Quezon City, October 1—Women legislators committed to support the bill seeking to protect children, especially girls, from child, early, and forced marriage during the launch of the Alliance of #GirlDefenders: Creating Spaces Together to End Violence against Women and Girls at Sulo Hotel.
Among the legislators who supported the campaign were Rep. Malou Acosta-Alba of 1st District of Bukidnon, who also chairs the House of Representatives Committee on Women and Gender Equality; Kalinga party-list representative Irene Gay Saulog; Gabriela Women’s Party representative Arlene Brosas; and Kabataan party-list representative Sarah Elago.
“As warriors and Girl Defenders, we will prioritize this bill in the 18th Congress. We owe it to young people and children to have this bill enacted,” said Representative Malou Acosta-Alba, who also chairs the House of Representatives Committee on Women and Gender Equality.
The alliance of #GirlDefenders, composed of multisectoral representatives from the government – both executive and Congress – and civil society organizations was launched in time for the celebration of International Day of the Girl on October 11. This alliance serves to safeguard and defend the rights of girls to have a violence-free future by advocating for policy reforms that will prohibit child marriage.
Advocates from Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur shared that changing social norms is the most challenging space to create. “While I find it very challenging as a Muslim woman to be advocating to end child marriage which is culturally acceptable in Maranao culture, I am proud to be a #GirlDefender creating spaces at the level of the community by making young people aware of their rights” said Sittie Nur Dayhannah Mohamad, project officer of Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, a Lanao del Sur-based civil society organization advocating women’s rights and empowerment.
Youth advocates from Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur appealed to legislators to push for a policy that will “back girls up and allow them to say no when they are forced to get married.”
Child marriage in the Philippines
The Philippines ranks 12th in terms of absolute numbers of child marriages globally. In developing countries, 1 in 4 girls will get married before reaching the age of 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund. While the Family Code of the Philippines sets 18 years old as the legal age of marriage, Muslim communities and some indigenous groups allow the practice of child marriage at as early as puberty based on written and unwritten laws and as a cultural practice. Child marriage has serious negative impacts on the health and development of girls.
Prohibition of child marriage pushed
Legislators in attendance committed to become #GirlDefenders in the policy arena and collectively pledged to support the bill prohibiting and criminalizing child marriage. Currently, there are bills filed in both houses of Congress prohibiting the facilitation and solemnization of child marriage, making it a criminal offense. In the House of Representatives, two versions were filed by Representatives Bernadetter Herrera-Dy and Edcel Lagman as well as Alfred Vargas while Senator Risa Hontiveros filed the Senate version. Aside from prohibiting the facilitation of child marriage, the bill institutionalizes social protection for those who have experienced child marriage.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) organized a policy conference on tobacco control on August 23. Called “Fulfilling Filipinos’ right to health,” the policy conference was anchored on the interconnection between health and human rights in the hopes that right to health, which is universal and inalienable nature, will take primacy over business interests in the crafting of tobacco control laws that fulfill the State’s duty to protect its people and its obligations to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
The event gathered representatives from different government agencies, the legislature, civil society and people’s organizations, and other stakeholders to discuss and consolidate advocacy plans and to come up with a comprehensive policy agenda that will be pushed for in the 18th Congress, 2019-2022.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Rom Dongeto, executive director of PLCPD, emphasized the importance of rights-based and health-oriented approach in policymaking and how this results in laws that genuinely cater to the needs of the people. He further emphasized in the context of huge development in health-related laws in the recent years, the importance of maximizing these gains as an opportunity to push for further health measures despite all the challenges that the advocates may face in the 18th Congress.
During the morning session, Dr. Rosalie Paje from the Department of Health discussed the prevalence of tobacco use in the Philippines and provided a brief discussion on current efforts by the government to address this burden of tobacco.
Atty. Jacky Sarita, managing director of HealthJustice, provided a survey of current tobacco regulations and the reforms needed in each area to make our country’s policies more compliant with Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. These include expansion of smoke-free environment, absolute ban on tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship, and graphics health warning.
“Corporate Social Responsibility activities of tobacco companies tend to humanize them even though they sell products that kill,” warned Atty. Sarita.
Other reforms, according to him, must include increasing of the age of access to cigarettes from 18 to 21 years old, removal of the tobacco industry in the Inter-Agency Committee-Tobacco, prohibition of sale of tobacco products online, and prohibition of single-stick sale (tingi).
Mr. Filomeno Sta. Ana III, coordinator of Action for Economic Reforms talked about tobacco taxation as one of the most the effective ways to deter smoking, especially among the poor. The main message of his presentation on how tobacco taxation is good for revenue, health, and the poor.
“Tobacco is not just an issue of health, but an issue of the poor. The main consumers of tobacco and alcohol are the poor. It’s clear that the poor benefit from the taxation the most because they have the highest drop in smoking prevalence according to the data,” said Mr. Sta Ana.
Dr. Yul Dorotheo, executive director of theSoutheast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, situated the Philippines in relation to its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia in terms of tobacco control regulations. According to him, the country is not lagging behind that much but there is still much to be done. For instance, the Philippines is the only country in Asia whose graphic health warnings are printed on the lower portion of the cigarette pack impinging its effectivity to deter smoking. Nevertheless, in the context of the recently enacted Universal Health Care Law and the additional tax on tobacco, Dr. Dorotheo sees a silver lining in what he considers as an emerging good practice in the Philippines.
“While this practice is more common in Europe, not many countries in Asia use excise taxes on tobacco for health expenditure. This is one of the best practices the Philippines has on tobacco,” said Dr. Dorotheo.
He also discussed the emerging concern on the use of new products, such as heated tobacco products and electronic nicotine delivery systems/electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENDS/ENNDS) or electronic cigarettes, which are currently unregulated. Several deaths and more than a hundred cases of lung diseases that can be attributed to the use of electronic cigarettes have been reported in the United States recently.
In the afternoon session, Dr. Loida Alzona of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) discussed the vital role of local government units (LGUs) in creating 100% smoke-free environments whose activities receive full support of MMDA.
After the plenary discussion, a workshop was held to identify priority measures in the 18th Congress and points of cooperation among advocates. Outputs centered on proposed revisions to the Tobacco Regulation Act, including regulation of heated tobacco products, strict regulation of electronic cigarettes, further tax measures on electronic cigarettes, and creation of mechanisms for monitoring of implementation and enforcement of the Executive Order no 26.
At the end of the activity, Ms. Au Quilala of PLCPD ensured the participants that the outputs of the workshops will be presented to the legislators and will be used as basis in engagements with PLCPD members and legislators on tobacco control advocacy.
The policy conference on tobacco control is part of a series of policy discussions for the 18th Congress that seek to identify priority human development agenda for the 18th Congress. The other themes in the series are: rural development and reproductive health.
Seven European parliamentarians from various European countries and the European parliament visited the Philippines for a week-long study tour to learn about the country’s reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent or RMNCA health on August 5-10. The study tour was organized by the European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights (EPF) and hosted by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).
The week-long study visit included exchanges with Senator Risa Hontiveros and Senator Pia Cayetano on legislative efforts in the area of maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and women’s rights and gender equality, among others.
The study visit also featured dialogues with national government agencies, civil society organizations, young people, and development partners, in which serious concerns such as adolescent reproductive health, particularly adolescent pregnancies, and the prevalence of unsafe abortions were emphasized.
In a meeting with the United Nations Population Fund in the Philippines hosted by Mr. Iori Kato, the parliamentarians learned about the country’s priorities and relationship with development partners in the pursuit of SRHR vis-à-vis its current development efforts and talked about priorities of European countries the European parliament in terms of aid for SRHR.
In an interaction with an urban community in Navotas City hosted by Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO), the parliamentarians had a heart-to-heart conversation with young people on matters that concern them, particularly on specific issues such as access to healthcare and education and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The group also visited one of the clinics of Family Planning Organization of the Philippines and learned about the services offered by the clinic to community women and young people.
The study visit culminated in a two-day issue orientation with national lawmakers and local policymakers from Benguet, Albay, Palawan, Eastern Samar, Cotabato, and provinces and municipalities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a discussion with experts on the recently enacted health-related laws including the Universal Health Care Law; how these laws impact the country’s efforts to achieve and commitment to SDG 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages), the Philippine Development Plan, and the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action; and the crucial role of local government units in ensuring that these laws truly benefit the Filipino people. In a special session during the issue orientation, PLCPD chair emeritus and Albay 1st District representative Edcel Lagman talked about the policy direction for women and children’s health and rights in the 18th Congress.
All of the discussions during the week-long study visit highlighted the importance of human rights and gender equality as lens for policymaking and implementation and the urgency of addressing RH concerns of Filipino youth and children, especially in access to healthcare and education.
The European delegation was composed of Mr. Norbert Neuser, member of the European Parliament; Ms. Aurora Madaula, member of the Parliament of Catalonia; Mr. Frank Heinrich, member of the German Bundestag; Mr. George Dallemagne, member of the Federal Parliament of Belgium; Ms. Saara Hyrkkö, member of the Parliament of Finland; Ms. Sandra Pereira, member of the Parliament of Portugal; and Ms. Silje Hjemdal, member of the Parliament of Norway.
PLCPD and EPF organized similar study visits for European parliamentarians in 2012 and in 2016.
*Photos courtesy of EPF and PLCPD.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) participated in the inter-regional meeting on population and development of parliamentarians from Asia and Africa held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on August 5-8.
The meeting was organized by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) to gather inputs from policy makers and influencers from civil society in the two regions that would contribute to the discussion in the upcoming International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)+25 Summit in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2019.
Select members of the parliament from the two regions presented their respective countries’ contributions to the ICPD Programme of Action. The Philippines, through PLCPD, shared its efforts in developing “Business Solutions for Women’s Empowerment and Healthy Society.” In the Philippines, model legislation such as the Reproductive Health Law, Extended Maternity Leave, Breastfeeding in the Workplace, Solo Parents’ Welfare, Women in Nation Building and Development, and the Magna Carta of Women have contributed to a vibrant policy environment for advancing women’s rights and empowering women.
While there remain pockets of challenges in terms of preventing teenage pregnancy, reducing fertility rates, and increasing high contraceptive use, access to reproductive health services is significantly improving in both regions. Some countries are making headway in their policies on food and nutrition security, labor and employment, public finance management, and freedom of information.
Also discussed during the inter-regional meeting were challenges brought about by climate change and political wars resulting in civil unrest, as well as the persistence of harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriages that disproportionately affect women and girls, do not only harm only citizens’ health and individual well-being but also hamper the development.
The ICPD was a landmark meeting in 1994 that transformed governments’ response to population growth from chasing after numerical targets to human rights-based approach. The ICPD and its Programme of Action highlight the centrality of reproductive health and its relationship with women’s empowerment and gender equality in ensuring the security, well-being, and development of societies. The Programme of Action calls for access to reproductive health care, including family planning and maternal and child health.
August 1, 2019
Several municipal government units in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will pursue and sustain the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law and fulfill their mandate to provide quality healthcare to their constituents.
This was the commitment made by local chief executives and Sangguniang Bayan members of various municipalities in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Basilan during the visit of Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development together with partners in the provinces, namely Al-Mujadilah Foundation Inc. (Lanao del Sur), United Youth Philippines-Women (Maguindanao), and Pinay Kilos! (Basilan).
These visits were held in the context of the recently concluded 2019 midterm elections where a new set of local government officials was elected and in light of recently enacted health-related laws, as well as of the issued Executive Order No. 12, which set forth heavy roles on the part of local government units (LGUs) in achieving the country’s sexual and reproductive health (SRH) goals.
The aim of these visits is to support LGUs in strengthening local policies related to sexual and reproductive health that will ensure relevant and effective implementation of SRH programs. This is in recognition of the power of local government units to effect change and to address the SRH needs in their respective communities and recognizes their indispensable role as vital partners in the RH advocacy. Local governments have huge potential to fill in the gaps in the national policy and to achieve its full implementation. This is why it is important to engage them and to help them realize their full potential in terms of policymaking.
During the meetings, PLCPD followed up on the status of the proposed RH-related ordinances filed in their respective local councils, which were the results of a policy development workshop conducted by PLCPD under the ARCHES Project. Fortunately, many of these municipalities were able to pass such ordinance before the end of the term of the previous Sanggunians. They also signified their openness to further collaborations with the ARCHES partner organization in addressing other areas of SRH. Specifically, PLCPD lauds the efforts of the LGUs in the municipalities of Buadipuso-Buntong, Taraka, and Piagapo in Lanao del Sur, of Ampatuan in Maguindanao, and of Maluso in Basilan, among others in adopting the said policy measure.
For those municipalities which were not able to pass the RH-related ordinance, the newly elected officials committed that they will file and pass the ordinance during their term and that they will adopt other necessary measures in prioritizing SRH needs of their constituents.
PLCPD also took this opportunity to discuss the SRH situation in the locality and possible strategies that will contribute to the improvement of the availability of and access to basic SRH services. PLCPD, in this regard, offered its technical assistance in drafting local ordinances in relation to the recently enacted laws and in conducting capacity building activities for the members of the local government and of the community. Furthermore, in the context of the recently concluded elections, it is an opportune moment for advocates to influence the legislative agenda of the local officials and to ensure that they include SRHR of its constituents in its priorities.
July 23, 2019
On July 22, President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) to the Filipino people. In this address, the President presented his administration’s achievements in the first three years, and unveiled the administration’s plans and priority agenda, setting its direction in its three remaining years. This SONA is particularly important as it takes place in the beginning of a new Congress with a new set of legislators and a new set of legislative agenda.
As an organization that seeks to uplift the life of every Filipino through legislation, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) believes that policymaking is still one of the most powerful and effective tools in ensuring that the rights and welfare of the people are respected, protected, and fulfilled – and the President has a vital role in influencing the policymaking process. His signified support on various issues is instrumental in their swift passage. At the same time, the President’s vocal support for any law is an indication of the executive’s commitment to its implementation. It is in this context that PLCPD lauds and supports some of the priority bills forwarded by President Duterte as highlighted in his recent SONA.
Legislative reforms such as the increase in the excise tax on tobacco products, which is seen as an effective measure in curbing the prevalence of tobacco use in the country, are very timely considering the huge burden that tobacco places on health and economy of the country. This tax reform is also an important in ensuring that the Universal Health Care Law will be adequately funded and that its reach will be as universal as it promises to be.
The National Land Use Bill, a proposal that has been languishing in Congress for two decades, was mentioned for the third time by President Duterte. This measure would ensure proper classification of the country’s land according to its use and in turn, would help in avoiding the adverse effects of disasters and conflicts arising from these resources. The President also mentioned the urgency of enacting the coconut levy trust fund, a law that would benefit coconut farmers.
On the other hand, also mentioned in the SONA were some alarming proposed measures, which, if enacted, would reverse the country’s efforts at protecting human rights and advancing human development. In the 17th Congress, human rights advocates in Congress and in civil society successfully blocked the passage of several retrogressive bills that blatantly disregard human rights and renege on the country’s commitment to various international treaties and conventions. These include the reinstatement of the capital punishment and the revival of mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).
However, these measures were again listed as part of this administration’s priority agenda for the next three years. PLCPD vehemently opposes the reimposition of the death penalty as this would only further oppress the already marginalized sectors of the society. PLCPD calls on the government to reform the country’s justice system, address the root causes of criminality, and adopt rehabilitative measures in countering crimes. Likewise, we appeal to the government to adopt a rights-based education; the revival of the mandatory ROTC, under the façade of instilling nationalism and inculcating discipline, will put the children in a vulnerable situation, exposing them to risks of abuse and corruption. We also call on legislators to retain the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) and strengthen the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act. Although lowering the MACR was not mentioned in the SONA, the allies of the President in both houses of Congress have included this in the priority bills of the 18th Congress.
PLCPD believes that not only the issues included in the SONA are worth highlighting but also those that were not mentioned as this would signify their value to the government. We are imploring the government to include in its priority agenda and to champion various human development issues such as children’s rights, gender equality, rural development, adequate housing, prevention of violence against women and girls, and health – particularly reproductive health.
PLCPD remains steadfast in its calls for the government to protect and uphold the human rights of every individual. We urge the 18th Congress and President Duterte to prioritize rights-based and people-centered legislation in the next three years. We also urge the duty bearers that in the crafting of laws, it is best to heed sound reasoning and scientific evidence instead of submitting to pressures coming from powerful groups whose interest are inherently in conflict with that of the people.
Finally, PLCPD enjoins everyone to remain vigilant of any advances being made by policymakers that would run counter to the principles of human rights and human development.
The Philippines is a signatory to the World Health Organization-Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), ratified in 2005. The Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 (Republic Act 9211) serves as a framework for controlling and regulating tobacco products in the Philippines, but this needs to be updated to align with the standards of the FCTC. A number of legislative measures were also passed to enhance the country’s tobacco control policies including the Sin Tax Reform Act of 2012 and Graphics Health Warning Act of 2014. These, particularly increase in sin taxes, have resulted in a significant decline in the overall smoking prevalence from 2009 to 2015.
However, despite all these progressive measures, the Philippines remains a high-burden tobacco use country according to the WHO. The Philippines has also been tagged as the second-largest tobacco consumer in Southeast Asia. Recent data shows that 1 in every 4 Filipinos smoke tobacco. Current projections further show that there will be 200 000 more smokers every year, resulting to one million more smokers before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte ends, if stronger efforts to reduce tobacco use will not be put in place. This is equivalent to economic losses of P314 billion due to the health problems caused by smoking.
Moreover, the ill effects of tobacco use extend to non-smokers including children through second-hand smoke – and even third-hand – smoke, endangering their health and well-being.
Currently, there are cessation efforts launched by the Department of Health, like “quitline”, to help smokers initiate or continue quitting tobacco use. The Senate is also deliberating on a proposed law that seeks to further increase the excise tax on tobacco products, which is expected to be passed before the end of the 17th Congress. A great deal of studies has shown that increasing tobacco tax is an effective way of deterring future smokers, which will result to an overall decrease in the prevalence of tobacco use. Bills were also filed in both houses of the Congress to raise the age of access to tobacco and to regulate the use and distribution of e-cigarettes.
PLCPD believes that ensuring the good health of every member of the society is crucial in developing their quality of life and their ability to participate in nation-building. PLCPD also recognizes the power of policymaking in creating lasting solutions to the burden of tobacco in the country.
In line with this, PLCPD joins other countries in celebrating the World No Tobacco day and in calling for the adoption of stricter tobacco control policies. Specifically, PLCPD calls for the immediate passage, in the remaining days of the 17th Congress, of proposed measure to increase the excise tax on tobacco products. The amendments to RA 9211, such as the raising the minimum age of access to cigarettes, removal of the tobacco industry in the IAC-T, and expansion of smoke-free public places, as well as banning or strict regulation of e-cigarettes and other novel tobacco products which are seen as a gateway to smoking addiction must also be pursued by the 18th Congress. These measures enjoy overwhelming public support; recent polls have shown that 9 out of 10 Filipinos support the banning of smoking in public places and raising the minimum age for buying and using cigarettes. The same popular support is shared by the proposal to increase taxes on tobacco products.
PLCPD calls on every legislator to bear in mind the health and well-being of every Filipino who suffers every day due to tobacco smoke and to resist the pressures coming from the tobacco industry.
Finally, PLCPD enjoins all Filipinos to be one with the fight for a smoke-free Philippines. For the future generations, let us build an environment free from tobacco.
Tobacco kills. Don’t let tobacco take your breath away.
May 28, 2019
The Philippine Legislator’s Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) lauds the enactment of the Expanded Maternity Leave Law (RA 11210), which was signed on February 20. On Labor Day, May 1st, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) , in coordination with the agencies of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Social Security System (SSS), spearheaded the ratification of the Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR) in San Fernando, Pampanga. The signing of the IRR signals the full implementation of the law.
“Beyond the added number of days, the law is a big leap for Filipino women’s health and nutrition of children. Healthier, well-rested mothers also means healthier babies,” said Romeo Dongeto, Executive Director of PLCPD.
The Expanded Maternity Leave Law or Republic Act 11210 grants 105 days of maternity leave for working mothers and an added 15 days for solo parents. Prior to the law, the Philippines had the lowest number of days of leave for working women in Southeast Asia at 60 days, falling short of the international standard, which is at least 98 days, as prescribed by the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization.
The Philippines’ Expanded Maternity Leave Law also allocates seven days of transferable leave for fathers or other available relatives until the third degree of consanguinity.
“Our EML law is unique. The effort to include fathers and other members of the family to participate in care work instills that parenting children is everyone’s role,” added Dongeto.
May 9, 2019
Elections are seen as an integral element of a working democracy. They signal not only a change in leadership but also a change in priorities and policy direction that will influence the country’s governance and development in the next several years. This is why it is opportune moment for advocates to discuss and to mainstream pressing issues that may help in setting the agenda of the incoming new set of leaders.
It is in this context that the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), together with its partners in various advocacies, launched an issue-based electoral and voters’ education campaign entitled, “iChange: Vote for our future,” which aimed at elevating different human development issues – particularly policy support for reproductive health (RH), a 100% smoke-free environment, children’s rights, gender equality, and rural development – as important electoral issues in preparation for the coming midterm elections. The campaign consisted of a series of activities in Metro Manila and in the provinces of Ifugao, Benguet, Palawan, Albay, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Davao, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur.
Through this campaign, PLCPD sought to provide a platform where people can discuss with the candidates the possible solutions to the perennial problems of the country. PLCPD believes in the importance of a people-oriented approach in policymaking to arrive at legislations that would genuinely cater their needs. Results of public opinion polls conducted during the election season show that there is an overwhelming support for the full implementation of the RPRH law, for stricter tobacco control policies, and for the adoption of measures to end violence against women and girls (VAWG) – particularly child marriage. These results signal the fact that these issues necessitate urgent action in the upcoming 18th Congress, 2019-2022.
During the campaign, various experts, advocates, and stakeholders further highlighted why the human development issues forwarded in this campaign are important to discuss during the election season. These discussions were backed by timely and relevant data coming from various sources. Representatives from the civil society, on the other hand, forwarded their calls for immediate action and in turn, some national and local candidates were present to register their support for the campaign and to lay out their platforms in addressing these issues. Candidates also signed on a wall of commitment and pledged to aopt measures that will promote and protect people’s health and rights, once elected.
PLCPD also utilized the power of music as an effective platform in mainstreaming the issue of VAWG by holding a concert tour and by producing a music video of the campaign’s official theme song entitled, “Ngayon ang Simula,” written and composed by PLCPD’s executive director Mr. Rom Dongeto.
Finally, PLCPD also held various media briefings where members of the national and local press were able to ask questions regarding the campaign. It is hoped that through these media activities, PLCPD was able to reach a wider audience in terms of both the voters and the candidates.
April 1, 2019
Despite being one of the best performing countries in the world in terms of gender equality due to the presence of various measures promoting it, violence against women and girls (VAWG) still exists in the Philippines until today. It exists in every space of the society beginning from the community level up to the government level and even in the cyberspace.
Child marriage is one example of this problem that compromises the security and development of women and girls. A great deal of studies has shown that this phenomenon gravely affects all aspects of a girl’s life including her childhood, education, and employment opportunities, forfeiting her chances at a bright future.
It also exposes her to several health risks such as pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications. Indeed, pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications are the leading causes of death for young women aged 15-19 around the world. Moreover, child marriage also increases her risk of violence and abuse from their husband and in-laws as these girls are often married to older men and live in the house of their husbands.
Child marriage, just like any other forms of VAWG, is a form of grave human rights violation that needs to be stopped.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) sees the upcoming 2019 midterm elections as an arena for change. It views the elections as an avenue to magnify, and consequently, to eliminate all forms of violence against women and children that have been prevalent in the country for years now, impeding the right to genuine growth and development of this sector. PLCPD also recognizes the crucial role of policymaking in ensuring that the rights of women are recognized, upheld, and well-respected.
It is in this context that PLCPD, through the project Creating Spaces to Take Action on Violence against Women and Girls, launched the “iChange: vote against VAWG” campaign which aims to raise public awareness on the issue of VAWG in the country and to identify and develop potential policy champions among candidates. In this campaign, PLCPD specifically calls for the enactment of a law that will prohibit and criminalize the facilitation of child marriage in the country. Furthermore, PLCPD calls the attention of the candidates to adopt measures that will protect the rights of the women and girls, when elected.
iChange: Vote against VAWG embarked on a voters’ education series and concert tour. The first part is a voters’ education forum where stakeholders from different sectors discussed the impacts of VAWG and why it is important to end it. They also called on the candidates of the upcoming 2019 midterm elections to be champions of the rights of women and girls and to be one with the fight against all forms of VAWG. In return, some national candidates were present to share their platforms and to give their pledge of commitment in ending VAWG.
The second part showcases various progressive artists such as Tapati, Ja Quintana, Rom Dongeto, Kokoi Baldo, Jug Honeyluv, and Skarlet Brown who have shared their talents in a concert that aims to utilize the power of music as an effective platform in raising different societal issues. PLCPD also produced a music video for the campaign’s official theme song entitled “Ngayon ang Simula” written and composed by PLCPD’s executive director, Mr. Rom Dongeto..
After its launch in Quezon city, this campaign was brought to the provinces of Maguindanao, and Lanao del sur. This activity is part of a larger campaign entitled “iChange: vote for our future”, an issue-based campaign aimed to mainstream several human development issues and to influence the platforms of the candidates as well as the voting criteria of the voters.
VAWG is real. VAWG is a form of grave human rights violation. VAWG needs to be stopped. This May 2019, PLCPD calls on every voters not to forget to vote and to vote against VAWG! #EndVAWG #EndChildMarriage #iChangePH
March 12, 2019
100% smoke-free policy, higher taxes on cigarettes, regulation of e-cigarettes, and higher minimum age for buying and using cigarettes.
National and local candidates in the upcoming mid-term elections vowed to support the call of advocates for stricter tobacco control legislation during a voters’ education forum called iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines held in Bicol College in Daraga, Albay.
Launched by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) in time for the campaign season, the iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines campaign aims to mainstream tobacco control as a right-to-health issue and call on both voters and candidates to include health among the primary considerations in the upcoming elections.
During the forum in Albay, Dr. Evy Sarmiento of the Department of Health-Region V discussed the burden of tobacco in the Philippines and in the Bicol Region, while Rep. Joey Salceda discussed local smoke-free policy, and advocates, including Action for Economic Reforms executive director Men Sta. Ana and Smoke-free Action Network founder Ms. Rose Olarte, talked about why tobacco control should be part of the national conversation during the election season.
“There is an overwhelming support for stricter tobacco control policies,” says PLCPD Advocacy Manager Au Quilala. During the campaign launch held in Manila in February, PLCPD and Pulse Asia presented the results of the nationwide survey conducted from January 26 to 31, 2019, which reveal that nine out of 10 adult Filipinos agree that smoking or the use of cigarettes in public places should be prohibited, and nine and out 10 adult Filipinos also agree to raising the minimum age for buying and using cigarettes from 18 to 25 years old.
“The results of this survey show that Filipinos, smokers and non-smokers alike, are aware of the dangers of using tobacco. The results are also an indication that it is time to introduce and discuss policy reforms that will make our tobacco control laws more health-oriented. May this pressing public health issue deeply penetrate into the national conversation and compel our next legislators and government officials to act,” Quilala added.
The iChange campaign calls on 2019 election candidates to support moves to amend the current Tobacco Regulation Act (Republic Act 9211), specifically to expand the definition of places where smoking is banned, raise the minimum age for buying and using cigarettes from 18 to 25 years old, and remove the tobacco industry from the Interagency Committee-Tobacco. Other reforms supported by advocates are the proposed increase in the tax imposed on tobacco products by at least P60 and banning or regulation of electronic cigarettes or vapes.
The iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines campaign features a series of voters’ education forums and media events in vote-rich provinces in the Philippines, including Albay, Laguna, Iloilo, and Cebu. It also solicits commitments of candidates to support stricter tobacco control policies.
Empower women, ensure their participation in peacebuilding and development.
This was the call of the constituents, advocates, stakeholders, and participants from five provinces of ARMM that gathered together in the recently-concluded regional dialogue organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).
The dialogue came after the historic ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, creating the new Bangsamoro region. It is in this context that this dialogue discusses the crucial link between women empowerment and the realization of lasting peace in the region. It is comprised of three plenary sessions and one talk show that explored the interrelatedness on women’s health and rights, peace, and development.
Among the highlights of the dialogue is the discussion on the importance of fulfilling women’s rights in peacebuilding as well as in other issues confronting the region. Resource speakers coming from different groups and government agencies emphasized the need to adopt a gender-sensitive lens whenever tackling peace and security issues and the need to engage women in conflict situations as they are the ones who suffer the most in times of conflict.
“Women are burdened with caring for the rest of the family members, further making their reproductive role more burdensome,” said Ms. Noraida Abo of UNYPhil-Women.
In line with this, partners from the BARMM shared their experiences and best practices in providing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in the region especially in times of conflict. Some of these good practices include raising public awareness on issues such as family planning, SRH, and gender-based violence, distributing IEC materials, ensuring public participation, training and capacitating students and Muslim religious leaders as well as local health service providers, providing RH-related services, and establishing hotline numbers.
Moreover, in the context of the new Bangsamoro government, the panelists also touched upon the significance of this new government set-up in providing SRH-related services in the region and the opportunities that advocates can take advantage of in mainstreaming women’s rights and in ensuring that these rights are being upheld and respected.
“There is a provision in the BOL saying that there should be women’s representation in the decision-making and policy-determining bodies in the Bangsamoro government… and that there should be mechanisms for consultation with women and other marginalized groups,” said Hon. Raissa Jajurie of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.
The panelists of the talk show, which included Rep. Teddy Baguilat, Atty. Ishak Mastura, and Ms. Akrima Arap, also reminded everyone the significance of this new government which could possibly be replicated by other regions as well as the challenges that may confront it as the transition moves forward. While being skeptical about the prospects of a federal set-up for the country, Rep. Baguilat mentioned that the developments that will happen in the region could provide support for or against President Duterte’s federalism proposal.
A plenary session was also held to discuss key issues concerning adolescent reproductive health and why investing in young people’s health is crucial in achieving development. Ms. Janette Dimakuta of DOH-BARMM presented some data on the situation of adolescents in the country and two youth leaders from Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur were present to provide their personal experiences on the issues confronting their peers and to forward their call against some practices like child labor and child marriage (CEFM) that hinder their genuine growth and development.
“We, the children, are too young to get married,” said Ms. Fatima Sugadol, a youth leader from Maguindanao.
Participants of the dialogue also identified key concerns in SRH and VAWG in their respective provinces and the actions that they can do to address them in a workshop session aimed to discuss possible scenarios after the ratification of BOL and to propose an action plan on mainstreaming women and girls’ rights in BARMM.
The regional dialogue concluded with a symbolic action in solidarity with the celebration of International Women’s Day.
PLCPD, together with its partners from ARCHES and Creating Spaces projects, organized a two-day dialogue themed “Closing gaps, building bridges: A regional dialogue on women’s health and rights, peace, and development”. It was held on March 7-8, 2019 in at the Em Manor Hotel, Cotabato City. This is the fourth installment in a five-dialogue series, each dialogue dedicated to discussing the most pressing issues affecting RH concerns at the time. The first two national dialogues, held in March and in August 2017, discussed roadblocks to the full implementation of the RH Law, including the legal battle for family planning, financing, and local capacities to implement the law, among others. In August 2018, the first of two regional dialogues to be held in the ARMM focused on best practices and success stories in implementing the law in the region, despite these challenges. A special session on adolescent reproductive health concerns, particularly child marriage, was for the first time convened among various sectors
This project is made possible by the support of the European Union, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam sa Pilipinas, and Global Affairs Canada.
March 7, 2019
Since 2017, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and its partners in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have organized three national and regional dialogues that provide a platform for duty-bearers and stakeholders to discuss issues and propose collective recommendations to contribute to the fulfilment of Filipinos’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
Now in its fourth installment, this dialogue brings together participants from five different provinces in the Bangsamoro region to explore the interrelatedness of fulfilling women’s health and rights, women empowerment and closing gender gaps, and the achievement of peace, security, and development.
The Reproductive Health Law is a landmark legislation that aims to protect the health and lives of mothers and their children through the provision of services and information on reproductive health, among others. However, hampered by challenges like legal barriers, lack of adequate funding and willingness of some LGUs to implement the law, and lack of public knowledge and awareness, the full implementation of the law has not yet been realized, more than six years after its enactment.
On the other hand, despite being one of the best performing countries in terms of gender equality due to the presence of various measures promoting it, violence against women and girls (VAWG) is still rampant and widely normalized in the Philippines until today. Child marriage, for instance, is one example of this problem present in the country that compromises the safety and development of its women and girls.
Given these formidable challenges, PLCPD optimistically views the recent ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law as a milestone event and an opportunity to advance its advocacies specifically on gender equality and women’s health and rights in the newly-formed transitional government. It is an opportune moment for the advocates to accelerate the implementation of existing policies and to explore possible programs and policies that would potentially address the issues concerning SRHR and gender inequality. In line with that, PLCPD calls for the transitional government to uphold rights of the women and to provide equal opportunity for them as the persistence of gender gaps may detrimentally affect the efforts to achieve peace, security and development.
The dialogue also coincides with the celebration of International Women’s Day. PLCPD, through this dialogue, hopes to explore the crucial link between women empowerment and the achievement of lasting peace in the region. Many studies have shown that participation of women in conflict resolution increases the probability of a lasting peace agreement. International instruments have also recognized and reaffirmed the important role of women in these peace processes.
This dialogue aims to produce a call to action for complementing national-level advocacy and for advancing relevant legislation at the regional level and an action plan for mainstreaming women and girls’ rights and reproductive health in the BARMM which advocates can use as guides in collectively pushing for the advancement of their goals.
It is hoped that stakeholders will be given a platform to present the agenda to the BARMM and that the output can effectively be transmitted to the region’s newly-appointed leaders and be converted to concrete policies and programs. Working together, advocates and leaders can come up with measures to achieve full realization of SRHR of all and to eliminate of all forms of violence against women and girls, and consequently, to achieve lasting peace and development in the region.
28 February 2019—Nine out of 10 adult Filipinos agree that smoking or the use of cigarettes in public places should be prohibited.
This is according to the results of a national survey on smoking conducted by Pulse Asia from January 26 to 31.
Presented during the launch of “iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines,” an electoral campaign led by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), the results of the nationwide survey also reveal that nine out of 10 Filipinos agree that the minimum age of those allowed to buy and use cigarettes should be raised from 18 to 25 years old.
“The results of this survey show that the Filipino public is very open and receptive to essential legislative reforms that can be done as regards tobacco control. May this piece of information have a deep impact on candidates for the 2019 midterm polls, for them to resolutely pursue measures that will contribute to a smoke-free Philippines,” said PLCPD Executive Director Romeo Dongeto.
1 in 4 Pinoys are smokers
The Pulse Asia survey also reveals that while almost 8 out of 10 Filipinos (76%) aged 18 years and above say they do not use tobacco, with 62% saying that they never used tobacco in their life, almost one in four Filipinos aged 18 years and above (24%) use tobacco, with 19% saying they are daily tobacco smokers.
“These figures show how deep the smoking problem is rooted in Philippine society. Despite recent strides our nation has taken to control tobacco use, we still have a long way to go. That is why we are launching the iChange campaign, a drive we are pursuing in time for the election season, with the specific goal of making this issue be at the forefront of electoral debates and garner support from incoming elected officials towards crafting and enacting stricter laws on tobacco control,” Dongeto explained.
Present during the launch of the iChange campaign were Dr. Charl Andrew Bautista of the Department of Health, who discussed the burden of tobacco use on Filipino health, and several other advocates from HealthJustice, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Social Watch Philippines, and Youth for Sin Tax. The groups highlighted the policy reforms needed by the country and why it is important to talk about tobacco control during the election period.
“The election period is what we call the noon for public clamor, as we all know that candidates running for public office are most receptive to public opinion during this period. That’s why advocates need to sound the alarms on tobacco use even louder at this moment in time. We also hope that voters will consider important issues such as health in making the important decision of choosing whom to vote,” Dongeto stressed.
The iChange campaign called on 2019 election candidates to support moves to amend the current Tobacco Regulation Act (Republic Act 9211), to expand the definition of places where smoking is banned, raise the minimum age for buying and using cigarettes from 18 to 25 years old, and increase the tax imposed on tobacco products by at least P60 to make cigarette prices prohibitive and to generate revenue to support the government’s universal healthcare program.
“Evidence of overwhelming public support for these amendments is here. Nine out of 10 Filipinos agree to stricter tobacco control laws. May this pressing public health issue deeply penetrate into the national conversation and compel our next legislators and government officials to act,” Dongeto concluded.
After the launch on February 28, the iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines campaign will hold a series of media events and voters’ education forums in Laguna, Albay, Cebu City, and Iloilo City.
Date of posting: 13 February 2019
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) 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 policy advocacy work
- Strong interpersonal and networking skills
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills
Date of posting: 13 February 2019
Deadline of application: 23 February 2019
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), a non-government advocacy organization composed of national legislators, is looking for a highly committed individual to fill the position of Media and Communications Officer.
The primary tasks of the Media and Communications Officer are the following:
- development and implementation of information and media campaign plan for legislative advocacies of the institution,
- coordination and networking with media organizations and individuals,
- development of media releases and statements for the organization’s priority issues and advocacy campaigns,
- person-to-person advocacy and provision of technical assistance to PLCPD members and policy champions on matters related to media advocacy,
- assistance in or management of high-impact and creative advocacy activities of the organization, and
- management/implementation of short-term and strategic communication projects and activities of the institution.
- graduate of Development Communication, Communication Arts, Journalism, or any Social Science course
- has excellent interpersonal skills
- familiar with writing basic media releases (advisory, press briefer, press release)
- proficient in oral and written communications in both English and Filipino
- preferably known in the media circuit or has links with media
- at least two years of experience related to media work
- computer literate
Interested parties may send their letter of application and curriculum vitae until 23 February 2019 (Friday) to: Mr. Romeo C. Dongeto, Executive Director
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (copy: email@example.com)
Here is the detailed job description and competency requirements for the position.
Shortlisted applicants will be notified by 26 February 2019.
January 23, 2019
On January 23, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly and hastily approved a bill that lowers that minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 to 12 years old, amending the current Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (JJWA). Senate is expected to also approve of its version soon. The bill is yet another attempt of Congress, under the leadership of Gloria Arroyo and Tito Sotto, and the Duterte Administration to revert all the positive gains under the JJWA and to trample on the rights of the children, the very sector it vows to protect.
Proponents of the bill claim that the proposed law aims to address the problem of children being used by criminal and drug syndicates to carry out criminal activities. Under this bill, children from ages 12 to 18 who commit serious crimes like murder, homicide, rape and violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 will be sent to reformative institutions called “Bahay Pag-asa.”
International and local groups and organizations advocating for the rights of the children have already expressed their disappointment and fierce opposition to the proposed law, calling it an act of violence against children. Advocates have also expressed their concern on the severe conditions of youth care facilities around the country and their doubt that these could adequately and effectively cater to the needs of the children in conflict with the law (CICL).
The Child Rights Network (CRN) firmly believes that lowering the MACR goes against the best interest of Filipino children. It is not the solution to both the problems of children being involved in and children being used for criminal activities. This proposed measure is anti-poor, anti-human rights, and anti-children. Apart from being plainly absurd, this measure is also unfounded, misguided, and uncalled for. Data from the Philippine National Police show that only 1.72% of reported crimes are committed by children. Furthermore, subjecting these children to the country’s flawed justice system and to the arduous judicial process is utterly inhumane and would traumatize them for the rest of their lives. These children are already victims of the harsh environment and society that they live in. Approving this proposed law will just further victimize them as they would be dehumanized and stigmatized, impeding their rights to survival and development opportunities.
A great deal of studies have shown that criminalizing children leads to recidivism. Detention and/or incarceration of children have also been linked to adverse effects on a child’s mental, physical and emotional development, as they are likely to be subjected to discrimination and abuse while detained. Furthermore, jailing children deny them of opportunities for advancement through education, and future employment. The proposals to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility also ignore scientific evidence that a child’s brain is still structurally and functionally immature and that the brain reaches full maturity at the age of 25.
The Child Rights Network, together with other child’s rights advocacy groups, vehemently opposes the bill and reiterates its call to retain the current MACR. Rather than lowering it, the government should instead focus on strengthening the implementation of the JJWA and on improving the facilities for children in conflict with the law. CRN further believes that rehabilitation is still the more effective and sound solution to the increasing number of child offenders. Evidence shows that these measures are effective in restoring and reintegrating children to the community, as documented by child rights advocates.
CRN also calls on all legislators to address the root causes of the problem instead of targeting the children.
Finally, CRN enjoins everyone to remain vigilant with all the development in the proposed law and to strongly resist all attacks against the rights of the children.
Children are not criminals. The real criminals are those who use and exploit the children to engage in criminal activities. The real criminals are those in the government who blatantly disregard and step on the rights of children in exchange of political gains. These are the real criminals that should be punished and be put in jail.