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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pera-pera lang: so much pork money ahead of the RH vote in House and Senate. Substitute RH bill is dictatorial, coercive and really anti-poor, as they cannot have children until they can guarantee “humane (or is it human?) standard for their family. But what if progress is slow owing to lack of job? Will a poor couple have to wait until wife is menopausal and unable to bear child? State should guarantee skills training and jobs instead of unlimited access to free contraceptives.


Sometimes the truth can confront us in such a startling manner.


ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio
 I refer to the incredible admission by Alliance for Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. AntonioTinio that the Palace is dangling pork up to P280 million per representative, to nail down support for the RH bill. What makes Tinio’s revelation about the P280 million/House legislator so startling is that he’s one of several dozen co-authors of HB 4244.



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Tinio’s disclosure appeared in Manila Standard last Thursday, Dec. 6, written by two enterprising and veteran journalists, Christine F. Herrera and Maricel V. Cruz.

Interestingly, yesterday, Dec. 8, an Inquirer front-page story also said that “Senators are setting their sights on getting P100 million each in extra pork this year, on top of the P200 milliion they are already getting in annual pork barrel allocations, or the priority development assistance fund.”

In that story, Sen. Franklin Drilon was quoted as admitting that a number of senators were “looking to get additional fund allocations for their pet projects,” although he did not say how much extra pork. But it also quoted an unnamed senator as opining that the senators “look forward to getting up to P100 million in additions to their PDAF of P200 million.”

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It’s not hard to divine that it would be those voting for the RH bill who would be first to get the extra P100 million, as its common practice to get those extras for complying with the Palace demand for support. As the Inquirer story noted, this was evident in the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona last May 29, when except for Sen. Miriam Santiago who voted against Corona’s ouster, all the senators who got PDAF releases of at least P200 million this year voted against Corona.

Thus, as is evident in the House and Senate, the pro-RH bill vote appears to be primarily a question of pera-pera lang. For as the Inquirer story noted, “If the senators get the P100 million extra pork, they will be able to use the funds into the next year, which is, crucially, an election year.”

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Beating the election ban on public fund releases seems to be the name of the game in both chambers---three days ahead of the crucial vote in the House on the RH substitute bill, with the Senate to follow suit. ACT Rep.  Tinio candidly explained in the Standard story (wasn’t he axed for incredible candor?) that the Palace has warned lawmakers that they would not get the P280 million each “if they fail to support the reproductive health bill.”

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Tinio broke down the P280 million per solon into: P70 million in PDAF, P50 million in infrastructure projects from DPWH, P20 million in road users’ tax, and other perks and concessions as the Speaker’s bonus, equivalent to the cngressman’s one-month salary of P97,000.00.

The story said the P280 million per House member represents the “last tranche of pork for this year, and the first tranche for 2013.” The importance of these two releases---which constitute the whole pork barrel for one year---is that it will be made in advance to skirt the election ban which begins in the third week of January 2013.

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As Tinio explains, “As in the impeachment trial of (CJ) Corona earlier this year, lawmakers were told: ‘If you are not with President Aquino on this, you are against us.’ ” Thus, if his colleagues in the LP and other members of the majority coalition would continue to defy P-Noy’s clear position on the RH bill, continued the ACT representative, “they find themselves without projects to show their constituents and their voters.”

But not only that, “those who would openly go against the President’s position would find their pork barrel released after the election ban has been lifted”--- after the May 2013 elections are over. But they badly need the funds for their election campaign.

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From the above accounts, the RH voting appears in many cases less a matter of conviction or conscience and more of getting the funds they need to get elected. It’s difficult for us who are not politicians to moralize on solons who’ll vote to get the pork they need;  but surely, one has to admire---beyond belief---those who are running for reelection in their respective districts but who will still vote against the RH bill this Wednesday---because they realize it’s harmful for the country and our people.

It is these solons especially in the House whom we should all campaign for and help get elected. It’s they who make us proud as Filipinos and give us hope for our country.

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This weekend I read line by line through the "substitute RH bill," HB 4244, a copy I obtained courtesy of a House member. He calls it the "Malacanang version" as it was what was given out during the luncheon last Monday hosted by P-Noy. To be able to comment fairly I read the 27-page bill and will treat some crucial provisions in the next few days.

But as an opener, let me quote from Page 3, lines 3-5, which reads, "The State shall also promote openness to life, provided that parents bring forth to the world only those children that they can raise in a truly humane way." I quote the word “humane” directly from my copy, but I note that in some write-ups the word “human” instead appears.

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“Humane” or “human,” I find this provision very oppressive, dictatorial and discriminatory, as obviously there’s no "openness to life," as it clearly states that parents can only bring forth into the world those children they can raise “in a truly humane way."

Obviously this provision is referring to the poor and marginalized, but in the first place, who decides the standards of a "truly ‘humane’ or ‘human’ way" of raising children? Is it P-Noy? Rep. Janet Garin and the pro-Rh cabal in the House? DSWD Secretary Soliman? What entitles whoever to decide this issue for 92 million Filipinos?

Then too, the bill seeks to stop the proliferation of poor families by out and out use of contraceptives freely issued to “voluntary beneficiaries.” But assuming the contraceptives don’t work (and they have been known to fail), how do the RH people propose to remove the foetuses? The only way is through abortion, which is illegal.

As the bishops have long been arguing, the RH bill would ultimately lead to abortion.

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Rep. Rufus Rodriguez
What makes it quite hypocritical, however, is that right after that line from Page 3 comes lines 6-7: "The State shall eradicate discriminatory practices, laws and policies that infringe on a person's exercise of reproductive health rights." First this bill arbitrarily shuts out openness to life for the poor whom it obviously loathes, even as it pretends to protect them. Then, in the second sentence it declares that it shall "eradicate discriminatory practices..."

But here it discriminates against the human rights of the family, as guaranteed by the Constitution even to the poor.  
As staunch anti-RH Rep. Rufus Rodriguez argued on the floor, that provision imposes prior restraint on couples. This is because, if they fail to meet the ‘humane’ or ‘human’ standard because no meaningful jobs are available to them or the state failed to give them adequate skills training---then they’re doomed never to enjoy the blessing of children. This bill pretends to be pro-poor, he thundered, but it’s simply Population Control in disguise.

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Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing
 Another staunch anti-RH, Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, went further and argued that it is wrong to impose this No-to-Life on the poor, as there are so many rich people now who, either themselves or their parents, once started as poor and managed to climb the economic and social ladder. Had this provision existed in the past three decades, how many rich families would not have come to being, Bagatsing argued.

See how dangerous and insidious this "substitute bill" is. Let's fight it and campaign on our House members to vote NO!




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