by Christine F. Herrera
ADMINISTRATION standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro and his wife, Tarlac Rep. Monica Louise Prieto-Teodoro, have withdrawn support for the reproductive health bill, saying it does not address the problem of poverty.
Prieto-Teodoro, chairman of the House committee on the welfare of children, yesterday withdrew her signature as co-author of the bill, which is authored by Albay Rep Edcel Lagman and co-authored by some 131 lawmakers.
She now echoes the views of Catholic bishops that contraceptives are “abortifacients.”
Earlier, Zambales Rep. Maria Milagros Magsaysay, Teodoro’s spokesman, also withdrew her co-authorship of the bill.
The about-face comes days before the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines is to announce its guidelines for Catholic voters.
The bishops have persistently pressured presidential candidates and even threatened to withdraw support for those who would support the bill.
The Catholic Church supports only natural family planning and seeks to block legislation that would offer Filipinos a choice of other methods of contraception.
Teodoro’s cousin and rival, Senator Benigno Aquino III, has continued to defy the bishops and support the RH bill.
Aquino, who received 41 percent in the latest Standard Poll, is leading the surveys in the presidential race while Teodoro is at the tail-end with only 3 percent.
[“My] new stand on the issue is consistent with [my] husband’s platform of government to fight against the four faces of poverty: poverty of the mind, poverty of the pocket, poverty of the environment, poverty of relationships,” Prieto-Teodoro said, in a bid to explain her withdrawal.
“We shall protect the life of each and every citizen. Respect for life shall be from the moment of conception to the moment of death of our constituents. The protection of life is guaranteed by our constitution and on this principle there is no compromise,” Teodoro said in a speech during the Lakas-Kampi- CMD convention recently.
Prieto-Teodoro said the RH bill had been “defanged and is now toothless” in addressing her key advocacies: food, shelter, education and clothing for poor Filipino children.
Like the Arroyo administration, the Teodoros do not want a legislated national policy on reproductive health and population development to curb the rapid 2.36-percent annual population growth.
Prieto-Teodoro said the bill did not directly address the problem of poverty in the country, where about 5,000 Filipinos are born daily, with most of them ending up poor.
“I don’t want to give poor Filipinos, especially children, the false hope that this bill will solve the problem of poverty because it does not,’’ she ssaid.
“I’d rather spend our meager resources in directly feeding the poor, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the poor and educating them so they grow up productive and independent,’’
People should be told that it took more than population control to reduce poverty and spark socio-economic development in the Philippines.
“Population growth is not a problem if resources are available and well-managed to cope with the additional people requiring public services, employment, housing, and so on,” she said.
The RH bill seeks to grant public funding to family planning methods using artificial contraceptives and sex education for students. It also gives access to reproductive health information to avoid unwanted and untimely pregnancies and maternal deaths to limit the country’s population.
But Prieto-Teodoro said majority of maternal deaths was caused by the lack of proper medical facilities and care.
She said the RH bill “does not address this lack of basic health care services, and will allow the problem to persist while it wastes funds on abortifacients and other ineffective reproductive health measures.”