SK Abolition Halted, Iloilo youth orgs laud DILG Sec’s commitment to reform SK

25 08 2010

REPRESENTATIVES from the SK Reform Coalition main office in Metro Manila and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jessie Robredo on Tuesday agreed to amend the Local Government Code of 1991, particularly amending provisions on the Sangguniang Kabataan, Katipunan ng mga Kabataan and its powers and duties.

The dialogue was set to finally settle confusion on the issue of the SK Abolition. After the said meeting Secretary Robredo committed to carryout massive reform measures to empower the SK instead of abolishing the institution.

By this, the local partner youth organizations of the SK Reform Coalition are elated of the DILG Secretary’s commitment.

“We gladly welcome Secretary Robredo’s support in the initiative to deliberately reform the SK as an institution that directly involves the youth in governance”, says Kenneth Eusebio the First Time Voters’ Network (FTV) Iloilo City Coordinator.

“Secretary Robredo’s added commitment will make the SK Reform initiative gain ground and all the more gain acceptance among SK abolitionists”, follows Eusebio.

FTV recently joined calls in forwarding SK Reform amidst the initial pronouncement of President Aquino regarding the fazing-out of the said youth governance body.

Among the salient points which the SK Reform Coalition representatives and Robredo agreed on was the increasing of the age bracket of youth participants from 15-17 to 15-25. The two groups agreed to this in order to broaden participation and representation of the sector.

Also agreed during the consultation was the creation of a Youth Consultative Body or Youth Development Council, which will be composed of local youth organizations in the barangay. This body will act as the youth development arm of the barangays.
Akbayan Youth Iloilo City Coordinator Wharson Arguelles says that, “This common agreement on what to reform in the SK is an important step towards enhancing the organizational capacity of the SK to be responsive to the needs of the youth in the Barangays as well as expand the participatory reach of the institution”.

The mentioned agreements are included in the SK Reform and Empowerment Bill (House Bill no. 468) of Akbayan Party-list filed by its representatives Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello last July 1 which will be enhanced with the agreed amendments and submitted in a draft bill by DILG to Malacanang.

“We expect that the enhanced version of the Bill will be out very soon and that the next step will be done through legislation in Congress”, Eusebio supplements.

“However, we are not keen on expecting action from just pronouncements”, quickly adds Arguelles “Though we are very optimistic of the Secretary’s expressed support, we will try to see if such support be translated to real and concrete actions for reforming the SK”.

Read the rest of this entry »


SCAP to March with CEAP and Farmers to Push for CARPER

9 12 2008

Catholic schools to rally for CARP extension

12/08/2008 | 11:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The biggest organization of Catholic schools in the country on Monday said it would hold a massive street protest Wednesday to goad Congress to extend Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and at the same time denounce the government’s plan to amend the Constitution.

In an interview with Radio Veritas, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) director Msgr. Gerardo Santos said the main purpose of the protest is to help the farmers call for the extension of CARP before Congress goes on a Christmas break on December 20.

“Kaya tayo ay sumusuporta sa ating mga kapatid sa kanayunan sa kanilang pangangailangan na magkaroon ng tunay at (The reason why we support the farmers is because they a need to have the real and) long lasting CARP with extension and reform,” he said.

Santos added the protest is also in line with the inter-faith rally against Charter change in Makati City on Dec. 12.

“Pareho kasi gumawa nga ng national statement ang CEAP na tutol sa Cha-cha before 2010 at pro-CARP with extension and reform (the CEAP made a national statement that we are against Charter change and we are pro CARP),” he said.

Santos said they plan to unite and join all the farmers who marched to Manila in their bid to extend the program. He further said all the protesters are expected to meet at St. Peter’s Church in Quezon City before proceeding to Batasan Complex.

The CEAP has 1,252 member-schools.

Those who will join the protest are Dela Salle University, Adamson University, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, College of the Holy Spirit, Don Bosco Technical School, Philippine Christian College, San Beda College, Concordia School, Miriam College, University of Sto.Tomas, Divine World Seminary and St. Paul Manila.

Also set to join the protest action are La Consolacion College-Manila; St.Joseph’s College-Quezon city;Sta.Isabel College,Stella Maris; Sta.Catalina College, Daughters of Charity, St. Pedro Poveda,St.Scholastica College, Sienna College, Order St. Benedictine College, Task Force Mapalad and farmers from Yulo, Hacienda Bacan, and Calatagan. – Aie Balagtas See, GMANews.TV


Sponsorship Speech for the Reproductive Health Bill by AKBAYAN Rep. Risa Hontiveros

24 09 2008

Sept. 22, 2008

Pro-life. Pro-abortion. Anti-Marriage. Anti-family. Mr. Speaker, the danger of reducing each other into labels is that it obscures the clarity that is always direly needed amidst division and confusion. When applied deliberately, with the intention of establishing borders or building walls, labels become instruments of fundamentalism and dehumanization, as if those who do not agree with us are less than human, impure, and mere targets of resentment.

We have begun our plenary deliberations for the National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood, and Population Development Bill, a controversial but crucial measure. Inflicting our tantrums upon this chamber and the public in general will gain us nothing. Sobriety, Ginoong Speaker, and the triumph of reason should govern our conduct as members of the House. Huwag natin idaan sa galit o pagmamaktol ang ating pagpahayag ng ating posisyon sa isyu na ito.

What happened last week must not be repeated. The integrity of the process was put into question as a means to delay the process: there was an allegation of signature-forging, and the authors of the bill in question were labeled “magnanakaw”. It was not just decorum that was abandoned, Ginoong. Speaker, but something more basic: decency, respect for dissent, willingness to engage in debate, and the ascendancy of rules.

To reduce a constitutional mandate to appropriate public funds for a health program as mere ‘pagnanakaw’ is not just insulting, Ginoong Speaker, but a travesty of Congress’s mandate. It shows supreme ignorance of why this institution exists. As AKBAYAN representative, I am a proud author of the reproductive health bill; the public funds appropriated for the programs proposed went through a vote in the Appropriations Committee and were subsequently approved. To call that act ‘pagnanakaw’ insults the committee, the members of the House who went through a legitimate process, and the entire chamber itself.

The proponents of the measure are accused of being interested only in the appropriated funds for the program. This is entirely untrue. The appropriation will directly go to DOH and the Population Commission to finance services and products needed to implement the program. Mauuna ang AKBAYAN sa pagsisiwalat ng anumang katiwalian sa pag-gamit ng pondong ito dahil ito ay dapat mapunta sa mga pamilyang Pilipino, sa mga kababaihan at hindi sa bulsa nino man, o sino man sa mga mambabatas na nandito ngayon at kung sino mang opisyal ng pamahalaan.

Democracy entails healthy debates and respect for differences. Kung gusto ng mga sumangsang-ayon o kumokontra sa panukalang ito na mag-rally, maari nila itong gawin. Pero wag natin i-derail o hadlangan ang proseso, Ginoong Speaker. This achieves nothing, a great disservice to the Filipino people who expect Congress to do its job, and to do it well. Let those who oppose the bill lay down their arguments, and let those who support it present their points. Let us not fan the flames of confusion, but instead be instruments of reason.

Let us not lose track of why this debate is happening in the first place. AKBAYAN calls on legislators, members of the Catholic and other faith communities, fellow women, fellow feminists, husbands and partners of women, and the public in general to step back from this climate of antagonism and listen with an open mind as to why this bill is relevant, important, and why it must be urgently enacted.

We need this bill because of abortion, and not for it. Right now, the Philippines is in the midst of an abortion crisis, according to various media institutions, with World Health Organization putting the number of abortions at 800,000 annually. Walong daang libong abortion, walong daang libong kababaihan, Ginoong Speaker. Binibigyan tayo ng numerong ito ng ideya kung gaano kalala ang problema, pero hindi nito kayang maipakita ang sanhi kung bakit ganito ang nangyayari.

Kahit doblehin o triplehin pa natin ang walong daang libo, hindi nito kayang ipakita kung ilang beses nabibiyak ang puso ng isang teenager na babae na nabuntis nang wala sa kanyang kagustuhan. Forty-five percent of the pregnancies in the country are unwanted, according to the same global organization; if only wanting and not wanting could indeed be truly divided in percentage and decisions parceled into solid numbers, then perhaps it would have been simple to subdivide and process this issue so that choices can easily be made.

Unfortunately, a pregnant teenager without a choice cannot indulge in such calculated decisions. Ang alam lang nya ay dapat syang tumigil sa pag-aaral dahil sa kahihiyan o dahil di pwede at di tinatanggap ang pagiging buntis ng isang babaeng di kasal sa ilang paaralan. She will probably be forced to marry the father of the unborn child, or to marry someone else, anyone, just to avoid the disgrace and humiliation. Her mind would most likely try imagine the hundreds of thousands of pesos that would need to support the child, compute it against the salary and support that she would ever get. While the amount may not exceed figures that we have, it would be the most insurmountable and difficult number that she would ever encounter.

Tatakbo na lang ba sya, pupunta ng probinsya at magpapakupkop sa kung sino man na nakakaintindi? Kung hindi, papaano kung sya ay palayasin? How is the act of uprooting or rejection measured, Ginoong Speaker? Is it in terms of the number of times that she would miss a family celebration, like a birthday, or the certainty of not being able to speak to one’s parents ever again?

Should she just resort to abortion, just like others before her? Hundreds of thousands of pregnant women have taken this path, and we pass judgment on them as if they made an easy choice. Nothing is easy for a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy. Those who have chosen to abort an unwanted pregnancy would most likely end up undergoing unsafe procedures, would probably swallow hazardous potions and unsafe pills sold right in front of the Quiapo Church, and suffer from abortion-related illnesses. They will forever be scarred as criminals, accused of violating our moral standards, our laws, and even the constitution.

If our pregnant teenager ends up bleeding from an unsafe abortion procedure and encounters a doctor who decided to perform a postabortion dilation and curettage without anesthesia to punish the sinful woman, would statistics be able to tally the number of times that the thought of death had crossed her mind? Could it scope the width of each cry, every whimper, that she has to swallow just so she could retain her sense of dignity and self-worth?

The Department of Health said that 100,000 abortion cases end up in the hospital annually, while other experts have said that the data is underestimated. Kaya bang bilangin ng ilang numero ang sakit at kahihiyan? Hundreds have died out of post-abortion complications, some of them were refused treatment by doctors while others refused to go to hospital out of fear. If it were only ten, would it be more acceptable?

No easy choice, Ginoong Speaker, not even for those who opted to bear the child. There are those who resort to unsafe abortion, then there are mothers who are forced to take desperate measures. Last week, a mother, Janeth Ponce, forced her children to drink a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner, and then later drank the poison herself. Her suicide note revealed her family’s wretched situation. We can always cull up numbers to know how many potential Janeth Ponce’s are out there – an SWS survey says that this year alone, the number of food-poor families rose to 7 million, families who are living, if such a word still applies, with less than P60 a day. We don’t need to crunch numbers to know that poverty is most brutal among unplanned families.

Janeth must have earned enough the previous day to be able to purchase a bottle of liquid toilet cleaner, the cheapest of which costs less than P40. She and her children will join other symbols of poverty – Mariannet Amper, the 11 – year old child who committed suicide in Davao City, Mang Pandoy, and many others – and their names will probably land in next year’s State of the Nation Address. Gagamitin ang pangalan ni Janeth Ponce at ng kanyang mga anak para bigyan ng mukha ang statistics ng kahirapan, pero di nito kaya ipakita kung papaano nilason ng desperasyon at kawalan ng pag-asa ang kaibuturan ng isang ina. One could never approximate what she must have felt when she was buying that bottle of toilet cleaner unless one realizes that her anguish began much earlier, that her hopelessness began when she was deprived of a choice to live a life of dignity.

“Go forth and multiply” – we authors of the bill are often reminded of this biblical phrase to question our support for the measure. Surely, we are being asked by our faith to multiply the vastness of the life’s beauty, and not the desperation of mothers who face each childbirth with dread, with worry, with hopelessness.

No numbers, no statistics, can ever measure the complexity and hardship encountered by mothers facing an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy. And no labels like anti-life or pro-abortion, Ginoong Speaker, can correct the dehumanization of women facing this condition.

Ginoong Speaker, for AKBAYAN, the primary goal of the bill that we are about to tackle is to restore the dignity of our women, especially poor women. Ang gusto lamang ng bill na ito ay bigyan ng patas na karapatan ang mga mahihirap na babae at pamilya na mamuhay ng marangal. Life is about choice, exercising the free will endowed by the Creator, in order to achieve fullness of life and human dignity. And the choice before our House is to cast our votes in conscience on this secular matter of public policy. Yes, public policy, as borne out by a Pulse Asia survey this year, in which more than 40% of respondents said: I am Catholic and I want reproductive health policy.

Reducing this bill as a pro-abortion measure renders invisible the harsh realities that we seek to address. AKBAYAN recognizes that we all come from different religious or ideological persuasions, but we must at least unite that families must be given a choice to plan their families according to methods that suit their faith and condition.

The bill aims to ensure that the national government has the central responsibility to provide reproductive healthcare and family planning services and information. It creates a Commission on Population that has the mandate to coordinate and implement reproductive health and population management programs. It also hopes to make several reproductive health programs available, such as: hospital-based family planning in all national and government hospitals; provision of reproductive health products and supplies, which shall be considered as essential medicines and supplies and shall be part of the National Drug Formulary; inclusion of age-appropriate reproductive health education for students and young Filipinos; provision of Mobile Health Care Service (MHCS) to deliver health care goods and services in each congressional district; and encouraging private practitioners to join their colleagues in non-government organizations in rendering such services free of charge or at reduced professional fee rates to indigent and low income patients.

The bill likewise affirms that abortion remains illegal under our laws and our constitution. We appeal to all to stick to the text of the bill, without embellishments. In our division we must not lose our integrity and our sense of truth.

Many of us in Congress have decided to vote on this measure according to our own conscience. Indeed, this is one contentious issue that would cut across party lines and partisanship. But a conscience vote need not be a vote made with the mind closed. We can disagree, but let us disagree according to the principle of truth. Let us unite where we can, compromise if possible, divide the House if necessary, but let us take the bill for what it truly is. Ginoong Speaker, nawa’y sa kabila ng ating pagkakaiba-iba, magsama-sama tayo na manindigan para ibalik ang dangal ng mga kababaihan at ng pamilyang Pilipino. Maraming salamat po!

Click HERE for a copy of the RH bill and HERE for a copy of the bill’s fact sheet and explanatory note.

Gay, Pregnant and Marked for Harassment

29 06 2008

Gay, Pregnant and Marked for Harassment
By Jonas Bagas
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – Remember the “flower platoon”?

Back when the Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC) was still mandatory for male college students, it symbolized discrimination against gay students. Real men marched in real platoons; gay students were with their pansy fellows in the flower platoon. Their only duty was to cheer for their manly counterparts or run errands for them.

Well, the “flower platoon” disappeared with the abolition of compulsory ROTC in 2001, but the underlying biases that created it still persist. They come in the form of unwritten rules or the ubiquitous “morality clause” in the student manual. They are meant to crack the whip on what some sectors still describe as “moral deviants”—lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT), as well as unmarried pregnant students.

Some schools run by religious congregations or organizations, like St. Joseph’s College in Quezon City, ask unwed pregnant students to drop out or take a leave of absence until after they deliver their babies.

An admissions officer at the Saint Pedro Poveda College in Quezon City says the issue is simply about being consistent with the Catholic faith. “Pregnancy outside of marriage sends the wrong message about premarital sex,” she explains.

But for women’s rights activists, policies against pregnant students are discriminatory. Dr. Guy Estrada-Claudio of the UP Center for Women Studies believes that these policies are very judgmental on women’s sexuality. “It punishes women in the end. To be pregnant, women have to be in a heterosexual marriage. They are not given a choice,” she says.

She cautions, too, about the danger of schools being complicit in sexual abuse, especially if the context of the pregnancy is unknown. “Schools could be punishing students who are in fact victims of rape or incest,” she adds.

Not all Catholic schools discriminate against unmarried pregnant students though. The College of the Holy Spirit in Manila and Miriam College in Quezon City, for instance, have taken a progressive stance on the issue.

In De La Salle University, however, while unmarried pregnant students are not punished, the prohibition could apply to unmarried pregnant female faculty members, if the rather vague clause “public scandal” in the faculty manual were applied.

Notes DLSU professor Natty Manauat: “The rule is contained in a broad and vague morality clause in the faculty manual, but I don’t think it has ever been applied. But that’s exactly the problem—it is there and it can be arbitrarily imposed.”

The same vague policies on morality hound lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, who are brought under control through their attire and physical appearance. In the Philippine Normal University in Manila, effeminate gay students are barred from sporting long hair, using make-up, or wearing earrings while inside the university. Curiously though, masculine and ostensibly heterosexual students are allowed to wear long hair and earrings, and even apply foundation on their face.

In San Beda College in Manila, masculinity tests used to be imposed on presumably gay students. Students can’t enrol if they fail the arbitrary test administered by a panel composed of school officials and faculty members who rate a student according to their perception of masculinity.

Even in the more liberal enclave of the University of the Philippines, discrimination still exists. Perci Cendaña, the first openly gay chair of the UP University Student Council, recounts that during the campaign period, homophobes resorted to nasty tactics against him. “There were even graffiti in some men’s restrooms during the campaign period with phrases like ‘Perci Kadiri’ and ‘Bading ’wag iboto.’ It was a great disappointment because this was UP,” he says.

How then does one address discrimination and stigma against LGBT students and unmarried pregnant students? The Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, a broad network of student councils and governments, views discrimination as a sign of a poor democracy. “Education knows no sex, religion, physical status or gender,” says SCAP Sec. Gen. Paula Bianca Lapuz.

SCAP has been pushing for the passage of the Students Rights and Welfare Bill (HB2584) to ensure equality inside schools and campuses. Also pending in Congress is the Anti-Discrimination Bill (HB956), authored by Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel in partnership with the Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network (LAGABLAB), which would penalize discrimination against LGBTs in schools, workplaces, and other areas.

Unless these bills are enacted, kicking stigma out of our schools remains a test we all have to face and pass.


Land to Till NOT Farmers Killed

24 04 2008

The government can very well prove their resolute stance on the land conversion ban now as the Calatagan farmers are nearing Metro Manila.

The march that the Sumilao farmers have started in Bukidnon has not yet ended. Amidst the rice crisis, we challenge Ms. Arroyo to hear the pleas of our Calatagan farmers who are marching their way to Manila to secure the lands that they till in Batangas. The farmers are protesting against the conversion of their agricultural lands to mining areas. Their 300-kilometer march symbolizes the unfaltering spirit of our people to fight for what is rightfully theirs. Their story is not an isolated case. This kind of story remains to be real for the majority of CARP beneficiaries.

The lands in Barangay Baha and Barangay Talibayog, Caltagan, Batangas were awarded to the farmers in 1990. However, the former landlord, Ceferino Ascue, sold the lands to Asturias Industries, a mining company, in 1995.

Contrary to the claims of AI that the lands have already mineralized, the farmers are still able to plant rice and corns in the area. The predicament that our Calatagan farmers are facing only further illustrates the worsening situation of our Agrarian Reform Law which was never implemented fully throughout the years. Millions of hectares remain to be undistributed and thousands more of applications for land conversions are pending in the Department of Agrarian Reform.

A few weeks from now, CARP will expire. Although, there have been victories for some farmers, like our Sumilao comrades, hundreds of others continue to hold onto a desolate hope. The rich land owners have found ways to elude the law by selling the farmers’ lands or by subdividing their haciendas or by any other means that their money can afford. Decades after the implementation of CARP, hundreds of farmers have already died in claiming their lands due to the armed resistance that the landlords are putting. We must give justice to all those who have sacrificed their very lives for this cause and let us continue to fight with those who still live to pursue this advocacy. Our farmers feed our nation. In the face of a food crisis, the government should, by all means, give the CARP beneficiaries what is due to them.

Student Council Alliance of the Philippines expresses its sincerest support to our comrades from Calatagan. “Lakbay Kalampag,” as the Calatagan farmers call their march, hopes to rattle the government once more to heed the call of its people. We further challenge Ms. Arroyo not only to call for the extension of CARP but also to set an example to the stubborn landlords, and place the Arroyo haciendas under CARP.

We also pose a challenge to our Congress people to reform CARP. Let us not wait for more of our farmers to die, award their lands.


Paula Bianca P. Lapuz

National Secretary-General

Student Council Alliance of the Philippines

Student Councils Urge Camara to Prioritize STRAW Bill Instead Of Political Bickering

6 03 2008

Student Council Alliance of the Philippines pressed on law makers to prioritize the Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill instead of quarreling over the leadership in the lower house.


“Replacing Jose de Venecia with Prospero Nograles is like choosing a lesser evil, if the latter should even prove a lesser “trapo” than his predecessor. There isn’t much of a change, at least not a change for the better,” Mark Boado, SCAP chairperson quipped. Read the rest of this entry »

Students Continue to Campaign for Student Right’s and Welfare Advocacy

22 01 2008

Student Council Alliance of the Philippines spearheads a series of student dialogues in different universities in the National Capital Region to popularize the Student Rights and Welfare Bill.

“The bill which aims to uphold and protect the students’ rights and welfare, was filed last September 18, 2007, and we hope to get the support of the students,” says SCAP’s National Chairperson Mark Roy Boado. Read the rest of this entry »