Category Archives: women’s rights

Will Justice Presbitero Velasco be the swing vote against the RH law?

Pro-life Philippines president Eric Manalang recently predicted in a news conference that the Supreme Court will strike down the reproductive health (RH) law through a close vote. According to him, the outcome of the ruling will likely hinge on two swing justices whom he did not name during the event.

Writing for online media outlet Rappler last July, veteran journalist Maritess Vitug identified Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr. and Diosdado Peralta as potential swing justices. According to her, Velasco is looking for a middle ground wherein the SC “will declare only parts of, not the entire law, unconstitutional.”

Both Velasco and Peralta are appointees of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, herself an opponent of the RH bill. Vitug speculated that Peralta may be inclined to vote against the RH law because he is a former law student at the University of Santo Tomas, a Catholic education institution.

There are clues on how Velasco may vote on the case at bar. Vitug noted after the fifth and final oral argument that Velasco repeatedly questioned the need to have a RH law. He stressed for one that the Department of Health already has a policy on contraceptives even without the RH law.

Presbitero Velasco

Presbitero Velasco, Supreme Court Associate Justice, is touted as a swing vote in the RH law case

His son, former Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, voted against the RH bill during the second reading at the House of Representatives. On that crucial round of voting, the pro-RH camp won by only nine votes, 113 to 104.

Several months before the actual vote, the younger Velasco joined the so-called 9YL, a group of nine first-term House solons opposed to the said measure. The group include actress and Ormoc City Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez as well as Cebu Rep. Rachel del Mar.

The justice’s son bid for a second term as Marinduque congressman failed when he lost last May 2013 to challenger Regina Ongsiako Reyes. Reyes ran under the ruling Liberal Party while the younger Velasco allied himself with the opposition National Unity Party.

Despite winning by 4000 votes, Reyes was disqualified by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) with finality for being an American citizen just three days after Election Day. Last December, the Supreme Court affirmed COMELEC’s decision (Justice Velasco understandable did not take part in the case).

Despite the rulings made by COMELEC and the SC, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. insisted that Reyes remains the lone representative of Marinduque. He said that Reyes cannot be unseated yet since her case is still pending before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

Of course, Justice Velasco can ultimately view the RH law differently compared to his son. And who knows, he might be swayed by the plea of Belmonte that ruling the RH law as unconstitutional is like “vetoing” the will of the people. Will Velasco listen to the man who’s stopping his son from reassuming his House seat?

Needless to say, RH advocates may be better off putting their money on Peralta than on Velasco. For all intents and purposes, Velasco can be listed as a “no” vote.

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How will the Supreme Court rule on the RH law?

If published reports are to be believed, the 15 magistrates of the Supreme Court (SC) is set to announce its ruling on the long-stalled Reproductive Health (RH) law next week, perhaps as early as April 8.

The RH law, otherwise known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act or Republic Act (RA) 10354, was signed by President Aquino last December 2012, capping off years of intense debates and legislative maneuverings.

However, opponents of the law immediately headed to the High Court to challenge its constitutionality. By March 2013, the SC issued, through a 10-5 vote, issued a 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the RH law.

Four months later, voting 8-7, the SC decided to extend the said TRO indefinitely. The way justices voted on the TRO extension is an excellent indicator of how they will eventually vote as regards RA 10354’s constitutionality.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Marvic Leonen voted against the issuance of a TRO twice. Justices Martin Villarama and Bienvenido Reyes later joined them.

By being against the TRO, these seven justices essentially gave a green light vis-à-vis the law’s implementation. Why will you pave the way for the implementation of a disputed law if you think it is unconstitutional to begin with?


Supporters of the RH law launched the #Yes2RH campaign via social media

Now, let’s turn our attention to the justices who voted in favor of the TRO. It can be said that they are not necessarily against the RH law (except to the five justices who’ve been vocal against it during the oral arguments). Courts here and overseas regularly issue TROs and injunctions if the seeking party can show that it “will suffer immediate irreparable harm unless the order is issued.” In other words, suspending the implementation of the RH law may have been done out of prudence.

News website first broke the news last February that the RH law may be headed for defeat at the high court. The online news outlet mentioned justices Jose Perez, Teresita De Castro, Jose Mendoza (said to be the assigned writer of the ruling), and Roberto Abad as “inclined” to vote against the law. Incidentally, all four of them voted twice to stop RH law from being implemented.

The news reports prompted the opposing sides on the issue to make last ditch-efforts to sway the justices. Pro-Life Philippines president Eric Manalang called on their adherents to hold prayer vigils. He nonetheless expressed confidence that their side will have a close win depending on how two swing justices vote.

For his part, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that the SC will effectively “veto the people’s will” if it rules the RH law as unconstitutional. He noted that the law was passed by legislators in both the House and Senate, in their capacity as duly-elected representatives of their respective constituencies.

Some pro-RH groups like the Likhaan Center for Women’s health used the social media to show that the law enjoys popular support. Using the hashtag #Yes2RH, the group urged adherents of the bill to take pictures of themselves while holding hand-written signs expressing support for the law.

no to RH bill

A “No to RH BIll” tarpaulin outside Our Lady of Loreto Church in Sampaloc, Manila

Will the RH Law have the same fate as the Anti-Cybercrime Law?

The RH law and Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act share a lot of parallelisms although they deal with totally unrelated subjects. First, the two laws were signed by President Benigno Aquino III just three months apart.

Both laws earned fierce opposition even before they got implemented. Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that criticisms against RA 10175 only gained traction AFTER it became law. In contrast, staunch opposition to the RH law had been there since a version of the legislation was introduced in the late 1990s.

Critics of RA 10175 and 10354 went to the SC to challenge the constitutionality of the aforementioned laws. And on both instances, the High Court suspended the implementation of these laws. Just like RA 10175, the RH law has a “separability clause.”

It states that “if any part or provision of the law is held invalid or unconstitutional, the other provisions not affected thereby shall remain in force and effect.” Read the full text of 10354 here.

This is crucial in analyzing how the SC will ultimately deal with the constitutional challenge to the RH law. The SC ruling on the case involving RA 10175 shows that the High Court is unwilling to declare an entire law unconstitutional.

On that issue, the SC declared Internet libel constitutional even as it voided several of the law’s provisions. One plausible scenario therefore is for the SC to let the RH law stand as is while gutting some of its contested portions.

(UP NEXT:Will Justice Presbitero Velasco be the swing vote against the RH law?)

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Jessica Soho on Vice Ganda’s apology

The controversy about Vice Ganda’s gang rape joke about veteran news anchor Jessica Soho shows no signs of cooling down. The comedian, Jose Mari Viceral in real life, publicly apologized to Soho yesterday in the noontime program Showtime. Watch the video below:

In his remarks, he recounted that he called Soho personally a few hours earlier but the multi-awarded journalist refused to speak to him. “Sorry, hindi maayos ang timpla ko ngayon,” the comedian recalled Soho as saying to him. When asked if they can talk some other time, the journalist retorted: “I don’t think so.”

In a statement made in response to the comedian’s public apology, Soho said: “I sincerely hope and pray that this was done with the purest intentions and determination to put this issue behind us.” The journalist added that Viceral’s number is not registered in her phone’s directory.

“I told him I wasn’t feeling well and I wasn’t sure I was ready to talk to him. But I clearly remember thanking him for his call,” she explained, apparently aware that the comedian’s narration of events might put her in a negative light.

Women’s groups slam comedian

Meanwhile, a prominent women’s right group and a government agency also criticized the comedian for his comedy skit about Soho. The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) said Vice Ganda’s jokes are “tasteless and revolting.” Rape, the group said, “should never be a material for a comedy concert.”

jessica soho vice ganda

Vice Ganda, Arnold Clavio, and Jessica Soho (Credits:

“The repercussions of rape jokes are serious and damaging. In the pursuit of humor, women’s and even men’s vulnerabilities are exploited,” the PCW reiterated. The commission also called on entertainment and media professionals “to practice censorship, sensitivity to feelings, and gender responsiveness.”

Joms Salvador, secretary-general of women’s rights group Gabriela, stressed that rape “should never be trivialized nor made into a joking matter in everyday conversations and even in shows, comedy or otherwise,” regardless of whom the joke is directed.

“That personalities make rape a laughing matter and the public even laughs at such jokes reflects a deeper problem in our society, a society where violence against women and children occur and flourish despite the utter inhumanity of it,” Salvador said.

She called on media networks to provide gender sensitivity trainings to their employees, noting that the media “plays a big part in educating the general public on what is right and what is not proper regarding treatment of women and children in particular and human rights in general.”

My take: What do people say when they see a girl who looks stressed? “Mukha kang na-rape.” What about to a woman who’s wearing skimpy outfit? “Parang gusto mo ma-rape.” Does it mean they are belittling the experience of rape survivors? Not necessarily.

Those remarks are insensitive, but admit it, those had become part of people’s normal conversations. Vice Ganda’s ‘gang rape’ joke on Jessica Soho is tasteless and crude. But I would neither pass judgments on him as a person nor read too much behind this situation.

Also, criticizing Vice Ganda’s mean joke against Jessica Soho should not be a license for anyone to use homophobic insults against him.

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Vice Ganda vs Jessica Soho

Stand-up comedian Vice Ganda had a field day mocking GMA News anchor Jessica Soho during his concert last May 17. During a two-minute monologue, the comedian, Jose Marie Viceral in real life, said if Soho would star in a bold movie, it will be titled “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Sobra,” a reference to the anchor’s rotund figure.

Vice Ganda also joked that Soho will have a hard time using a weighing scale. See the clip here. “Ang hirap nga lang kung si Jessica Soho magbo-bold. Kailangan gang rape lagi. Sasabihin ng rapist, ‘Ipasa ang lechon.’ Sasabihin naman ni Jessica, ‘Eh nasaan yung apple?'” the Showtime host continued.

jessica soho vice ganda

Vice Ganda, Arnold Clavio, and Jessica Soho (Credits:

Four days after the concert, Soho and her GMA News subordinates have finally reacted to the matter. Saksi anchor Arnold Clavio fired the opening salvo through his morning program in DZBB. “Bakit mo binibiktima ang mga taong seryoso sa trabaho nila? Huwag mo silang kasangkapanin para lang makapagpagpatawa. Bakit hindi taga-diyan sa inyo ang gawin mong subject ng jokes mo? Bakit hindi taga-ABS-(CBN)?” he said.

Shortly after Clavio’s remarks, other GMA News reporters including Bam Alegre, Maki Pulido, and Jiggy Manicad took to Twitter to defend their voice and condemn the comedian. Their criticisms of the comedian center on his alleged insensitivity to gang rape victims. It is not clear though why it took eleven days for anyone from GMA News to react on Viceral’s insults against Soho.

Soho herself has reacted to the issue through a statement sent to GMA News Online. “Rape is not a joke and should never be material for a comedy concert,” she said. She added: “I thank all those who shared my hurt and expressed their support, but this should not be about me but about rape victims who suffer tremendously from this terrible crime. The horrors they go through are unspeakable and should never be taken lightly, especially by way of a cruel joke.”

The comedian has not responded to the issue in today’s episode of Showtime, but he might do so tomorrow. He nevertheless turned emotional when he talked about his latest visit to his ailing grandfather in Pangasinan, a fact that ABS-CBN dutifully reported as news.

PERSONAL: There’s no issue about Vice Ganda making jokes about Soho’s weight. It seems to be human nature to ridicule people for their appearance. I’m guilty of that too frequently. Remember the issue years ago when Joey de Leon jokingly referred to Pokwang as “mukhang aswang” and all the indignation that followed it?

The issue is, did he cross the line in using gang rape as part of his material? As I mentioned in a previous post, the media for the longest time has been guilty of trivializing rape, a heinous crime. He probably meant no offense against anyone, but he’s guilty of making a distasteful joke. How will Vice Ganda address the issue? Will it affect the ratings of Showtime? Abangan.

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RA 10354 – Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012

[ REPUBLIC ACT NO. 10354 ]


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:

SECTION 1. Title. – This Act shall be known as “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012″.

SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. – The State recognizes and guarantees the human rights of all persons including their right to equality and nondiscrimination of these rights, the right to sustainable human development, the right to health which includes reproductive health, the right to education and information, and the right to choose and make decisions for themselves in accordance with their religious convictions, ethics, cultural beliefs, and the demands of responsible parenthood.

Pursuant to the declaration of State policies under Section 12, Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, it is the duty of the State to protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution and equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The State shall protect and promote the right to health of women especially mothers in particular and of the people in general and instill health consciousness among them. The family is the natural and fundamental unit of society. The State shall likewise protect and advance the right of families in particular and the people in general to a balanced and healthful environment in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. The State also recognizes and guarantees the promotion and equal protection of the welfare and rights of children, the youth, and the unborn.

Moreover, the State recognizes and guarantees the promotion of gender equality, gender equity, women empowerment and dignity as a health and human rights concern and as a social responsibility. The advancement and protection of women’s human rights shall be central to the efforts of the State to address reproductive health care.

The State recognizes marriage as an inviolable social institution and the foundation of the family which in turn is the foundation of the nation. Pursuant thereto, the State shall defend:

(a) The right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood;

(b) The right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development;

(c) The right of the family to a family living wage and income; and

(d) The right of families or family associations to participate in the planning and implementation of policies and programs

The State likewise guarantees universal access to medically-safe, non-abortifacient, effective, legal, affordable, and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies which do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and relevant information and education thereon according to the priority needs of women, children and other underprivileged sectors, giving preferential access to those identified through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) and other government measures of identifying marginalization, who shall be voluntary beneficiaries of reproductive health care, services and supplies for free. ■ •

The State shall eradicate discriminatory practices, laws and policies that infringe on a person’s exercise of reproductive health rights.

The State shall also promote openness to life; Provided, That parents bring forth to the world only those children whom they can raise in a truly humane way.

SEC. 3. Guiding Principles for Implementation. – This Act declares the following as guiding principles:

(a) The right to make free and informed decisions, which is central to the exercise of any right, shall not be subjected to any form of coercion and must be fully guaranteed by the State, like the right itself;

(b) Respect for protection and fulfillment of reproductive health and rights which seek to promote the rights and welfare of every person particularly couples, adult individuals, women and adolescents;

(c) Since human resource is among the principal assets of the country, effective and quality reproductive health care services must be given primacy to ensure maternal and child health, the health of the unborn, safe delivery and birth of healthy children, and sound replacement rate, in line with the State’s duty to promote the right to health, responsible parenthood, social justice and full human development;

(d) The provision of ethical and medically safe, legal, accessible, affordable, non-abortifacient, effective and quality reproductive health care services and supplies is essential in the promotion of people’s right to health, especially those of women, the poor, and the marginalized, and shall be incorporated as a component of basic health care;

(e) The State shall promote and provide information and access, without bias, to all methods of family planning, including effective natural and modern methods which have been proven medically safe, legal, non-abortifacient, and effective in accordance with scientific and evidence-based medical research standards such as those registered and approved by the FDA for the poor and marginalized as identified through the NHTS-PR and other government measures of identifying marginalization: Provided, That the State shall also provide funding support to promote modern natural methods of family planning, especially the Billings Ovulation Method, consistent with the needs of acceptors and their religious convictions;

(f) The State shall promote programs that: (1) enable individuals and couples to have the number of children they desire with due consideration to the health, particularly of women, and the resources available and affordable to them and in accordance with existing laws, public morals and their religious convictions: Provided, That no one shall be deprived, for economic reasons, of the rights to have children; (2) achieve equitable allocation and utilization of resources; (3) ensure effective partnership among national government, local government units (LGUs) and the private sector in the design, implementation, coordination, integration, monitoring and evaluation of people-centered programs to enhance the quality of life and environmental protection; (4) conduct studies to analyze demographic trends including demographic dividends from sound population policies towards sustainable human development in keeping with the principles of gender equality, protection of mothers and children, born and unborn and the promotion and protection of women’s reproductive rights and health; and (5) conduct scientific studies to determine the safety and efficacy of alternative medicines and methods for reproductive health care development;

(g) The provision of reproductive health care, information and supplies giving priority to poor beneficiaries as identified through the NHTS-PR and other government measures of identifying marginalization must be the primary responsibility of the national government consistent with its obligation to respect, protect and promote the right to health and the right to life;

(h) The State shall respect individuals’ preferences and choice of family planning methods that are in accordance with their religious convictions and cultural beliefs, taking into consideration the State’s obligations under various human rights instruments;

(i) Active participation by nongovernment organizations (NGOs), women’s and people’s organizations, civil society, faith-based organizations, the religious sector and communities is crucial to ensure that reproductive health and population and development policies, plans, and programs will address the priority needs of women, the poor, and the marginalized;

(j) While this Act recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by law, the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortive complications and all other complications arising from pregnancy, labor and delivery and related issues shall be treated and counseled in a humane, nonjudgmental and compassionate manner in accordance with law and medical ethics;

(k) Each family shall have the right to determine its ideal family size: Provided, however, That the State shall equip each parent with the necessary information on all aspects of family life, including reproductive health and responsible parenthood, in order to make that determination;

(l) There shall be no demographic or population targets and the mitigation, promotion and/or stabilization of the population growth rate is incidental to the advancement of reproductive health;

(m) Gender equality and women empowerment are central elements of reproductive health and population and development;

(n) The resources of the country must be made to serve the entire population, especially the poor, and allocations thereof must be adequate and effective: Provided, That the life of the unborn is protected;

(o) Development is a multi-faceted process that calls for the harmonization and integration of policies, plans, programs and projects that seek to uplift the quality of life of the people, more particularly the poor, the needy and the marginalized; and

(p) That a comprehensive reproductive health program addresses the needs of people throughout their life cycle.

SEC. 4. Definition of Terms. – For the purpose of this Act, the following terms shall be defined as follows:

(a) Abortifacient refers to any drug or device that induces abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother’s womb or the prevention of the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother’s womb upon determination of the FDA.

(b) Adolescent refers to young people between the ages of ten (10) to nineteen (19) years who are in transition from childhood to adulthood.

(c) Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (BEMONC) refers to lifesaving services for emergency maternal and newborn conditions/complications being provided by a health facility or professional to include the following services: administration of parenteral oxytocic drugs, administration of dose of parenteral anticonvulsants, administration of parenteral antibiotics, administration of maternal steroids for preterm labor, performance of assisted vaginal deliveries, removal of retained placental products, and manual removal of retained placenta. It also includes neonatal interventions which include at the minimum: newborn resuscitation, provision of warmth, and referral, blood transfusion where possible.

(d) Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEMONC) refers to lifesaving services for emergency maternal and newborn conditions/complications as in Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care plus the provision of surgical delivery (caesarian section) and blood bank services, and other highly specialized obstetric interventions. It also includes emergency neonatal care which includes at the minimum: newborn resuscitation, treatment of neonatal sepsis infection, oxygen support, and antenatal administration of (maternal) steroids for threatened premature delivery.

(e) Family planning refers to a program which enables couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and to have access to a full range of safe, affordable, effective, non-abortifacient modem natural and artificial methods of planning pregnancy.

(f) Fetal and infant death review refers to a qualitative and in-depth study of the causes of fetal and infant death with the primary purpose of preventing future deaths through changes or additions to programs, plans and policies.

(g) Gender equality refers to the principle of equality between women and men and equal rights to enjoy conditions in realizing their full human potentials to contribute to, and benefit from, the results of development, with the State recognizing that all human beings are free and equal in dignity and rights. It entails equality in opportunities, in the allocation of resources or benefits, or in access to services in furtherance of the rights to health and sustainable human development among others, without discrimination.

(h) Gender equity refers to the policies, instruments, programs and actions that address the disadvantaged position of women in society by providing preferential treatment and affirmative action. It entails fairness and justice in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities between women and men, and often requires women-specific projects and programs to end existing inequalities. This concept recognizes that while reproductive health involves women and men, it is more critical for women’s health.

(i) Male responsibility refers to the involvement, commitment, accountability and responsibility of males in all areas of sexual health and reproductive health, as well as the care of reproductive health concerns specific to men.

(j) Maternal death review refers to a qualitative and in-depth study of the causes of maternal death with the primary purpose of preventing future deaths through changes or additions to programs, plans and policies.

(k) Maternal health refers to the health of a woman of reproductive age including, but not limited to, during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.

(l) Modern methods of family planning refers to safe, effective, non-abortifacient and legal methods, whether natural or artificial, that are registered with the FDA, to plan pregnancy.

(m) Natural family planning refers to a variety of methods used to plan or prevent pregnancy based on identifying the woman’s fertile days.

(n) Public health care service provider refers to: (1) public health care institution, which is duly licensed and accredited and devoted primarily to the maintenance and operation of facilities for health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of individuals suffering from illness, disease, injury, disability or deformity, or in need of obstetrical or other medical and nursing care; (2) public health care professional, who is a doctor of medicine, a nurse or a midwife; (3) public health worker engaged in the delivery of health care services; or (4) barangay health worker who has undergone training programs under any accredited government and NGO and who voluntarily renders primarily health care services in the community after having been accredited to function as such by the local health board in accordance with the guideline’s promulgated by the Department of Health (DOH).

(o) Poor refers to members of households identified as poor through the NHTS-PR by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or any subsequent system used by the national government in identifying the poor.

(p) Reproductive Health (RH) refers to the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. This implies that people are able to have a responsible, safe, consensual and satisfying sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so. This further implies that women and men attain equal relationships in matters related to sexual relations and reproduction.

(q) Reproductive health care refers to the access to a full range of methods, facilities, services and supplies that contribute to reproductive health and well-being by addressing reproductive health-related problems. It also includes sexual health, the purpose of which is the enhancement of life and personal relations. The elements of reproductive health care include the following:

(1) Family planning information and services which shall include as a first priority making women of reproductive age fully aware of their respective cycles to make them aware of when fertilization is highly probable, as well as highly improbable;

(2) Maternal, infant and child health and nutrition, including breastfeeding;

(3) Proscription of abortion and management of abortion complications;

(4) Adolescent and youth reproductive health guidance and counseling;

(5) Prevention, treatment and management of reproductive tract infections (RTIs), HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmittable infections (STIs);

(6) Elimination of violence against women and children and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence;

(7) Education and counseling on sexuality and reproductive health;

(8) Treatment of breast and reproductive tract cancers and other gynecological conditions and disorders;

(9) Male responsibility and involvement and men’s reproductive health;

(10) Prevention, treatment and management of infertility and sexual dysfunction;

(11) Reproductive health education for the adolescents; and

(12) Mental health aspect of reproductive health care.

(r) Reproductive health care program refers to the systematic and integrated provision of reproductive health care to all citizens prioritizing women, the poor, marginalized and those invulnerable or crisis situations.

(s) Reproductive health rights refers to the rights of individuals and couples, to decide freely and responsibly whether or not to have children; the number, spacing and timing of their children; to make other decisions concerning reproduction, free of discrimination, coercion and violence; to have the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of sexual health and reproductive health: Provided, however, That reproductive health rights do not include abortion, and access to abortifacients.

(t) Reproductive health and sexuality education refers to a lifelong learning process of providing and acquiring complete, accurate and relevant age- and development-appropriate information and education on reproductive health and sexuality through life skills education and other approaches.

(u) Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) refers to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and other types of infections affecting the reproductive system.

(v) Responsible parenthood refers to the will and ability of a parent to respond to the needs and aspirations of the family and children. It is likewise a shared responsibility between parents to determine and achieve the desired number of children, spacing and timing of their children according to their own family life aspirations, taking into account psychological preparedness, health status, sociocultural and economic concerns consistent with their religious convictions.

(w) Sexual health refers to a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free from coercion, discrimination and violence.

(x) Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) refers to any infection that may be acquired or passed on through sexual contact, use of IV, intravenous drug needles, childbirth and breastfeeding.

(y) Skilled birth attendance refers to childbirth managed by a skilled health professional including the enabling conditions of necessary equipment and support of a functioning health system, including transport and referral faculties for emergency obstetric care.

(z) Skilled health professional refers to a midwife, doctor or nurse, who has been educated and trained in the skills needed to manage normal and complicated pregnancies, childbirth and the immediate postnatal period, and in the identification, management and referral of complications in women and newborns.

(aa) Sustainable human development refers to bringing people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, to the center of development process, the central purpose of which is the creation of an enabling environment in which all can enjoy long, healthy and productive lives, done in the manner that promotes their rights and protects the life opportunities of future generations and the natural ecosystem on which all life depends.

SEC. 5. Hiring of Skilled Health Professionals for Maternal Health Care and Skilled Birth Attendance. – The LGUs shall endeavor to hire an adequate number of nurses, midwives and other skilled health professionals for maternal health care and skilled birth attendance to achieve an ideal skilled health professional-to-patient ratio taking into consideration DOH targets: Provided, That people in geographically isolated or highly populated and depressed areas shall be provided the same level of access to health care: Provided, further, That the national government shall provide additional and necessary funding and other necessary assistance for the effective implementation of this provision.

For the purposes of this Act, midwives and nurses shall be allowed to administer lifesaving drugs such as, but not limited to, oxytocin and magnesium sulfate, in accordance with the guidelines set by the DOH, under emergency conditions and when there are no physicians available: Provided, That they are properly trained and certified to administer these lifesaving drugs.

SEC. 6. Health Care Facilities. – Each LGU, upon its determination of the necessity based on well-supported data provided by its local health office shall endeavor to establish or upgrade hospitals and facilities with adequate and qualified personnel, equipment and supplies to be able to provide emergency obstetric and newborn care:Provided, That people in geographically isolated or highly populated and depressed areas shall have the same level of access and shall not be neglected by providing other means such as home visits or mobile health care clinics as needed: Provided, further, That the national government shall provide additional and necessary funding and other necessary assistance for the effective implementation of this provision.

SEC. 7. Access to Family Planning. – All accredited public health facilities shall provide a full range of modern family planning methods, which shall also include medical consultations, supplies and necessary and reasonable procedures for poor and marginalized couples having infertility issues who desire to have children: Provided, That family planning services shall likewise be extended by private health facilities to paying patients with the option to grant free care and services to indigents, except in the case of non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group, but they have the option to provide such full range of modern family planning methods: Provided, further, That these hospitals shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another health facility which is conveniently accessible: Provided, finally, That the person is not in an emergency condition or serious case as defined in Republic Act No. 8344.

No person shall be denied information and access to family planning services, whether natural or artificial: Provided, That minors will not be allowed access to modern methods of family planning without written consent from their parents or guardian/s except when the minor is already a parent or has had a miscarriage.

SEC. 8. Maternal Death Review and Fetal and Infant Death Review. – All LGUs, national and local government hospitals, and other public health units shall conduct an annual Maternal Death Review and Fetal and Infant Death Review in accordance with the guidelines set by the DOH. Such review should result in an evidence-based programming and budgeting process that would contribute to the development of more responsive reproductive health services to promote women’s health and safe motherhood.

SEC. 9. The Philippine National Drug Formulary System and Family Planning Supplies. – The National Drug Formulary shall include hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other safe, legal, non-abortifacient and effective family planning products and supplies. The Philippine National Drug Formulary System (PNDFS) shall be observed in selecting drugs including family planning supplies that will be included or removed from the Essential Drugs List (EDL) in accordance with existing practice and in consultation with reputable medical associations in the Philippines. For the purpose of this Act, any product or supply included or to be included in the EDL must have a certification from the FDA that said product and supply is made available on the condition that it is not to be used as an abortifacient.

These products and supplies shall also be included in the regular purchase of essential medicines and supplies of all national hospitals: Provided, further, That the foregoing offices shall not purchase or acquire by any means emergency contraceptive pills, postcoital pills, abortifacients that will be used for such purpose and their other forms or equivalent.

SEC. 10. Procurement and Distribution of Family Planning Supplies. – The DOH shall procure, distribute to LGUs and monitor the usage of family planning supplies for the whole country. The DOH shall coordinate with all appropriate local government bodies to plan and implement this procurement and distribution program. The supply and budget allotments shall be based on, among others, the current levels and projections of the following:

(a) Number of women of reproductive age and couples who want to space or limit their children;

(b) Contraceptive prevalence rate, by type of method used; and

(c) Cost of family planning supplies.

Provided, That LGUs may implement its own procurement, distribution and monitoring program consistent with the overall provisions of this Act and the guidelines of the DOH.

SEC. 11. Integration of Responsible Parenthood and Family Planning Component in Anti-Poverty Programs. – A multidimensional approach shall be adopted in the implementation of policies and programs to fight poverty. Towards this end, the DOH shall implement programs prioritizing full access of poor and marginalized women as identified through the NHTS-PR and other government measures of identifying marginalization to reproductive health care, services, products and programs. The DOH shall provide such programs, technical support, including capacity building and monitoring.

SEC. 12. PhilHealth Benefits for Serious .and Life-Threatening Reproductive Health Conditions. – All serious and life-threatening reproductive health conditions such as HIV and AIDS, breast and reproductive tract cancers, and obstetric complications, and menopausal and post-menopausal-related conditions shall be given the maximum benefits, including the provision of Anti-Retroviral Medicines (ARVs), as provided in the guidelines set by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC).

SEC. 13. Mobile Health Care Service. – The national or the local government may provide each provincial, city, municipal and district hospital with a Mobile Health Care Service (MHCS) in the form of a van or other means of transportation appropriate to its terrain, taking into consideration the health care needs of each LGU. The MHCS shall deliver health care goods and services to its constituents, more particularly to the poor and needy, as well as disseminate knowledge and information on reproductive health. The MHCS shall be operated by skilled health providers and adequately equipped with a wide range of health care materials and information dissemination devices and equipment, the latter including, but not limited to, a television set for audio-visual presentations. All MHCS shall be operated by LGUs of provinces and highly urbanized cities.

SEC. 14. Age- and Development-Appropriate Reproductive Health Education. – The State shall provide age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education to adolescents which shall be taught by adequately trained teachers informal and nonformal educational system and integrated in relevant subjects such as, but not limited to, values formation; knowledge and skills in self-protection against discrimination; sexual abuse and violence against women and children and other forms of gender based violence and teen pregnancy; physical, social and emotional changes in adolescents; women’s rights and children’s rights; responsible teenage behavior; gender and development; and responsible parenthood: Provided, That flexibility in the formulation and adoption of appropriate course content, scope and methodology in each educational level or group shall be allowed only after consultations with parents-teachers-community associations, school officials and other interest groups. The Department of Education (DepED) shall formulate a curriculum which shall be used by public schools and may be adopted by private schools.

SEC. 15. Certificate of Compliance. – No marriage license shall be issued by the Local Civil Registrar unless the applicants present a Certificate of Compliance issued for free by the local Family Planning Office certifying that they had duly received adequate instructions and information on responsible parenthood, family planning, breastfeeding and infant nutrition.

SEC. 16. Capacity Building of Barangay Health Workers (BHWs). – The DOH shall be responsible for disseminating information and providing training programs to the LGUs. The LGUs, with the technical assistance of the DOH, shall be responsible for the training of BHWs and other barangay volunteers on the promotion of reproductive health. The DOH shall provide the LGUs with medical supplies and equipment needed by BHWs to carry out their functions effectively: Provided, further, That the national government shall provide additional and necessary funding and other necessary assistance for the effective implementation of this provision including the possible provision of additional honoraria for BHWs.

SEC. 17. Pro Bono Services for Indigent Women. – Private and nongovernment reproductive healthcare service providers including, but not limited to, gynecologists and obstetricians, are encouraged to provide at least forty-eight (48) hours annually of reproductive health services, ranging from providing information and education to rendering medical services, free of charge to indigent and low-income patients as identified through the NHTS-PR and other government measures of identifying marginalization, especially to pregnant adolescents. The forty-eight (48) hours annual pro bono services shall be included as a prerequisite in the accreditation under the PhilHealth.

SEC. 18. Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). – The cities and municipalities shall endeavor that barriers to reproductive health services for PWDs are obliterated by the following:

(a) Providing physical access, and resolving transportation and proximity issues to clinics, hospitals and places where public health education is provided, contraceptives are sold or distributed or other places where reproductive health services are provided;

(b) Adapting examination tables and other laboratory procedures to the needs and conditions of PWDs;

(c) Increasing access to information and communication materials on sexual and reproductive health in braille, large print, simple language, sign language and pictures;

(d) Providing continuing education and inclusion of rights of PWDs among health care providers; and

(e) Undertaking activities to raise awareness and address misconceptions among the general public on the stigma and their lack of knowledge on the sexual and reproductive health needs and rights of PWDs.

SEC. 19. Duties and Responsibilities. – (a) Pursuant to the herein declared policy, the DOH shall serve as the lead agency for the implementation of this Act and shall integrate in their regular operations the following functions:

(1) Fully and efficiently implement the reproductive health care program;

(2) Ensure people’s access to medically safe, non-abortifacient, legal, quality and affordable reproductive health goods and services; and

(3) Perform such other functions necessary to attain the purposes of this Act.

(b) The DOH, in coordination with the PHIC, as may be applicable, shall:

(1) Strengthen the capacities of health regulatory agencies to ensure safe, high quality, accessible and affordable reproductive health services and commodities with the concurrent strengthening and enforcement of regulatory mandates and mechanisms;

(2) Facilitate the involvement and participation of NGOs and the private sector in reproductive health care service delivery and in the production, distribution and delivery of quality reproductive health and family planning supplies and commodities to make them accessible and affordable to ordinary citizens;

(3) Engage the services, skills and proficiencies of experts in natural family planning who shall provide the necessary training for all BHWs;

(4) Supervise and provide assistance to LGUs in the delivery of reproductive health care services and in the purchase of family planning goods and supplies; and

(5) Furnish LGUs, through their respective local health offices, appropriate information and resources to keep the latter updated on current studies and researches relating to family planning, responsible parenthood, breastfeeding and infant nutrition.

(c) The FDA shall issue strict guidelines with respect to the use of contraceptives, taking into consideration the side effects or other harmful effects of their use.

(d) Corporate citizens shall exercise prudence in advertising its products or services through all forms of media, especially on matters relating to sexuality, further taking into consideration its influence on children and the youth.

SEC. 20. Public Awareness. – The DOH and the LGUs shall initiate and sustain a heightened nationwide multimedia-campaign to raise the level of public awareness on the protection and promotion of reproductive health and rights including, but not limited to, maternal health and nutrition, family planning and responsible parenthood information and services, adolescent and youth reproductive health, guidance and counseling and other elements of reproductive health care under Section 4(q).

Education and information materials to be developed and disseminated for this purpose shall be reviewed regularly to ensure their effectiveness and relevance.

SEC. 21. Reporting Requirements. – Before the end of April each year, the DOH shall submit to the President of the Philippines and Congress an annual consolidated report, which shall provide a definitive and comprehensive assessment of the implementation of its programs and those of other government agencies and instrumentalities and recommend priorities for executive and legislative actions. The report shall be printed and distributed to all national agencies, the LGUs, NGOs and private sector organizations involved in said programs.

The annual report shall evaluate the content, implementation, and impact of all policies related to reproductive health and family planning to ensure that such policies promote, protect and fulfill women’s reproductive health and rights.

SEC. 22. Congressional Oversight Committee on Reproductive Health Act. – There is hereby created a Congressional Oversight Committee (COC) composed of five (5) members each from the Senate and the House of Representatives. The members from the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be appointed by the Senate President and the Speaker, respectively, with at least one (1) member representing the Minority.

The COC shall be headed by the respective Chairs of the Committee on Health and Demography of the Senate and the Committee on Population and Family Relations of the House of Representatives. The Secretariat of the COC shall come from the existing Secretariat personnel of the Senate and the House of Representatives committees concerned.

The COC shall monitor and ensure the effective implementation of this Act, recommend the necessary remedial legislation or administrative measures, and shall conduct a review of this Act every five (5) years from its effectivity. The COC shall perform such other duties and functions as may be necessary to attain the objectives of tins Act.

SEC. 23. Prohibited Acts. – The following acts are prohibited:

(a) Any health care service provider, whether public or private, who shall:

(1) Knowingly withhold information or restrict the dissemination thereof, and/or intentionally provide incorrect information regarding programs and services on reproductive health including the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically-safe, non-abortifacient and effective family planning methods;

(2) Refuse to perform legal and medically-safe reproductive health procedures on any person of legal age on the ground of lack of consent or authorization of the following persons in the following instances:

(i) Spousal consent in case of married persons: Provided, That in case of disagreement, the decision of the one undergoing the procedure shall prevail; and

(ii) Parental consent or that of the person exercising parental authority in the case of abused minors, where the parent or the person exercising parental authority is the respondent, accused or convicted perpetrator as certified by the proper prosecutorial office of the court. In the case of minors, the written consent of parents or legal guardian or, in their absence, persons exercising parental authority or next-of-kin shall be required only in elective surgical procedures and in no case shall consent be required in emergency or serious cases as defined in Republic Act No. 8344; and

(3) Refuse to extend quality health care services and information on account of the person’s marital status, gender, age, religious convictions, personal circumstances, or nature of work: Provided, That the conscientious objection of a health care service provider based on his/her ethical or religious beliefs shall be respected; however, the conscientious objector shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible: Provided, further, That the person is not in an emergency condition or serious case as defined in Republic Act No. 8344, which penalizes the refusal of hospitals and medical clinics to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support in emergency and serious cases;

(b) Any public officer, elected or appointed, specifically charged with the duty to implement the provisions hereof, who, personally or through a subordinate, prohibits or restricts the delivery of legal and medically-safe reproductive health care services, including family planning; or forces, coerces or induces any person to use such services; or refuses to allocate, approve or release any budget for reproductive health care services, or to support reproductive health programs; or shall do any act that hinders the full implementation of a reproductive health program as mandated by this Act;

(c) Any employer who shall suggest, require, unduly influence or cause any applicant for employment or an employee to submit himself/herself to sterilization, use any modern methods of family planning, or not use such methods as a condition for employment, continued employment, promotion or the provision of employment benefits. Further, pregnancy or the number of children shall not be a ground for non-hiring or termination from employment;

(d) Any person who shall falsify a Certificate of Compliance as required in Section 15 of this Act; and

(e) Any pharmaceutical company, whether domestic or multinational, or its agents or distributors, which directly or indirectly colludes with government officials, whether appointed or elected, in the distribution, procurement and/or sale by the national government and LGUs of modern family planning supplies, products and devices.

SEC. 24. Penalties. – Any violation of this Act or commission of the foregoing prohibited acts shall be penalized by imprisonment ranging from one (1) month to six (6) months or a fine of Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) to One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00), or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the competent court: Provided, That, if the offender is a public officer, elected or appointed, he/she shall also suffer the penalty of suspension not exceeding one (1) year or removal and forfeiture of retirement benefits depending on the gravity of the offense after due notice and hearing by the appropriate body or agency.

If the offender is a juridical person, the penalty shall be imposed upon the president or any responsible officer. An offender who is an alien shall, after service of sentence, be deported immediately without further proceedings by the Bureau of Immigration. If the offender is a pharmaceutical company, its agent and/or distributor, their license or permit to operate or conduct business in the Philippines shall be perpetually revoked, and a fine triple the amount involved in the violation shall be imposed.

SEC. 25. Appropriations. – The amounts appropriated in the current annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) for reproductive health and natural and artificial family planning and responsible parenthood under the DOH and other concerned agencies shall be allocated and utilized for the implementation of this Act. Such additional sums necessary to provide for the upgrading of faculties necessary to meet BEMONC and CEMONC standards; the training and deployment of skilled health providers; natural and artificial family planning commodity requirements as outlined in Section 10, and for other reproductive health and responsible parenthood services, shall be included in the subsequent years’ general appropriations. The Gender and Development (GAD) funds of LGUs and national agencies may be a source of funding for the implementation of this Act.

SEC. 26. Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR). – Within sixty (60) days from the effectivity of this Act, the DOH Secretary or his/her designated representative as Chairperson, the authorized representative/s of DepED, DSWD, Philippine Commission on Women, PHIC, Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Economic and Development Authority, League of Provinces, League of Cities, and League of Municipalities, together with NGOs, faith-based organizations, people’s, women’s and young people’s organizations, shall jointly promulgate the rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act. At least four (4) members of the IRR drafting committee, to be selected by the DOH Secretary, shall come from NGOs.

SEC. 27. Interpretation Clause. – This Act shall be liberally construed to ensure the provision, delivery and access to reproductive health care services, and to promote, protect and fulfill women’s reproductive health and rights.

SEC. 28. Separability Clause. – If any part or provision of this Act is held invalid or unconstitutional, the other provisions not affected thereby shall remain in force and effect.

SEC. 29. Repealing Clause. – Except for prevailing laws against abortion, any law, presidential decree or issuance, executive order, letter of instruction, administrative order, rule or regulation contrary to or is inconsistent with the provisions of this Act including Republic Act No. 7392, otherwise known as the Midwifery Act, is hereby repealed, modified or amended accordingly.

SEC 30. Effectivity. – This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in at least two (2) newspapers of general circulation.

Republic Act 10354 – Reproductive Health Act of 2012

Fulfilling his pledge that the controversial reproductive health bill will be enacted before 2012 ends, President Benigno Aquino III has signed Republic Act 10354 or the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012” in Malacanang last December 21. Click this link to download the full text of RA 10354 (credits to for originally uploading the file).

republic act 10354 - reproductive health law

President Benigno Aquino III has signed into law Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012

Online news outlet noted that Aquino’s low-key signing of the law stands in contrast with the great deal of attention that the measure received from supporters and opponents alike throughout the many years it has languished in Congress.

RA 10354 is the consolidated version of House Bill 4244, which was primarily authored by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin) and Senate Bill 2865, which has Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor-Santiago as its main author.

The law will come into effect fifteen days after the publication of all its contents in at least two national newspapers. Malacanang has already published a text version of RA 10354 in its official website. This blog will also be posting its entire content.


I have always been open about my support for the RH bill (still not used to referring it as a “law”!). It is a pleasure to get to know advocates and fellow supporters in the past few years that I’ve written about the measure, including Ms Chi Laigo-Vallido (Forum for Family Planning and Development), Ms Elizabeth Angsioco (Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines), Mr. Ramon San Pascual* and Ms Maida Ojeda of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development and Juan Carlo Tejano and Gibby Gorres of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines. (Note: Mr. San Pascual is now with the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians for Population and Development in Bangkok, Thailand).

mark madrona rh bill

Supporting the reproductive health bill (now a law) with full conviction!

Honestly, I had hoped that Malacanang would organize a formal signing ceremonies for this landmark law in the presence of RH advocates (see for example this 2010 video of United States President Barack Obama signing the law which repealed the long-standing policy prohibiting gays in the military). Those who campaigned for the passage of the RH bill for over a decade now deserved that moment.

Aquino can also use that moment to give a full-throttled defense of his support for the initiative (again, like what Obama did). But on another thought,  he probably did not want to offend the Catholic Church by being perceived as “spiking the ball” after scoring a win. Oh well, RA 10354 will never come into being without his decisive support.

I’m sad to note that two of my professors in University of the Philippines-Diliman, Dr. Josefina Cabigon (UP Population Institute) and Dr. Ma. Lina Nepomuceno-Van Heugten (UP Psychology Department), did not live to see this day. Wherever they are, I know this news will make them happy.


House, Senate OKs RH bill on final reading

Bucking intense pressure from the powerful Roman Catholic Church, both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed on third and final reading their respective versions of the controversial reproductive health bill Monday evening. A bicameral conference committee will soon be formed to reconcile the two versions of the bill before it can be sent to President Benigno Aquino III for final approval. Check this page on the Senate website for an explanatory note on how the legislative process works.

This is the farthest the bill has gone since it was first introduced in Congress in the 1990s. This time, it did not take the Lower House five hours to render a verdict on the RH bill. For the third reading, House solons were required to cast a vote first regarding the measure before being allowed to explain their stand.

The lengthy perorations of certain lawmakers last Wednesday night dragged the proceedings until Thursday midnight. Shortly after the presence of a quorum has been confirmed early Monday night, the House leadership immediately put the RH bill to a vote. In contrast to the close vote during the second reading, the pro-RH bill camp won decisively this time – 133 votes in favor, 79 votes against, and 7 abstentions.

The Senate also gave a decisive victory for the advocates of the RH bill. Today’s RH bill proceedings in the Upper House began with Senator Vicente Sotto III introducing 33 amendments to the proposed legislation. This led to a repeated back-and-forth between Sotto and Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Once Sotto was done with his individual amendments, Cayetano moved to have the bill voted on the second reading. Santiago backed her motion. The vote on the second and third reading yielded the same 13-8 result in favor of the RH bill.

purple ribbon for rh bill

The Reproductive Health bill moved closer to being a law today, December 17




Cayetano, A.

Cayetano, P.



















Senators Arroyo and Recto voted “yes” on the condition that the amendments made on the Senate version will make it through the bicameral conference committee. Curiously, Senators Lito Lapid and Sergio Osmena III did not take part in today’s proceedings. Their votes may be crucial in case Arroyo and Recto decide to switch sides in the end.

Different reactions

In a pastoral letter released just as the nation marks the beginning of the annual Simbang Gabi, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) once again slammed the RH bill. Penned by Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the statement describes the RH bill as being “gift wrapped to look like a gift for maternal health care (even if) it will lead to greater crimes against women.” The CBCP also hailed opponents of the bill as “heroes” of the nation.

For its part, international advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the RH bill is “a massive step forward to promote women’s health” and that its passage “marks the start of an era in which public policies can save lives, promote healthy family planning, and respect human rights.” HRW Asia researcher Carlos Conde added: “The Aquino administration should be credited for having the political will to muster support for the bill in Congress despite the threat of a political backlash.”

PS: Read this article from for a detailed account of what happened in today’s Senate proceedings.

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