see in those two Press clippings is Philippines “politics-as- usual”with two dynasties fighting over the pickings to be had by controlling Cebu. Neither side looks very pretty.

        They are actually worse than Shakespeare’s Montagues and Capulets in fifteenth century Verona.

        They both look very much like Mancur Olson’s “stationary bandit” except that they are not quite stationary enough to be encouraged to invest long term in the institutions of the place they are exploiting.

    2. @Andrew

      Let me unpack some of your comments:

      “What do you want – another fourteen years of rule by bishops whose only concern is to impress a very conservative Vatican by showing that they can run a country and make it “more Catholic than the Pope”,”

      Can you support that claim?

      For the past 14 years, AFAIK, there’s no law in the Philippines that was passed favoring the Church. For that matter, any law that was “initiated” by the Church if you belong to the crowd that insist the Church is meddling with politics.

      I might be wrong, but can you explain to us how the bishops rule the Philippines in that 14 years.

      And you have the gall to claim this –

      “The Philippines Legislature is actually starting to work, for the first time in a great many years, because Ninoy Aquino knows how to pull the strings – don’t knock it.”

      So, may I ask you, what has he accomplished in pulling those strings since he govern the country?

      Successfully impeached Corona?

      The redundant RH Bill?

      Maybe you’re privy with his accomplishments and would be very accommodating in sharing the information to us.

      1. @ Trosp:

        “I might be wrong, but can you explain to us how the bishops rule the Philippines in that 14 years.”

        The evidence is that the Philippines is the last nation state, other than the Vatican City, with no provision for divorce, and that it took fourteen years to get a very basic public health measure, found in all other civilised nations, onto the statute book, because the Bishops disagreed with it. There was no need for furtherb legislation to favour the Church of Rome – it pays no taxes and its Bishops get given 4×4’s by a grateful executive using taxpayers money!

        Yes, the successful impeachment of a Chief Justice who was clearly a midnight appointment put in post to protect the outgoing administration and the passage of the aforesaid simple public health measure are evidence that the system of government is starting to work. So is the first ever sucessful prosecution for tax evasion.

        The Government could work a very great deal better, and I am no supporter of the Aquino family – I am opposed to all and every political dynasty – but the real problem with the Philippines, compared to its neighbours, is not too strong an executive but too weak an executive.

        Let us suppose that the Government could raise a realistic sum in taxation – it could then pay public servants a proper wage or salary and everyday corruption would diminish. But at present the executive is too weak to raise the taxation that it requires.

        You may find the RH bill redundant – that os your value judgement but most of my friends would beg to differ.

        1. Andrew,

          The prosecution and subsequent impeachment of Renato Corona was based on fabricated evidence that would not have withstood any serious scrutiny in a real courtroom. Sen. Miriam Santiago stated this quite clearly during the hearings. She also expressed disgust at the amateurish way the prosecution handled case, falling on their faces even with the judges trying to help them along. When the complaint was filed 188 Congressmen endorsed it. NONE of them bothered to scrutinize it. The complaint itself stems from what seems to be a personal vendetta between BS Aquino and Gloria Arroyo and this has lead to attacks by the current administration against any personality or policy associated with Aquino’s predecessor. From the outset BS Aquino has shown NO respect for the Supreme Court and Justice Corona. He SELECTED the justice whom he wanted to inaugurate him as president. He insulted Corona directly at the National Criminal Justice Summit in 2011 and indicated clearly that the Chief Justice was guilty of breaking the law and should be impeached.

          And now BS Aquino has appointed his family’s lawyer and classmate Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice. A woman whose only experience is in CORPORATE LAW. For 18 years. Suspiciously similar to the circumstances for appointing Renato Corona to the Supreme Court.

          In the wake of shut downs of key units in the Department of Agrarian Reform — the agency responsible for implementing the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) at the Aquino family’s Hacienda Luisita — tenants of the vast Tarlac estate are concerned that the president’s real agenda is to keep the land firmly in Aquino hands for the next two decades.

          Excessive taxation has not produced appreciable results for any country. Progress brought about by deregulation and a free market under proper governance are what bring about sustained economic development and raise the standard of living. More money in government hands more often than not only results in more waste.

        2. @Andrew

          So the bishops rule the Philippines due to the following (according to you):

          1) The evidence is that the Philippines is the last nation state, other than the Vatican City, with no provision for divorce.

          2.) It took fourteen years to get a very basic public health measure, found in all other civilised nations, onto the statute book, because the Bishops disagreed with it.

          Are you sure with those items?

          Because we don’t have provision on divorce, therefore, the bishops are ruling the Philippines.


          On Item 2, can you give us some examples of those very basic public health measure, found in all other civilised nations,that the bishops disagreed with?

          The Supreme Court decided that Corona is not a midnight appointee, so, where did you get your idea that he was a midnight appointee?

          First ever successful prosecution of tax evasion?

          Are you on drugs?

          STFU, you don’t know what you’re spewing.

          Are you a troll? Or a paid hack?

          You don’t make any sense.

          If you want to make sense, support your claims with verifiable facts. Not just your say so.

          What you’re doing is you’re telling us a narrative based on your agenda. No more no less.

    1. @Andrew

      Is that all you can spew for the disinformation you’re spreading in this blog?

      And what is my ad hominem?

      You can’t even support that one with facts.

  3. @ Johnny Saint

    I quite agree with your first three paragraphs – I certainly don’t carry a candle for the Aquino – Cojuanco dynasty and as I suggested earlier I am strongly opposed to political dynasties in any form. They bedevil Filipino politics.

    As regards taxation however, we are in Catch 22 – we dont want to pay because we don’t trust the Government because suspect that they are corrupt, but they are often corrupt at the middle and lower levels because the salaries paid to public employees be they schoolteachers or policemen or whatever are far too low because we don’t pay enough taxes… it’s worth noting that the famously “clean” nations all have very high levels of taxation AND very high standards of behaviour for public officials with high levels of transparency – they also commonly have much higher rates of GDP growth than nations with a more laissez-faire approach.

    1. On the contrary, Andrew. It isn’t about NOT paying taxes. Taxes are necessary for practical purposes.

      As a republic Filipinos agreed in principle that there are matters best left with an organization large enough to handle them. Things like national defense or large scale infrastructure projects. And, yes, the funding of the public servants involved. These are too big for any one agency or local/provincial government to implement. For these things to happen, there is a social contract between the citizenry and the national government wherein citizens cede part of their income with the understanding that these funds will be put to use in a manner that benefits the whole population.

      What is not acceptable is when the government has proven itself incapable of properly managing the money it receives. If taxes are wasted in a frivolous manner or if it is spent on something the citizenry did not agree to, we have a right to protest. Furthermore, government spending for sake of spending does not drive sustainable growth in the long term. The end result is usually a rise in the deficit, not economic growth. What should be the focus is a more productive economy over time as a result of the citizenry using the infrastructure built from taxes collected by the government. That raises the standard of living of everyone. Including government workers.

      1. I often wonder where Filipino tax-money goes, every time I read about BIR tax collection performance.

        Where does it go…there are no new roads, no good roads, no civic facilities, police protection is at the minimum, social services are almost nil or not commensurate to the taxes paid, unless for the very very poor who expect nothing in the first place. There are no subsidies (for the middle class or the majority) at all for gas prices at the pump, electricity nor water rates. No tax subsidies for food, instead an expanded VAT.

        The Manila airport surely is a piece of work,then, people have to pay an Airport fee(that is a tax too)to use it. Why? Wasn’t that built with Tax-money?

        The “expressways”, charge a toll (that is a tax too). Wasn’t that built with tax money? I have not seen a comparable highway built recently by tax money for the free use of taxpayers. I have heard of EDSA 1, 2, and 3, but they are not roads like EDSA.

        Yes, I agree, paying taxes there would be a very hard pill to swallow. I have no idea where tax-money goes. I simply do not see where it goes. What I do see….hordes of politicians whose children study in IVY League schools and live off-campus in expensive $2000/mo. apartments. (even Americans are hard-pressed to afford a college education in those schools). That’s just for starters. How do they do it?

        Where does tax money go?

        1. I agree with both of you.

          We might, of course, hope that the newly-passed Freedom of Information Act would help us to find out, but somehow I doubt it.

          I wish someone would tell me WHY peso accounts are open to public scrutiny but foreign currency accounts are not – what is that meant to achieve, other than the encouragement of money laundering?

          I will stick my hand up and say that I really do not think that the US style Constitution and institutions bequeathed by the United States suit the Philippines at all. I’m not arguing for either a dictatorship or a Marxist “People’s Democratic Republic” but I do think that a Parliamentary system would be better, and we don’t have to look far in the region to find a couple working very much better.

          What we have is a sort of derelict version of the US system, which has been occupied by squatters – the squatters are the elite families who have occupied all the power spaces.

          The Philippines does not have political parties in any meaningful sense – theer is no party discipline whatsoever, because the parties do not control the purse strings at election time – the dynasties do, and they will no more vote for change than a turkey will vote for Christmas.

  4. the tax money of those who can least afford to pay goes into politicians off shore accounts to fund their american houses and school fees.
    according to a recent audit 1.4 million professionals (ex 1.7 mill) in the country pay no tax at all.
    result – of 100% potential tax, most probably only 60% is collected and only 20% then actually ends up being spent effectively for peoples direct benefit. ( kickbacks and shoddy work also dont help).

    the annual cost of maintaining 2 houses, children in US school, 2 cars, travel etc the cost can approximate anywhere between 10 – 20 million pesos at a basic level ( mistress not included). only politics ‘pays’ that sort of money, or jueteng.

    no wonder FoI bill will never happen and expose these sewer rats who have stripped the country bare for the past 40+ years, and judging by the trapo families in 2013 elections, intend to continue to do so.

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