Usapang Sekswalidad at PUP

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By Victor Layug, Contributor

Usapang Sekwalidad at PUP

Usapang Sekswalidad, a forum on health and gender advocacy, was held on August 30, 2012 at the Bulwagang Bonifacio of the Ninoy Aquino Learning Resources Center in the main campus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Manila.

Boy Abunda

Boy Abunda, Philippine TV’s celebrated ‘King of Talk,’ served as the moderator for the event. He began by asking the audience if sex is indeed a taboo topic, and if it is, where did the audience receive that notion? Boy went on to explain the importance of being open, which leads to knowledge and results in the masses being informed and making educated decisions.

He stated that it was a new day, and that the aim of the talk was to openly and freely discuss both academic freedom and primacy of conscience with the day’s guests, who were student leaders in favor of the RH bill.

Moses Albiento, Jana Cabuhat and Barry Codera

Barry Codera, president of the Letran Student Council, was asked how he and the rest of the student council came to agree that they were pro-RH. Barry responded that they met as a student council and were initially hesitant about releasing an official statement. They were assured that they would not be barred from graduating should they release a statement.

Upon releasing their statement, however, their attention was called by their school officials. They were told that while the officials respected their stand, they had to make another statement explaining that they only spoke on behalf of the executive board, and not the student body or the school as a whole. Barry explained further that to their knowledge, there are a significant number of students who are indeed pro-RH but are just afraid to speak up.

When asked why they support the RH bill, Barry explained that he believed in responsible parenthood, and in that there is an ever-present need to lessen maternal deaths and the spread of STDs. He also explained that Letran released a statement saying that they were against the RH bill, causing the student body to believe that the students should be allowed to voice their own stand on the topic rather than simply allow the school to make a stand for them.

Moses Albiento, Chairperson of the Department of External Affairs of the Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng Paaralang Loyola of the Ateneo de Manila University explained that when the 199 Atenean professors released a statement saying that they were in support of the RH bill, that’s when they realized that it was time to address the prevalent need for the students to make a stand themselves. That in turn led to the formation of Ateneans for RH, which would serve as a proper avenue where students of ADMU could be open and vocal about their stand.

Moses explained that within his university, a significant number of students are still against the RH bill and those that do support it are very hesitant to speak up for fear of criticism. As a student leader, he plays a huge role in representing the student body, and he supports the RH bill in the hopes of helping his country, particularly the marginalized women living in poverty, most of which have little to no education. He wishes to help those who are left with no choice due to their lack of information.

Jana Cabuhat, president of the University Student Government of De La Salle University-Manila, admitted that they in DLSU live a somewhat sheltered life. They have the mentality that if it’s possible for them not to speak on a certain issue, they wouldn’t, so as to avoid any fuss. The need to release a statement was pressing, though, and so they began drafting an official statement.

When the CBCP suddenly threatened that Catholic universities who support the RH bill would have their Catholic status revoked, it prompted them to put their statement on hold. When they asked their Lasallian brothers, however, the brothers merely laughed at the threat, saying that the CBCP only had the power to do so if the university in question was a Pontifical University (such as the University of Santo Tomas).

Moses then cited an example of such a Pontifical university in Peru that isn’t allowed to teach anything in their schools that differ from the teachings of the Church, and there is a high likelihood that a majority of those who choose not to speak on the matter do so for fear of losing their Catholic status.

Professor Xiao Chua of the Department of History of DLSU-Manila

Professor Xiao Chua of the Department of History of DLSU-Manila admitted that he had varying opinions on the RH bill, one of which was the country’s previous experience with former President Fidel V. Ramos. During the Ramos presidency, there was no RH bill, but there was very efficient family planning at that time, proving the President’s strong political will. Another anti-RH bill argument pointed out to Prof. Chua by his friend was that there are already several laws regarding family planning, and that some do not approve of the use of taxpayers’ money for condoms for the poor.

Prof. Chua also addressed the common misconception that only teenagers who engage in premarital sex are those who undergo abortions. He told the story of an unnamed friend who sought to undergo an abortion: she was pregnant, and was forced to seek an abortion clinic when her boyfriend told her that he would not answer for the child. Her boyfriend was not allowed to accompany her in the clinic, and once there, she was surprised to see 5-10 women also waiting in line for an abortion, most of whom were already mothers and couldn’t afford to support another child.

When his friend’s turn came, instead of being given an anesthetic, she was given a handful of sleeping pills and told to ingest them all. Before the medicines could take effect, however, the abortion procedure began and the pain his friend experienced was beyond any pain she had ever felt before. There she lay in almost agonizing pain, clutching the abortionist’s assistant’s hand very tightly.


Prof. Chua’s presentation

That was only one story of abortion. There are thousands, if not millions, more untold stories of women who have sought and received conventional abortions. In fact, there are 473,400 induced abortions every year. There are other forms of abortions that take place, though, used primarily by women who cannot afford to have another child yet cannot afford to go to a real abortion clinic. These methods include a hilot/midwife treatment, jumping off a high point, ingesting deworming medicine, and inserting wire hangers into their reproductive organs. Those who suffer from complications arising from abortions, however, find that once they seek medical treatment at hospitals they are treated improperly by hospital staff.

Professor Chua also stated that while there is a prevalent need for a Reproductive Health bill, it is also not natural for people not to populate. He cited Canada as an example, wherein the pensions system experienced a sudden downfall due to there not being enough births to make up for the aging population. There will always be a need to populate as long as it is managed properly and does not reach the point of overpopulation.

Questions from the students

One student asked how the RH bill would help to build one’s values. Professor Chua responded that the information about reproductive health that most people receive today is from their friends, and it is usually incorrect or insufficient.

If proper sexual education were to be given in schools, that education would be more mature and more intelligent. Boy Abunda then expounded by explaining that the provisions in the RH bill would help build values.

Another question asked by a student pertained to the Magna Carta for Women. The student asked if it was insufficient, and why there was an additional need for the RH bill. If the Magna Carta was indeed insufficient, why not just amend it?

Chi Vallido, advocacy specialist of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, answered the question by stating that no, the Magna Carta for Women is not enough. The RH bill does much more than protect women: it also has provisions that would go a long way towards preventing many forms of cancer, as well as bringing medical services to far-flung areas.

One final question posed to Boy Abunda was: as a media practitioner, how do you manage your stand on your various public appearances?

One final question posed to Boy Abunda was: as a media practitioner, how do you manage your stand on your various public appearances?

Boy Abunda responded by saying that sometimes, he’s given a chance to share his views on topics like in his show, Bottomline! He clarifies, though, that he does not force his stand on those listening to him or those watching the show. He only discusses issues in the hopes of enlightening the masses. The media is, after all, supposed to enlighten and not impose.

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