The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) joins the nation in mourning the loss of Rep. Rodel Bactocabe and strongly condemns his killing. We call for a swift investigation and action to ensure that justice will be served. This incident is also a wake-up call to put an end to the culture of violence and impunity that haunt our nation.
Rep. Batocabe, was one of the staunch champions of population and development and reproductive health and rights in Congress. We will forever treasure his contribution not only to the organization but more importantly to progressive policymaking in the country.
October 31, 2018
Child Rights Network (CRN), the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislations in the Philippines, calls on the government to ensure that children’s rights and welfare are heavily safeguarded and not be turned into mere collateral damage in connection to its anti-illegal drugs campaign.
The recent case involving a police officer who admitted to raping the 15-year-old daughter of detained drug suspects only highlights the dangers for children when child violence is perpetrated by the very same people who are supposed to protect them.
Initial investigation revealed that on October 25, Manila Police Officer Eduardo Valencia solicited sex from the child in exchange for releasing her parents who were arrested on a drug-related offense. Valencia was tasked to escort the child home from the police station, but instead brought her to a motel in Manila where the crime took place. Initial findings indicate forced sexual intercourse.
This violation perpetrated on the child has become more damaging after Valencia stated that raping drug suspects or their family members is a common practice among the police force in their campaign against illegal drugs. This disturbing revelation, if true, exposes the real victims of the government’s war against drugs: children who live in fear of being violated, especially being raped and sexually harassed. In fact, according to the National Baseline Study on Violence against Children – a study by the Government supported by UNICEF – 1 in 5 Filipino children suffer from sexual violence.
We call on the Government to not only thoroughly investigate the crime and obtain justice for the child, but also acknowledge that the war on drugs only exposes children to grave danger because of the abuses by people in authority that go unchecked.
Law enforcement agencies should purge its ranks of these abusive officials and focus on increasing these institutions’ capacity to protect citizens, especially the most vulnerable. No commitment is better articulated than bringing to justice these predators in uniform and having a more child rights sensitive approach to law enforcement.
We also call on our lawmakers to prioritize pending bills that seek to raise the minimum age to determine statutory rape from the current 12 years old – the lowest in ASEAN nations – to at least 16 years old. Doing so would protect more children from child rape, and arm our justice system with vital powers to bring justice to abused children.
Child rape is only one of several crimes perpetrated against children as a result of the Government’s war on drugs. As of 2017, the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center has recorded a total of 74 child deaths due to the campaign. Furthermore, a study published by the Ateneo School of Government in August 2018 showed that up to 32,395 children were orphaned because of the anti-illegal drugs campaign, while close to half a million children are now estimated to be deprived of parents who were imprisoned on drug-related charges.
We call on the Government of the Philippines to honor its legal and moral obligation to promote, protect, and fulfill the human rights of every child, as a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. To continue turning a blind eye to child rights violations linked to the war on drugs and treating child abuses as mere collateral damage is to renege on this commitment.
We call on all child rights advocates and organizations to unite in demanding immediate action to prevent further violation of children’s rights. Crime committed against any child cannot be labeled and condoned as mere “collateral damage.”
Child Rights Network (CRN) is the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislations in the Philippines. CRN has a membership of more than 40 organizations across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
October 16 is World Food Day. The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Our actions are our Future, a #ZeroHunger world by 2030 is possible.”
To commemorate World Food Day, governments, the private sector, and civil society organizations from 130 countries are holding a series of events to emphasize the importance of achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 in ending hunger globally. Goal 2 is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It seeks to “end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.” Making Goal 2 a reality is indeed challenging. According to the World Food Programme, a total of 821 million people suffer from hunger every day. This translates to one out of nine people ending their day without eating anything. This truth is ironic considering an unprecedented economic growth and massive technological progress happening globally. But this stark reality also confirms that the disparity between the rich and poor population is getting wider.
In the Philippines, the government needs to act with a sense of urgency to address food security. While the country has historically been a net importer of food, the food deficit is worsened by the adverse effects of climate change. In 2017, the Global Hunger Index ranked the Philippines 68th out of 119 countries. In the same year, the National Nutrition Council revealed that more than 3.8 million children suffered from a stunted growth – which means that children are shorter for their age – while about 807,057 are considered underweight. The current rice crisis and the escalating prices of food commodities in the country further aggravate the problem.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) has been working with We Effect, an international development organization based in Sweden, operating in the Philippines since 2010 to support rural development through sustainable agriculture where men and women equally benefit. In its development programme for 2018-2022, PLCPD, through the support of We Effect and its partner farmers’ organizations, are pursuing an advocacy agenda that addresses the right to food security and rural development, involving small family farmers in the agenda. This advocacy agenda also includes support to the passage of the Magna Carta for Young Famers and the Coco Levy Trust Fund, which would hugely contribute to developing a new generation of farmers and ensuring the development of the coconut industry for at least three million small coconut farmers.
No farmer, no food, no future!
October 15, 2018
The Philippines is a global leader in women’s and children’s rights. It’s the highest ranked country in Asia for gender equality and the 10th highest in the Global Gender Gap report from the World Economic Forum. It was also an early adopter of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a commitment the government regularly reaffirms.
The Philippines is currently on the verge of its next milestone opportunity to affirm its commitment to women and children as the country awaits the signing by the President of a policy universally recognized for benefitting individuals, families and society: the extension of paid maternity leave.
Longer paid maternity leave isn’t just a bonus or a benefit for women and children—it’s a fundamental contributor to our national health, social and economic development. And that’s because one important thing that maternity protection actually protects is breastfeeding.
Worldwide, breastfeeding is one of the world’s most impactful, cost-effective, and equitable interventions to save lives and promote life-long health and wellness. UNICEF and WHO recommend six months of exclusive breastfeeding—meaning no water, liquids or food—to give infants the full health benefits of breastmilk and to strengthen bonds with their mothers.
But a mother’s early return to work is a universal barrier to breastfeeding. Imagine the difficulties of a working mother trying to feed her infant breastmilk 10 to 12 times per day for six months when she returns to work after just two months of maternity leave.
It’s no surprise then that women are 2.5 times more likely to breastfeed where it is protected, promoted, and supported. But to be clear: breastfeeding doesn’t just benefit babies. It benefits mothers, families, employers, the government—even our entire economy—through a mix of health, social, and economic benefits.
First and foremost, longer paid maternity leave is directly associated with reductions in child mortality. Data analyzed from 300,000 live births in 20 low- and middle-income countries found that longer maternity leave is associated with lower infant mortality. For each month of additional paid leave, there was a reduction of nearly eight infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
Even where the rates of infant deaths are low, breastfeeding ensures that children get the healthiest possible start to life—growing up to be stronger, smarter, and more productive. Breastfeeding supports strong immune systems and protects against diarrhea and pneumonia. The unparalleled nutrition a baby receives from breastmilk is associated with increased IQ, increased educational attainment, and higher life-long earning potential.
Maternity protection benefits mothers’ health directly, as well. Longer breastfeeding reduces a mother’s risk of breast cancer and protects against ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes. Mothers who breastfeed have lower post-partum depression rates.
Maternity protection also provides direct benefits to employers. Research shows that women who receive stronger benefits are more productive and more loyal to their employers, which contributes to reduced turnover and absenteeism. These mothers report higher job satisfaction, feel more positive about the company, and intend to make the company their long-term employer.
For governments, recommended breastfeeding practices reduce healthcare expenditures, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars due to fewer prescriptions and hospitalizations. Low breastfeeding rates, however, are associated with significant costs. A study on the Cost of Not Breastfeeding shows that inadequate breastfeeding in the Philippines is attributed with 8,924 child deaths per year, US$16.3 million in health system costs, US$1.4 billion in future economic costs from maternal and child mortality, and US$2.3 billion in economic losses resulting from cognitive impairment.
Put simply, longer maternity leave is a smart investment in our children, our families and our entire economy.
November 2019 will mark the 100-year anniversary of the first International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Maternity Protection—a landmark policy recommendation that, for the first time, recognized the critical dual role that women play in both our workforce and our families. We can now welcome this occasion not just in words but with meaningful action.
We applaud our legislators for their decision to pass a stronger maternity leave policy and provide Filipino mothers with longer duration of leave. We hope that the Expanded Maternity Leave Bill will soon be signed into a law.
No woman should have to choose between providing for her family economically and providing the best nourishment for her infant. In every household, the support of each family member, especially those of fathers is important. And we can help families by doing our part. By choosing strong maternity protection, we choose the health and welfare of today’s working women—while also supporting a strong, healthy and productive next generation of Filipino leaders.
By: Romeo Dongeto, Executive Director, Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development; Lotta Sylwander, Country Representative, UNICEF Philippines; and Roger Mathisen, Regional Director, Alive & Thrive Southeast Asia.
October 11, 2018
October 11 marks the International Day of the Girl, a celebration that highlights and addresses the unique needs and challenges of girls, and also promotes girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
For this year’s celebration, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), together with its advocacy partners, would like to call the attention of policymakers on a violation of women and girls’ rights that is rarely talked about in the Philippines: child marriage. It is a harmful practice that violates the rights of children to choose when and whom to marry and denies a girl of her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk of violence and abuse, and poses risks to her health.
Despite international instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women as well as national legal frameworks such as the Family Code of the Philippines setting the minimum age for marriage at 18, child marriage is still practiced in the Philippines and is usually observed in indigenous cultural communities and Muslim communities. Among Muslim communities, Presidential (PD) 1083 or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws allows marriage at the onset of puberty which, is presumed by PD 1083 to be at 15 years old, but can be younger. Among non-indigenous and non-Muslim communities, marriage is not legally allowed but co-habitation is common as a result of teen pregnancy and is among the primary reasons for dropping out of school for girls in the Philippines.
Recognizing the crucial role of policy reforms in creating lasting solutions to violence against women and girls, including child marriage, PLCPD urges lawmakers to harmonize laws and introduce reforms that will help ensure that the rights and the welfare of children are protected and promoted. There is an urgent need for a national law explicitly prohibiting child marriage and providing programs and services for its prevention and for responding to those who have experienced child marriage. This is to ensure that all Filipino children- boys and especially girls, will have the opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential, and the chance to decide when and with whom to marry.
We believe that policymaking is a crucial platform to create spaces for positive change and eventually address child marriage. Thus, we hope that the bill prohibiting child marriage and declaring its facilitation as a criminal act will be deliberated and acted upon by Congress.
Our young people, our girls, are not only leaders of tomorrow, but also partners of today. Let us create spaces where they can achieve their dreams.
Quezon City, October 10—A bill prohibiting the facilitation of child marriage or a marriage in which one or both spouses are below 18 and declaring it as a criminal act will soon be filed in Congress.
In a press conference commemorating the International Day of the Girl, which is celebrated on October 11 every year, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy, yoquickuth leaders, and partners of the Creating Spaces to Take Action on Violence against Women and Girls campaign introduced the salient provisions of the proposed bill seeking to prohibit the facilitation of child marriage and declare it a criminal and punishable act under the law.
“To provide equal protection for all women and girls, we deem it necessary to introduce a policy that will address child marriage in the Philippines by prohibiting its facilitation and solemnization. We want to ensure that institutions authorizing marriages are made responsible for actions that allow child marriage to happen. Through this policy, key government agencies will also be mandated to provide programs and services to prevent child marriage and respond to the needs of women and girls who have undergone this experience,” said Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy of Bagong Henerasyon Party-list and Chairwoman of the House of Representatives Committee on Women and Gender Equality, who will file the bill along with other prospective authors in Congress.
Despite international instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women as well as national legal frameworks such as the Family Code of the Philippines setting the minimum age for marriage at 18, child marriage is still practiced in the Philippines and is usually observed in indigenous cultural communities and Muslim communities. Among Muslim communities, Presidential (PD) 1083 or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws allows marriage at the onset of puberty which, is presumed by PD 1083 to be at 15 years old, but can be younger. Among non-indigenous and non-Muslim communities in the country, marriage is not legally allowed but co-habitation is common as a result of teen pregnancy and is among the primary reasons for dropping out of school for girls.
Child marriage is a violation of human rights, and it has negative impacts on the health and development of children, especially girls. According to the United Nations Population Fund, nine out of 10 adolescent births are vulnerable to pregnancy-related complications, which are among the leading causes of death among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19. According to UNICEF, women and girls’ development is hindered by child marriage as married girls are most likely to drop out of school and lose the chance to gain skills and knowledge which will help her gain a good job and earn for herself and her family.
The proposed bill prohibiting the facilitation of child marriage seeks to penalize solemnizing officers for officiating, parents or guardians for facilitating or arranging, and adults for contracting marriage where one or both parties are below 18 years old. Moreover, the proposed bill mandates various government agencies such as the Department of Education and the Department of Social Welfare and Development to create or enhance programs that will prevent children from being involved in child marriage and parents from marrying off their children.
“We believe in the importance of laws in setting norms and attitude towards respect for the rights of women and children. Let us harmonize our laws to ensure that the rights and the welfare of children, especially girls, are protected and promoted. There should be no child brides and child grooms. It is in this light that PLCPD endeavors to increase the awareness of national and local legislators, and later on gather their support in the advocacy to end child marriage,” said Mr. Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD’s Executive Director.
PLCPD and advocacy partners believe that policy reform is a crucial platform to create spaces for positive change and eventually address child marriage, thus, they are pushing for the filing of the proposed bill prohibiting child marriage in the House of Representatives and Senate this 17th Congress. Other strategies in reducing child marriages and preventing violence against women and girls include capacitating and empowering communities especially women and girls, and strengthening institutions to respond to the needs of those who have experienced violence.
PLCPD, Oxfam, Philippine Business for Social Progress, and local partners in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation based in Lanao del Sur and United Youth of the Philippines-Women based in Maguindanao are part of the campaign called “Creating Spaces to Take Action on Violence Against Women and Girls.” The campaign aims to contribute to addressing child marriage as a form of violence against women and girls through creating spaces for prevention so that key community stakeholders can identify, take responsibility for and nurture positive gender equitable attitudes and norms; creating spaces for response so that women and girl survivors have access to safe spaces in relation to support services and empowering economic opportunities; and creating spaces for sustainability so that civil society organizations, especially women’s rights organizations, other institutions and networks can connect, reflect, share, learn and adapt their approaches to reducing violence and the prevalence of child, early and forced marriage.
September 25, 2018
Invest in young people’s health, implement RPRH Law, give young people access to services.
These calls were delivered by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and other stakeholders during a forum called “Invest in young people’s health, build a better future” in which PLCPD disseminated the results of an independent assessment of the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law with focus on adolescent sexuality and reproductive health.
Building on the Monitoring and Evaluation framework of the National Implementation Team for the RPRH Law, which looks at the law’s implementation along five key results areas, PLCPD’s assessment focused on adolescent sexuality and reproductive health (ASRH) using the following evaluation measures: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability. The study was conducted by PLCPD to provide evidence for policymakers both in the executive and legislative departments in the context of the organization’s call for the full implementation of the RPRH Law and for congressional review and oversight five years since its enactment in December 2012.
The results of the assessment reveal that given the current limitations of the law, which bars minors’ access to services without written parental consent, the ongoing efforts of key government agencies and civil society organizations are aligned with how the law envisions to address adolescent reproductive health concerns, and they are effective and sustainable, although a comprehensive framework or a single program for adolescent sexuality and reproductive health, which is not existing today, would make these efforts more effective, efficient, and sustainable. This explains why the progress, although positive, has been slow.
According to the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), 8.6% of women 15-19 years old have begun child bearing, decreasing by 1.5 since the 2013 NDHS. The Philippines still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies among Southeast Asian countries. In addition, HIV is considered “a youth epidemic” in the country, with 31% of documented cases in 2017 from the 15-24 year old age range. It is hoped that the gains, especially in policy, ushered by the enactment of RPRH Law would help improve this situation.
“We call on the government and policymakers to prioritize the need of adolescents and young people, the next generation. We believe that all progress in the implementation of the RPRH Law would mean nothing if we continue to see increasing teenage pregnancies and HIV cases among young people. We hope that the Department of Education will start implementing its comprehensive sexuality education soon, and that the bills addressing the gaps of the current law will be enacted,” said Romeo Dongeto, executive director of PLCPD.
Currently, there are bills filed in both houses of Congress that seek to address teenage pregnancies by creating a comprehensive government program that promotes adolescent health. Meanwhile, the bills amending the AIDS Prevention and Control Act to institutionalize comprehensive program for HIV prevention, treatment care and support, have been approved by both houses of Congress on 3rd and Final Reading.
Advocacy and Partnerships Officer
Date of posting: 7 September
Closing date: 21 September
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. is looking for an individual who is interested to work full time as advocacy and partnerships officer. The advocacy and partnerships officer will be assigned to handle advocacy for multiple issues related to human development, particularly on promoting a smoke-free environment and health, rural development, children’s rights, and gender equality. Experience in and passion for advocacy work is required.
• Implements advocacy activities and ensures completion of project deliverables.
• Develops and implements a legislative advocacy plan for the assigned issues.
• Develops and builds issue champions among PLCPD and non-PLCPD members
• Renders efficient technical support and mobilize legislators in advocacy activities.
• Builds and sustains partnerships with civil society stakeholders, legislative committees, executive agencies and international development agencies
• Monitors the movement and support for the assigned bills
• Participates in technical working groups and conducts quick political mapping on priority measures.
• Develops advocacy messages and writes press releases, position papers, and policy memos for legislators.
• Participates in defining research objectives and contributes in project development and institutional sustainability including writing of project proposals and participation to fundraising activities.
• Generates activity and project reports.
Skills and Competencies:
• At least two (2) years experience in legislative and policy advocacy work
• Strong interpersonal and networking skills
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills
#EndChildMarriage Nationwide Poster-Making Competition
September 6, 2018
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most systematic and widespread human rights violations. One of the expressions of VAWG is child, early, and forced marriages (CEFM). Child marriage is often referred to as “early” and/or “forced” marriage since children, given their age, are not yet able to give free, prior and informed consent to their marriage partners or to the timing of their marriage (UNFPA, 2012).
According to the 2016 State of the World’s Population Report of UNFPA, 47,000 girls around the world are married before the age of 18 every day. In developing countries such as the Philippines, 1 in 4 girls will be married before they are 18. In the Philippines, 15% of women aged 20-24 years old were first married or in union before 18 (NDHS 2013).
The practice of CEFM has serious impacts and poses risks on women and girls’ health and development. The UNFPA states that in developing countries, 9 out of 10 births to adolescent girls occur within a marriage or union and these girls are vulnerable to pregnancy-related complications which are among the leading causes of mortality among adolescents around the world. Women and girls’ development is hindered by CEFM as married girls most likely drop out of school and lose the chance to be educated and gain skills and knowledge which will help her gain a good job and earn for herself and her family (UNICEF, 2016). The perpetration of violence and gender inequality is another negative impact of CEFM. According to PSA, in 2013, 20% of ever-married women aged 15-49 have experienced domestic and/or intimate-partner violence since age 15; while the National Baseline Survey on Violence against Children reported eighty percent prevalence of all forms of violence against children.
Violence against women and girls also has severe consequences on social and economic outcomes. A research by the World Bank stated that ending CEFM by 2030 would gain $500 billion annually from lower population growth, $90 billion annually from lower under-five mortality and malnutrition, and will save 5% of governments’ budget for education.
The project called Creating Spaces to Take Action on Violence against Women and Girls, supported by the Global Affairs Canada and Oxfam, and implemented in the Philippines by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and its partners, recognizes the role of young people in spreading awareness on the prevalence and impact of child marriage on young people’s health and development and encouraging and taking action to address this pressing issue.
Children and youth can help create spaces by advocating for the rights of women and girls through art. It is in this regard that PLCPD is organizing a nationwide poster-making competition with the theme, #EndChildMarriage: Creating spaces to empower young girls.
1. Theme: Posters must reflect the overall theme, #EndChildMarriage: Creating spaces to empower young girls. Posters may convey one or more specific themes, mentioned below:
- What can young people do to end child marriage?
- What can parents do to end child marriage?
- How can the government, schools, community, and other institutions help end child marriage practice in the Philippines?
- How can we use mass media and social media to end child marriage?
2. Who can join: The competition is open to young people aged 15 to 19 years old who are residing in the Philippines. Family members and relatives of PLCPD’s employees are not allowed to enter the competition.
3. Entries: Posters submitted must be all-original, unpublished, and not previously submitted to other competitions. Posters must be hand-drawn using any medium (water color, oil pastel, acrylic, crayons, etc.). Poster size should be 15 inches x 20 inches or ¼ illustration board and design must be in landscape (horizontal) format.
You may email a high resolution photograph or scanned soft copy of your artwork to PLCPD via firstname.lastname@example.org (cc: email@example.com) on or before 24 September 2018. Please attach your photographed artwork or scanned copy of your artwork to your email with the subject: Entry to #EndChildMarriage nationwide poster-making competition.
Please include the following information in your email: Title of poster, material used (e.g. watercolor, oil pastel, etc.), full name, nickname, age, address, landline and mobile numbers.
Please keep your original artworks. PLCPD will collect original winning entries as they will be showcased on October 11, in celebration of the International Day of Girl Child and in other creative activities of the project.
4. Copyright. By participating in this poster-making competition, the contestant certifies that the submitted artwork is a single work of original material created solely by the participant and no other party has any right, title, claim or interest in the poster. Names and logos of schools and organizations are not allowed to appear in the poster entries. Winning entries will be deemed property of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development.
Participants may submit multiple entries but can qualify in the Top 13 only once.
Winning entries will also be featured in the 2018 calendar to be produced by the Creating Spaces project and in other publicity materials (printed or online) made by PLCPD related to the campaign. Original artwork/ hard copies will be displayed in exhibits conducted by Creating Spaces Project.
5. Criteria. The criteria for judging will be as follows:
Relevance to the theme 50%
1st Place: P25, 000
2nd Place: P15, 000
3rd Place: P7,000
4th – 13th Place – P4,000 each
7. Announcement of Winners. Winners will be notified via text, call or email by PLCPD staff. The awarding of winners will take place in an event of Creating Spaces to be held in celebration of the International Day of the Girl on October 11 in Metro Manila.
House approval of 100-day maternity leave a victory for working women in the Philippines
September 4, 2018
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) congratulates the authors of the expanded maternity leave bill for its approval on Third Reading at the House of Representatives and commends the legislators for their unwavering commitment to seeing the bill through in the 17th Congress after languishing for several years in the previous congresses. This victory would not have been possible without the steadfast support of women workers and organizations who have worked as hard as the bill’s authors in pushing for the law. We thank the champions, all PLCPD members and officers, who remained resilient in defending the bill: Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Rep. Emmi de Jesus, Rep. France Castro, Rep. Tom Villarin, Rep. Teddy Baguilat, Deputy Speaker Linabelle Ruth Villarica, Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano in the House of Representatives; and Senator Risa Hontiveros in the Senate.
Almost two years after it was sponsored in the plenary, House Bill 4113 or the 100-Day Maternity Leave Law was approved on Third Reading at the House of Representatives on September 4. Its counterpart in the Senate, which proposes 120 days, was passed on Third and Final Reading in March last year.
This development brings us one step closer to seeing an Expanded Maternity Leave Law soon, fulfilling the country’s commitment to Filipino women and to International Labour Organization Convention 183, which recommends a minimum of 14 weeks or 98 days of maternity leave. Both versions of the bill aim to amend the Republic Act 7322, which only allows 60 days of paid maternity leave and 78 days for those who undergo caesarian deliveries and acknowledge the rights of all working women in both formal and informal economy, regardless of their civil status.
Studies show the positive impact of paid parental leave on the health and welfare of mothers and their children, and families in general. Longer paid parental leave will grant working mothers longer time to bond with their babies and will encourage complete and exclusive breastfeeding. It will also allow working mothers to have enough time to regain their health and wellness, thus being productive employees when they return to work. It is not only favorable to working women and their children but it also benefits employers in the form of employee retention and satisfaction.
PLCPD believes that this victory has opened new doors for advancing not only women’s rights but also children’s rights and welfare. But a few more crucial steps are needed to ensure that the expanded maternity leave bill will be a law. The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development urges both houses of Congress to fast-track the convening of the bicameral conference committee and ratify the final version of the bill. We are confident that President Rodrigo Duterte will hold on to his commitment to support the expanded maternity leave and that he will immediately sign the bill into law.
Millions of working women in the Philippines have waited several years for these 100 days.
August 28, 2018
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development led this year’s twin celebration of National Nutrition Month (July) and National Breastfeeding Awareness Month (August) in both houses of Congress.
With the overarching theme “Scaling Up Synergies for Child Nutrition,” the celebration highlighted the multi-faceted drive in advancing the child’s overall wellbeing through nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions, which are reflected in different legislative measures in both Houses of Congress.
The celebration also promoted nutrition by natural methods, highlighting the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and mix feeding thereafter using indigenous food items in sustaining child’s health. The timely passage of the First 1,000 Days Bill made a great addition to the celebration.
Separately observed, the week-long celebrations in the Senate and House of Representatives were used as platforms to highlight the country’s progressive and visionary laws as well as to renew the call for legislation that will strengthen and complement them.
The celebration also featured an Advocacy Fair, with booths by: the National Nutrition Council displaying various materials promoting the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition; the Department of Agriculture, which showcased organic food items; World Vision, with an interactive station for infant and young child feeding; UNICEF, promoting First 1,000 Days; and PLCPD, promoting nutrition-related laws enacted since the 1980s.
The event was organized by PLCPD in partnership with the National Nutrition Council, UNICEF, Scaling-Up Nutrition Core Group, World Vision, Mother-Baby Friendly Philippines, Breastfeeding Pinays, and the Child Rights network, and in coordination with the offices of Senator Risa Hontiveros and House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin. World Vision also introduced the app-based monitoring of Milk Code violations, https://mbfp.doh.gov.ph, during the celebration.
Uphold sexual and reproductive health and rights, fully implement the RPRH Law
August 16, 2018
The implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law, which has faced huge and constant challenges since its enactment five years ago, has not been smooth-sailing. But the story of how these serious obstacles are overcome reveals the resilience of both implementers and advocates of the law and gives hope for the future of its implementation.
The National Implementation Team (NIT) for the RPRH Law reports that policies to operationalize the provisions of the law are in place. These include administrative orders on family planning, maternal and child health, ensuring RH care in humanitarian crises, and many others. Even President Duterte issued an Executive Order to accelerate the implementation of the law and eliminate the unmet need for family planning by 2022.
Recently, the Department of Education (DepEd) issued a Department Order that sets the guidelines for the implementation of comprehensive sexuality education. According to the DepEd, age- and development-appropriate sexuality and RH education will be integrated into relevant subjects in all schools in the Philippines by the start of the next school year.
In terms of improving both demand generation and service delivery, the strengthening of service delivery networks on the ground and the involvement of civil society organizations are recognized as good practices. In fact, it was the effort of civil society organizations that filled the gap in family planning when the government was limited by the Supreme Court temporary restraining order (TRO) on public procurement and distribution of select family planning commodities for more than two years.
The legal barrier, particulary the TRO, had stalled the discussion about reproductive health on family planning, and left the 11 other elements of reproductive health on the back burner. Apart from the series of legal battles that has marred the implementation of the law—from question regarding the law’s constitutionality to the TRO—the other key challenges to full implementation include: uneven technical capacities of local government units (LGUs) and outright refusal of some LGU officials to implement the law, lack of public awareness on reproductive health and the law itself, and difficulties in mobilizing financial and human resources for a comprehensive program on RH.
The current situation on reproductive health may be indicative of these challenges; the most recent National Demographic and Health Survey (2017), data from the civil registry, and other authoritative studies show very little improvement regarding contraceptive use, reducing unmet need for family planning, reducing maternal mortality, and other indicators. A growing area of concern that the government needs to face head-on is adolescent reproductive health, particularly the issues of adolescent pregnancies and HIV. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, key indicators for family planning and maternal health have slightly improved, but they are still far below national averages.
Indeed, much needs to be done in terms of advancing reproductive health in the country. The good news is that the country is not starting from scratch; the resilience of those who believe in the law and the enabling policy environment created by the RPRH Law and the RH Care Act in the ARMM are good starting points.
This National Family Planning Month, and in recognition of the centrality of access to family planning in reproductive health, we call on dutybearers to pursue the full implementation of the law, paying full attention to all of its elements. We also pledge our contribution and commitment to ensure that the Filipino people are able to fully claim, without any obstacle, their rights to sexual and reproductive health.
This call is made during the inaugural regional dialogue on RH attended by participants from the national government, the regional government of ARMM, the local government units of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, civil society organizations, and the media, and held in Zamboanga City on August 16-17. The dialogue is organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) under the ARCHES project. ARCHES stands for “Improving the Availability of RH Services in the ARMM.” It is a five-year project supported by the European Union and Oxfam. The other implementing organizations of the project are the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation (AMDF) for Lanao del Sur, Pinay Kilos! (PinK!) for Basilan and Sulu, Tarbilang Foundation, Inc. for Tawi-Tawi, and United Youth of the Philippines (UnYPhil)-Women for Maguindanao.
August 14, 2018
In preparation for the budget season in Congress, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development conducted a budget forum on reproductive health that focused on the budget allocations of key implementing agencies of Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law for the year 2019.
Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat emphasized that one of the crucial functions of Congress is oversight, and part of its oversight function is to look into the budgetary allocations of government agencies for implementation of laws.
Ms. Ramona of the Department of Budget and Management highlighted the benefits of shifting from obligated-based budgeting to annual cash-based budgeting. She explained that with the new system, the government could minimize and eliminate underspending. The gains of cash-based appropriation include greater fiscal discipline and prudent use of budget, faster and improved delivery of essential public services, and a more open and accountable government.
Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III, Executive Director of the Commission on Population presented the National Family Planning Costed Implemented Plan (CIP) and remarked that the targets of the CIP are still not being met by the Department of Health and other implementing agencies because of various factors: absorptive capacity, lack of human resource, and existing family planning supplies from the previous years.
Dr. Ruby Constantino, Director for Family Health Office of the DOH presented the budget for the RPRH Law implementation in 2019. She shared the accomplishments of the implementation of RPRH Law, which included maternal health, neonatal and child health, family planning.
During the open forum it was asked if there were budgetary allocation for reproductive health by other government agencies such as Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Education. Another concern raised was the absorptive capacity. It was pointed out that funds should match human resources.
Mr. Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD Executive Director, gave a closing message expressing the need to strengthen the National Implementation Team and to assert the oversight function of Congress.
August 2, 2018
The ARCHES Project strengthened the core groups advocating reproductive health consisting of health service providers, local government employees, community organizers, and volunteers in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi through a legal orientation and basic sexual and reproductive health training, which included inputs on reproductive health, family planning, gender sensitivity, and the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law.
For its part, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) discussed the key points of the RPRH Law and the status of implementation at the national level, local legislative process, and capacitated the participants on advocacy such as message development and person-to person advocacy, and people’s participation in the local health board. The training also included topics on gender and Islam, community organizing and mobilization, gender sensitivity, maternal health analysis, and family planning.
The participants shared their insights during the discussions. Other points raised by the participants were: how to advocate the right age of marriage, and how to engage indigenous peoples (IP) communities in addressing cultural barriers to reproductive health.
The activities culminated in a core group planning, in which the core group for each province discussed how to further improve RH service delivery and advocacy in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The training series was led by the Philippine Business for Social Progress, in partnership with Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation for Lanao del Sur, United Youth of the Philippines-Women for Maguindanao, Pinay Kilos! for Basilan and Sulu, and Tarbilang Foundation for Tawi-Tawi. Representatives of PLCPD served as resource persons during the training. Together with Oxfam and supported by the European Union, these groups are the implementing partners of ARCHES, which stands for “Improving the Availability of Reproductive Health Services in the ARMM.”
July 20, 2018
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) organized a series of policy development workshops to support local government units in five provinces in crafting their own comprehensive reproductive health (RH) ordinances that would strengthen the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law in their respective LGUs.
Called “LGUs in the Frontline: Policy Development Workshop on LGU Implementation of the RPRH Law” the series of two-day workshops was held on April 25-26 in Cebu for LGU stakeholders of Cebu, May 8-9 in Cebu for Albay statekholders, May 24-25 in La Union for Ifugao stakeholders, June 21-22 for in La Union for Benguet stakeholders, and on July 3-6 in Baguio City for Palawan stakeholders. The stakeholders who participated were a mix of provincial and municipal health officers and family planning coordinators, legislators and sanggunian secretaries, provincial and municipal planning and budget officers, and representatives of civil society organizations.
The policy development workshop series focused on increasing awareness of LGU stakeholders on the key provisions and the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RPRH Law, formulating proposed local RPRH ordinance, and developing an action plan to map out the necessary steps for finalizing the proposed ordinances for their eventual approval by the Sanggunian of the respective provinces and municipalities.
Discussions in the workshop included inputs on salient provisions of the RPRH Law, updates on the RPRH Law implementation at the national and provincial levels, the role of LGUs in the implementation of the RPRH Law, the local legislative process and access points for advocacy, and parts of an ordinance, among others. As their output, the participants crafted a proposed ordinance and action plan for the localization of the RPRH Law. The workshops also included courtesy calls to host LGUs, which had participants and the host LGUs exchanging lessons on best practices and challenges in implementation.
The series is part of the project called “Sustaining National and Local Advocacy for Reproductive Health in the Philippines” that is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the Forum for Family Planning and Development.
July 20, 2018
Youth leaders from different organizations in the National Capital Region geared up for the advocacy to end child marriage in the Philippines by participating in a three-day policy advocacy training for youth leaders tagged “Too Young, Too Soon,” held on July 4-6 at Venus Park View Hotel, Baguio City.
The activity was organized by PLCPD through the Creating Spaces to Take Action on Violence against Women and Girls project. Youth leaders from Center for Social Action of the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, YPEER Pilipinas, Pasay Youth Development Office, Barangay Culiat, Virlanie and ERDA foundation were the participants in the three-day training.
Mr. Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD’s Executive Director, in his motivational talk, encouraged the youth leaders to be in the frontline for this advocacy.
PLCPD discussed the importance of human rights and highlighted the significance of fighting not just for one’s rights, but for the rights of all young people. This was followed with a discussion of international and legal frameworks prohibiting child marriage, which emphasized the importance of a national policy that prohibits child marriage, without exceptions.
To prepare the youth leaders as advocates, a discussion on advocacy and the national legislative process and its advocacy access points were discussed. Youth leaders were also equipped with policy advocacy skills such as stakeholders analysis and political mapping, message development, utilizing social media, person-to-person advocacy, and advocacy planning.
The training was conducted as a part of the series of capacity building activities aimed at building awareness and increasing participation and involvement of young people in pushing for policy reform to end child, early and forced marriages. The first policy advocacy training was held in Cotabato City, in which youth leaders from the municipalities of Guindulungan, Mamasapano and Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao were the participants. It was followed by the Iligan City leg, in which youth leaders from Marawi City and the municipalities of Bubong and Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur participated.
PLCPD is part of the Creating Spaces to Take Action on Violence against Women and Girls project, together with Oxfam, Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, and United Youth of the Philippines-Women, supported by Global Affairs Canada. A campaign across six countries in Asia, Creating Spaces aims to prevent violence against women and girls and reduce the prevalence of child, early and forced marriage.
July 11 is World Population Day. For this year, the theme is “Family Planning is a Human Right,” in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the International Conference on Human Rights held in in Tehran, Iran in 1968. The historic Proclamation of Teheran, the Final Act of the International Conference on Human Rights, was the first international proclamation that affirmed the basic right of parents to determine freely and responsibly the number and the spacing of their children.
Family planning is a human right and is an integral part of sexual and reproductive health and rights and women’s empowerment. The obligation to make it universally accessible is still relevant, if not more, 50 years after the Proclamation.
July 3, 2018
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), in partnership with Tarbilang Foundation, equipped the municipalities of Tawi- Tawi on reproductive health through the Training of Trainers on the Key Points of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law held on June 26 in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.
50 participants representing various sectors (government and civil society) from the municipalities of Bongao, Panglima Sugala, Sitangkai, Sapa-Sapa, and Sibutu joined the training. PLCPD facilitated the workshop on frequently asked questions about RH, which aided participants to prepare answers for difficult and sensitive topics. Some of the questions included: “Is family planning allowed in Islam?”, “Are family planning methods safe?”, and “How can HIV be contracted?”.
Mr. Rasheed Tikmasan, Deputy Director of Tarbilang Foundation, showed solidarity in the advocacy for the full implementation of the RPRH Law in Tawi-Tawi as he formally opened the program. To prepare the participants in the workshop, Ustadz Julhussin Jadjulie discussed the Fatwa on Family Planning and Reproductive Health while Ms. Aurora Quilala of PLCPD shared with the participants the salient provisions of the RPRH Law and the current status of implementation. Ms. Elsa Pescadera, Chief Technical Officer –III and Provincial Family Planning Coordinator, shared the situation of reproductive health in Tawi-Tawi.
The second part of the activity was the SRH network meeting, in which the participants shared some of their good practices in their advocacy on reproductive health. Among those mentioned were conducting a lecture, forum, community gatherings on reproductive health, information dissemination on free family planning commodities, organizing hilot groups, and strengthening the Local Health Board.
June 16, 2018
Recognizing the important role of the youth in advocating for the rights of women and children, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) conducted a series of issue orientations on child, early, and forced marriage catered to young people. The activities aimed to raise awareness on child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) and encourage the youth to engage in the advocacy.
These issue orientations took place at De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde in partnership with Center for Social Action Benilde on June 5, and at the Sulo Riviera Hotel in Quezon City in cooperation with Pasay Sangguniang Kabataan Federation and Youth Development Council, Virlanie Foundation, ERDA Foundation, Y-PEER Pilipinas, and Barangay Culiat on June 7.
During his opening remarks on June 5, Mr. Neil Pariñas, Vice President of La Sallian Mission for Student Leader, expressed his recognition of the importance of involving young people in discussions and advocacies for issues that affect them. “Young people can be leaders. As long as you can influence even just one person to change, then you are a leader, ” he declared.
During the sessions, Ms. Angelica Ramirez, advocacy manager of PLCPD, discussed the prevalence of child, early, and forced marriage in the Philippines and CEFM’s impact on health and development of young girls and boys. She emphasized, “We need to take action on ending child marriage regardless if there is one or million cases of child marriage because it is a violation of rights.” She also explained the forms of violence experienced in all phases of a woman’s life, from prenatal to old age. She emphasized, “We have to be critical of current laws and how legal contradictions serve as barrier to prohibiting CEFM.”
Professor Sorhaila Latip-Yusoph (Sor), a Maranao and professor in Mindanao State University shared with the participants her life story and reflections on her experiences. Professor Sor, a survivor of child marriage, was married at 16, had her first child at 17 and second child at 18, and asked for divorce at 19. She recounted the physical and emotional difficulties she experienced being married at an early age, including the sacrifice of giving up schooling when she had been an honor student and a leader in her campus. She mentioned that most young women who experience the same may not be able to speak and fight for themselves, which is why the advocacy is important. Recognizing that CEFM happens throughout the Philippines and and is not only practiced among Muslim communities, she urged the youth leaders who participated in the activities to be involved and take action, stand up for their rights, and reach out to their communities as well.
Ms. Leah Barbia, Office in Charge of Gender Equality and Women’s Human Rights Center, Commission of Human Rights, talked about human rights and how the issue of child marriage should be approached using the lens of human rights.
During the beginning of the sessions, the youth participants shared their perceptions on child marriage as a form of exploitation and slavery and how it is related to the issues of teenage pregnancy, and violation of rights, including right to education. By the end of the sessions, they committed to be involved in the campaign, learn more about the issue and share their learnings with their peers and other young people.. Inspired by the life of Professor Sor, one of their commitments is “to stand up for every ‘Sor’ in every barangay, to end the cycle of ‘Me too’.”
In his closing remarks, Mr. Romeo Dongeto, executive director of PLCPD, shared with the participants how different sectors and organizations are working together to end child marriage, and how PLCPD, as an organization of lawmakers recognizes the role of reforms in institutions—including laws—in ending child marriage. “Reforms in policies may take a long time and demands the participation of as many stakeholders, as many voices, as possible. We are happy that with this activity, we are able to see young people committed to be involved. Let us all work together to save the lives and future of women and children,” he said.
PLCPD is part of the Creating Spaces to Take Action on Violence against Women and Girls project, together with Oxfam, Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, and United Youth of the Philippines– Women and with the support of Global Affairs Canada. A campaign across six countries in Asia, Creating Spaces aims to reduce violence against women and girls and reduce the prevalence of child, early and forced marriage.
June 1, 2018
A celebration and a commemoration. The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) seamlessly blended these two themes at a mini-concert held on Friday, June 1 in Quezon City.
Aptly titled “Positive”, the event brought together at the Quezon Heritage House in Quezon City Memorial Circle leading advocates, artists, and champions responding to the challenge of HIV in the Philippines. The cause for celebration was the recent “win” when the bill amending Republic Act 8504 or the AIDS Prevention and Control Act authored by Senator Risa Hontiveros was approved on third and final reading by the Senate. The House of Representatives had approved its version of the bill earlier than the Senate, in December 2016.
On the other hand, the commemoration was in support of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, a global movement in honor of the individuals who had passed on due to AIDS-related complications.
“The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is a solemn remembrance. But we would also like to take this occasion to celebrate our recent gain, especially in the legislative arena. Finally, after seven long and difficult years in Congress, we have reason to believe that we will be seeing soon a new law that will respond to our current situation. The bill has provisions that improve access to and availability of comprehensive services on HIV and AIDS, including services for prevention, treatment, care and support,” said Rom Dongeto, executive director of PLCPD.
Civil society organizations have played a vital role in mobilizing support for the bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Desi Andrew Ching, Convenor of the Network to Stop AIDS – Philippines shared their experiences in lobbying with legislators to support the bills which would provide the policy framework for a robust response to HIV and AIDS.
On the part of the legislators, Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, one of the authors of the bill, affirmed his support for a national response to HIV, a response which would be further strengthened upon enactment of a new AIDS law.
The HIV epidemic in the Philippines is rapidly expanding, and young people are most at risk of HIV infection. While a number of innovative approaches have been developed to reach young people, a responsive policy framework is needed to support these new approaches and technologies.
Messages from key partners such as Dr. Louie Ocampo of the UNAIDS and Ms. Eden Divingracia of the Philippine NGO Council for Population, Health and Welfare, further emphasized the importance of an expanded response to HIV.
In an evening of music and advocacy, performances from various artists enlivened the event. Noted artists and advocate Cookie Chua and the youth band known as Zone One performed musical numbers which complemented the messages from key stakeholders.
The response to HIV is noted for being inclusive, and an advocate and service provider had also been invited to perform at the program. The two songs performed by Marc Mateo, who works with the Klinika Bernardo in Quezon City, were also a highlight of the program.
The mini-concert culminated in a candle-lighting ceremony, led by persons living with HIV and other key partners – a solemn and poignant reminder of the lives lost to the HIV epidemic. The night is a reminder that HIV should not be a death sentence, and a call to further strengthen the response to HIV and to secure healthy and productive lives for all.
May 28, 2018
Enact expanded maternity leave. Ensure safe workplaces for women. Implement Reproductive Health (RH) Law.
These were the calls highlighted during the celebration of International Day of Action for Women’s Health (IDAWH) at the House of Representatives.
With quadruple commemoration of Labor Day, Mother’s Day, Cervical Cancer Consciousness Month, and the International Day of Action for Women’s Health this May, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and the ARCHES Project, Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan (KMK), and the House of Representatives Committee on Women and Gender Equality gathered legislators, women workers, and advocates of women’s rights and reproductive health in an advocacy event called “Celebrating Women’s Health, Transforming Commitments into Action” to push for the enactment of bills on expanded maternity leave and occupational safety and health as well as to make the call for the full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law.
The bill expanding maternity leave to 100 days is currently under plenary deliberation at the House of Representatives and has been approved on 3rd and Final Reading in the Senate, while the bill on occupational safety and health is already in the bicameral conference. Meanwhile, Congress is set to embark on congressional review of the Reproductive Health Law, five years since its enactment in 2012.
Advocates are seeing the RH Law review as an opportunity to fill in policy and gaps in implementation, and see what more can be improved given the serious challenges that the law had to endure, including the temporary restraining order that had affected the country’s family planning program.
“Women comprise more than half of the working population yet we are the most vulnerable to various risks and hazards. That is why we are highlighting improved measures and safeguards on occupational safety and health. The issue on occupational safety and health is also related to one of the priority measures of the Committee on Women and Gender Equality: the bill on expanding maternity leave to 100 Days, as it seeks not only to expand the number of days that women can spend with their children and promote optimal breastfeeding but it also has provisions to protect women in the workforce from discrimination and ensure security of tenure,” said Rep. Bernadatte Herrera-Dy, Representative of Bagong Henerasyon Partylist and Chairperson of the Committee on Women and Gender Equality
Meanwhile, Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD Executive Director, called for the full implementation of RPRH Law.
“We are happy that bills protecting women’s health and rights are being pursued in the 17th Congress. But there is still so much to be done as we continue our advocacy for the full implementation of the RH Law. We look forward to seeing our lawmakers exercise their oversight function in ensuring that the laws they crafted are able to achieve their objectives,” Dongeto said.
May 23, 2018
In observance of the National Cervical Cancer Prevention Awareness Month and the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), in partnership with the office of Akbayan Party-list representative Tom Villarin, organized a forum on cervical cancer on May 22 at the House of Representatives.
Opening the forum, Mr. Kyle Salcedo, representative of Congressman Tom Villarin highlighted that the prevention of cervical cancer and other reproductive tract cancers is among the elements of reproductive health.
Dr. Jennifer Co from the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society served as resource speaker on HPV and cervical cancer. She said, “For cancers affecting women, it is good that there are screenings for prevention and early detection. In the Philippines, 6,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually. More than half will die every day. This is because most are diagnosed late.”
Mandaluyong Representative Queenie Gonzales shared her cervical cancer prevention program in her city and why legislators have a critical role in the prevention of cervical cancer. Dr. Laila Celino, of Department of Health – NCR shared government efforts on cervical cancer prevention.
May 22, 2018
Advocates are hopeful that the Philippines will see a new law on comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support as the Senate of the Philippines approved on Third and Final Reading on May 21 the bill filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros.
The House version of the bill was approved in December 2017, so a bicameral conference to harmonize differing provisions of House and Senate versions is expected to be convened soon.
First filed six years ago, the bill updates Republic Act 8054 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 to respond to the current national situation. The country has registered the highest HIV infection growth rate in the Asia-Pacific region in the recent years. The bill has been part of the PLCPD legislative agenda since the 15th Congress.
May 11, 2018
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) expresses its commitment to ensure the implementation of the Philippine Plan of Action to End Violence Against Children (PPAEVAC), which the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and its partners recently launched.
Grounded on the data on children established through the National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children (NBS-VAC) conducted in 2015, the PPAEVAC is an important multi-sectoral plan that outlines six key result areas and strategies to address Filipino children’s prevalent experience of violence. This includes positive discipline, child and adolescent skills against violence, children’s access to protective services, effective monitoring and evaluations framework, enforcement of all VAC-related laws, and child protection systems across all levels of the government.
Other lead agencies identified in the implementation of this plan of action from 2018 until 2022 are the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Justice (DOJ), department of Health (DOH), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Released in 2017, the National Baseline Survey on Violence against Children (NBSVAC), reveals that in the Philippines boys experience sexual abuse more often than girls. The survey also show the following: 1 out of 5 suffers from sexual abuse at home, in school and in the community; 2 out of 5 commit a form of violence with their peers; 3 out of 5 admit experiencing some form of psychological violence; 4 out of 10 grew up seeing some form of physical violence at home; 5 out of 10 suffer from cyber-violence; 6 out of 10 are physically and psychologically abused; 7 out of 10 do not avail of local child protection systems in their community; 8 out of 10 LGBT children are physically and psychologically abused; 9 out of 10 think that parents act in the best interest of children; and 10 percent of children are physically neglected by their parents of guardians.
The Philippine Plan of Action to End Violence against Children is envisioned to contribute to addressing this situation. The Philippines became a pathfinding country in 2017 and as such, the country is committing to three to five years of accelerated action towards achieving a violence-free environment for children through policies that are rights-focused, child-centered, universal, gender-sensitive, inclusive, transparent, evidence-based, and results-focused in the Global Partnerships to End Violence against Children. While the Philippines can boast of its relatively advanced legal framework on child welfare, there are still significant gaps in the fulfillment and promotion for the rights of children to survival, development, protection and participation, which can be addressed through policy and legislative reforms.
PLCPD and its partners including UNICEF and the Child Rights Network, which it convenes, are advocating for the passage of laws that will eliminate the various drivers of violence against children. Pending Senate and House bills on increasing the age to determine statutory rape, promotion of positive and non-violent forms of discipline, ending online and commercial sexual exploitation of children, comprehensive anti-discrimination, and the protection of mental health of children especially those in situations of armed conflict are just some of the many legislative proposals that the group is supporting through multiple strategy campaigns. The group is also pushing for oversight of related child protection laws and remains steadfast in seeking lasting results through laws and their efficient implementation.
May 7, 2018
As crucial legislative measures on maternal and child nutrition move closer to enactment, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development and its partners sustain efforts to ensure that the bills will finally be enacted within the 17th Congress.
PLCPD participated in the pre-bicameral conference for the First 1000 Days bills held at the Senate on May 2. Representatives from the House Committee on Health and Senate Committee on Health and Demography and the offices of Senators Hontiveros, Recto and Ejercito led the conference. The Department of Health and National Nutrition Council, and Save the Children, a member of the Philippine Coalition of Advocates for Nutrition Security (PhilCAN) were also present. The Senate version served as the reference document but significant provisions from the House of Representatives were adopted to substantially improve the final output.
PLCPD and UNICEF were instrumental in the filing of the first versions of the bill on the first 1,000 days during the 16th Congress by providing technical assistance to the bills authors and champions.
The First 1,000 Days bill is expected to be signed into law before the start of the third regular session of the 17th Congress in July 2018.
As part of efforts to sustain and consolidate support for the movement of the bill, PLCPD and the Child Rights Network also conduct public awareness programs. On May 3, PLCPD’s Advocacy and Partnerships Officer Janelle Rabe represented the Child Rights Network, along with UNICEF Nutrition Specialist Dr. Rene Galera in Radyo Katipunan’s Jesuit Hour hosted by Fr. Nonoy Legaspi to talk about the 1,000 Days.
Dr. Galera explained the significance of the first 1,000 days as a critical window of opportunity for nutrition. He also identified the essential services on health, nutrition, early stimulation and water, and sanitation and hygiene services that should be provided throughout the different stages in the first 1,000 days. He emphasized the burden of malnutrition in the country and shared that more than 4 million Filipino children under five years old are stunted.
Janelle Rabe, who was PLCPD’s representative in the pre-bicameral conference, shared updates on the status and prospects of First 1,000 Days bills in the legislative arena. She also cited the parallel multi-sectoral campaign efforts to expand paid maternity leave bill of up to 120 days as part of the advocacy for comprehensive nutrition intervention for mothers and their babies.
This proposed legislative measure gives mothers and their babies to bond together for a longer period of time and practice exclusive breastfeeding. The bill recognizes the need for mothers to have enough time to recover from the physical, psychological and emotional effects of childbearing. Furthermore, it reinforces the call for mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies noting that there is no alternative approach to receiving the same benefits that is can give to the overall health and development of the babies.
April 20, 2018
Recognizing the crucial role of local government units (LGUs) in the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development and the Zuellig Family Foundation organized a dialogue that discussed best practices as well as challenges of LGUs in the implementation of the law on April 17.
Among the highlights in the dialogue are the experiences, best practices, challenges, and recommendations of local government units in implementing family planning (FP) and adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) programs. Dr. Arvin Alejandro, Sarangani Provincial Health Officer, shared their initiatives including Tutok Buntis which had been promoting services for mothers and their babies. Mayor Cielo Krisel Lagman-Luistro of Tabaco City, Albay stressed the importance of having teen centers and developing youth ambassadors. Mayor Melchor Mergal of Eastern Samar shared that they have had zero maternal death since 2014 due to their initiatives on mainstreaming adolescent reproductive health.
Mr. Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD Executive Director said that local government units should be accountable for the implementation of RPRH Law. Dr. Angelito Umali, UNFPA National Program Officer, recommended the need to have skilled birth attendants, emergency obstetric and new born care and family planning. Dr. Juan Antonio Perez suggested that Commission on Audit (COA) and the Department of the Interior Local Government (DILG) should discuss on the utilization of (Gender and Development) GAD Budged. Dr. Jose Rodriguez, Chief of Party of VisayasHealth recommended that the best time to talk about family planning to mothers is right after they have given birth.
Asec. Rhea Penaflor of National Youth Commission (NYC) showed commitment in addressing adolescent reproductive health. Likewise, Dr. Ruby Constantino, Director of Family Health Office of Department of Health (DOH) has expressed that DOH will work closely with LGUs for the implementation of RPRH Law.
Recommendations that were put forward by the participants include having clear guidelines on the utilization of GAD fund for RH programs although it is still best to have dedicated funds for RH from the LGUs’ allocation for health, including RH in the indicators for Seal of Good Local Governance, and promoting health and RH as part of good governance and accountability of local governments.
With this in mind, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), in partnership with Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, gathered various stakeholders at the local government, civil society, Muslim religious institutions, and ARCHES community in a training of facilitators on the key points of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law and provincial SRH network meeting in Iligan City on April 4.
The activity aimed to capacitate participants in discussing the concept of reproductive health and the rights and entitlements of Filipinos in relation to this as enshrined in the RPRH Law. Resource persons discussed the national and regional RH situations, the salient provisions of the RPRH Law, and the fatwa on family planning and reproductive health.
Dr. Alinader Manalang, Provincial Health Officer of Lanao del Sur, shared the provincial RH situation in Lanao del Sur, highlighting that the Marawi siege greatly affected the situation, especially of women and girls, but also mentioning some opportunities for advancing the RH advocacy in the province, such as strengthening partnership with local stakeholders.
On the discussion of Fatwa on Family Planning and Reproductive Health, Aleem Anwar Radiamoda emphasized the basic values of Islam, the parenting approach, marriage and violence against women and girls in Islam, and the salient points of the fatwa.
Ms. Au Quilala, Project Manager of PLCPD, discussed the salient features of the law and the challenges it encountered since its passage in 2012. She also facilitated the workshop in which the participants were able to clarify and answer the frequently asked questions that they encounter about RH and the RPRH Law.
The second half of the program was devoted to the launch and organization of the Purple Ribbon for RH (PR4RH) in Lanao del Sur. Facilitated by Mr. Mr. Cezario Magpayo, Project Manager of PLCPD, the participants expressed their support for RH. Coming from various sectors, the participants committed their organizations’ or individual support to advocate RH in their communities.
March 12, 2018
As part of the celebration of Women’s Month and in recognition of the role of young people in advocacy, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and Women and Gender Institute (WAGI) of Miriam College organized an advocacy event on March 9 called Start Young, Stand up for Women and Girls: Conversations among leaders and advocates for women and girls’ rights.
Around 90 student leaders of Miriam College participated in this event, which was held in their campus. The event featured national legislators and youth leaders who delivered inspirational talk, “Why we need to be advocates for women and girls.” They encouraged young women to take actions on emerging issues of women and girls such as adolescent reproductive health and child, early, and forced marriage. Ms. Angelica Ramirez, PLCPD Project Manager for Creating Spaces to End Violence Against Women and Girls gave an overview of prevalence and impact of child marriage.
House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Linabellle Ruth Villarica stressed that women belong to politics. Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said, “The youth have an equal voice to demand government services, protection, and justice.” Rep. Sarah Jane Elago, Kabataan Party-list Representative, shared her passion in advocating the rights of marginalized sectors, particularly the youth, and emphasized the role of collective action.
Ms. Sarah Jane Biton, Youth Program Coordinator of Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights shared her efforts in advocating sexual and reproductive health and rights. Ms. Jasmine Tolentino, President of CEDAW Youth Miriam College Chapter, gave compelling reasons why her generation should advocate for women and girls. She said that they should be the voice of voiceless.
Facilitated by Prof. Luz Martinez, the participants also had a dialogue on other issues affecting women and girls; among the issues surfaced during the dialogue are affordable and environment-friendly feminine products, representation of women in the media, feminists being branded as men-haters, breaking the glass ceiling, competition among women, and freedom of women to wear what they want.
The nationwide essay-writing competition on adolescent reproductive health was also launched during the program. The essay-writing competition is organized by PLCPD and ARCHES Project.
March 9, 2018
Recognizing the crucial role of legislation in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and its partners teamed up with the House of Representatives Committee on Women and Gender Equality for a week-long celebration of National Women’s Month in Congress. A highlight of this celebration was the policy forum on women and rural development held on March 6 called “Women’s Economic and Political Empowerment: Opportunities and Challenges” and that was organized with We Effect Philippines Country Office. Mobilizing legislators holding key positions in Congress, committee and legislative staff, and representatives of civil society organizations, the discussion centered on the general situation of women in rural communities, particularly the women farmers, fisherfolk, and those in the informal sector and recommendations on legislative reforms that may be introduced to help improve the situation. By the end of the forum, the participants committed to pursuing the advocacy for gender-responsive laws.
March 8, 2018
As part of the celebration of Women’s Month at the House of Representatives and the campaign calling for the full implementation of the RPRH Law and the enactment of other women and children’s health measures, PLCPD and ARCHES Project, in partnership with labor groups, NAGKAISA, WorkersforEML and IndustriALL, led women advocates in a gathering to call on the swift passage of the Expanded Maternity Protection bill to kick off the National Women’s Month in the House of Representatives. During the event, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez; PLCPD members Deputy Speakers Linabelle Villarica, Sharon Garin, and Pia Cayetano; and Director Hassan of the International Labor Organization and Asec. Joji Aragon of the Department of Labor and Employment expressed their support for the bill.
During the session time, Committee on Women and Gender Equality Chair Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy led the resumption of interpellations for the Expanded Maternity Leave bill after it has been stalled for more than a year. The bill is expected to be passed soon given the strong support from House leadership.
January 23, 2018
The Philippines loses about 220 billion pesos annually due to high prevalence of undernutrition among children. This was highlighted at the launch of two costing studies today that call on the government for better public investment and policy reform to improve children’s nutrition and avert the country from economic loss.
The Department of Health (DOH) and the National Nutrition Council (NNC), along with the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and UNICEF launched the Economic Consequences of Undernutrition in the Philippines and the 2017 Global Nutrition Report at the House of Representatives. The two studies carry empirical and scientific evidence that are aimed to guide legislators in prioritizing investments for nutrition through the national budgeting processes.
“This situation cannot remain unchanged. Strategic investments and policies are needed if the country is serious about development. We must continuously work in the government to ensure sufficient and sustainable allocations for nutrition programs and policies; and never hesitate in investing in the health and nutrition of our country’s future: the children,” said Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong, Vice Chairperson of the Committee on Ways and Means and member of the Committee on Appropriations.
The costing study on undernutrition reveals that the Philippines loses approximately 220 billion pesos per year due to the effects of undernutrition such as stunting, anemia, and iodine deficiency. This is equivalent to 1.5% of the Philippine GDP in 2015. This can be countered by investments in nutrition, which return around 12 dollars in foregone earnings or health expenditures due to undernutrition for every dollar spent in targeted nutrition interventions.
“Malnutrition robs our children of their foundational health and fundamental right to survive, thrive and reach their full potential. If not addressed immediately, these children will remain as outliers in society, with poor performance in school and low productivity as adults in the future. Thus, if not mitigated, this situation perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Only healthy children can have the chance to succeed in life,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander.
Meanwhile, the 2017 Global Nutrition Report highlights the interrelatedness of nutrition with 12 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means eradicating malnutrition will contribute significantly to the overall development of the country.
“The Philippines is already considered a trailblazer on nutrition policies in the international community. But we have much work to do since the situation of undernutrition among children is worsening: the Philippines is still one of the nine countries in the world with most cases of stunting, or too short for age, and wasting, or too thin for height, among children. So we encourage everyone to join us in the Scaling Up Nutrition or SUN movement of the Philippines,” said DOH Assistant Secretary Bernie Flores.
“Mainstreaming nutrition in the development agenda is one of the best approaches that government can adopt to accelerate economic and social progress and at the same time fulfilling the people’s right to a happy and healthy life. This is the reason why we in the civil society will never tire in pushing this government to consider all strategies that put people at the center when designing its development agenda. A stronger political will can transform our goals into sustainable action. Together, let us hold one another accountable for our commitments and make sure that our actions will lead to concrete improvements in the nutrition situation of our country,” said Mr. Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD Executive Director as he closed the launch.
Representatives from Congress including Teddy Baguilat, Bernadette Herrera-Dy, Jocelyn Limkaichong and Anna Villaraza-Suarez, as well as executive agencies represented by Undersecretary Luzviminda Ilagan of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Assistant Cabinet Secretary Evelyn Dela Cruz Cruzada, Assistant Secretary Bernardita Flores of NNC, and Assistant Secretary Ernesto Perez of Department of Trade and Industry signified their support to sustain and scale up investments in nutrition.