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 30, 2012

RH Law signed under heavy cloak of secrecy" last Dec. 21, catching both nation and bishops by surprise. P-Noy advisers coaxed signing to pre-empt backlash, but event falls into ‘gapangan’ pattern. Mikey, explaining GMA‘s No vote, cites how population growth fell below 2% in years 2007-2010---the first time since 1903.

Soon after the Dec. 17 voting in Congress on the RH bill, news came out that the President would likely sign it into law only after the New Year---in order to allow passions to cool down on both sides of this most controversial issue. My immediate reaction was, GOOD IDEA. I felt the postponement of the signing would help enable people who felt quite passionate about it---either for or against---to have a more peaceful celebration of the Christmas season.
In fact, at the 76th birthday celebration of former Speaker Jose de Venecia last Dec. 26 at his residence, I ran into industrialist Ramon Ang of PAL and SMC, and I even asked Don Ramon, whom I know to be close to the Palace, to convey the message from a number of people that it would be quite good for P-Noy to sign the RH bill after the New Year---as the Palace itself had floated.


Then, lo and behold, last Friday evening, Dec. 28, Feast of the Holy Innocents, news leaked out in the internet that P-Noy had already signed the bill into law (now RA 10354) “quietly” last Dec. 21. By yesterday morning the admission by House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez II was all over the papers---that indeed the bill was signed into law before the President went up to Baguio for a four-day vacation.

Palace spokesperson Abigail Valte, however, refused to confirm or deny it.

Apparently, the Palace had heard of the plan of certain Catholic organizations to float 1 million red ribbons all across the nation, as a continuing protest against the Congress-passed bill---in the hope that the President could be coaxed at the last minute to “veto” it by refusing to sign it. Thus, the President was advised to rush up its signing without the usual fanfare that attends other laws through various presidencies.


This writer, an observer of political events in this country for nearly 30 years, has never seen anything like the secret, “quiet” surreptitious signing of the RH bill into law last Dec. 21.

Frankly I didn’t have any illusions of P-Noy not signing it at all---of having a bolt from heaven striking him into conversion, like Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus, converting him to the greatest missionary ever, St. Paul the Apostle. But I thought P-Noy would have the political sense to delay it until after New Year---for the sake of a peaceful Christmas Season and in the spirit of reconciliation, after the shameful arm-twisting and bribing in the House.


Apparently P-Noy’s advisers became fearful of a possible backlash, now that the reality of the passage of that bill is settling down on anti-RH groups.  What  hurt the anti-RH people, however, was that the Palace was the one that said there would be no signing before New Year, to allow passions to cool down.  Then, surreptitiously, under heavy cloak of secrecy P-Noy still signed it last Dec. 21.  

The reaction among a number of people I know was: sanay talaga sa gapangan ang palasyo. They recalled how P-Noy's subalterns collared House members one by one in the Congressional Lounge during two separate votings, asking them to go home rather than vote. The signing, they said, followed the same pattern.


Catholic organizations were certainly caught flat-footed by the secret signing;  in fact, certain places around the country bloomed with red, e.g., around the Baguio Cathedral, in the hope that they could still make a loud statement of protest to the President.

But despite the new law, the battle against the RH issue is far from over. At this very minute some prominent Catholic lawyers and some staunch Pro-Life representatives are preparing to challenge the constitutionality of certain provisions of RA 10354 before the Supreme Court. To be sure, prospects are not bright in the Sereno Court which has all the makings of a P-Noy-pliant court---with the appointment of four pro-Pinoy justices and with the horror of impeachment hanging over at least one justice’s head.

But who knows? Maybe out of 15 justices, eight might see the grave threats against family and life provisions of the Constitution in this new law. Grace might work. At any rate, every move vs. this law is a means to educating the people on its evils, and even now, many in the media are already seeing this issue in a new light.


One of the most informative speeches of the anti-RH bloc in the House was delivered by party-list Rep. Mikey Arroyo who adopted the explanation of his mother, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, on the RH bill. As Mikey stated, in the 1990s before GMA became President, “family planning meant artificial birth control.” Yet, he stressed, average population growth was a high 2.35% from 1995 to 2000. When GMA became President,  he said, the population growth rate slowed to 2.04% a year from 2004 to 2007, and DECELERATED even more to 1.9% from 2007 to 2010. 

That period from 2007 to 2010, emphasized Mikey, was the FIRST TIME POPULATION GROWTH FELL BELOW 2% SINCE 1903.


Former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Arroyo stressed that this happened without his mother pushing for artificial birth control as had been done in previous years. Rather, he said, GMA “focused on responsible parenthood, respect for life, birth spacing, female education and empowerment, and informed choice.”  GMA, said Mikey, emphasized informing about modern natural family planning to correct the bias in the Ramos years which taught only artificial birth control, AND TO CONFORM TO THE CULTURE AND VALUES OF A PREDOMINANTLY CATHOLIC POPULATION (emphasis BOC’s).

The party-list representative stressed that the decline in population growth rates during President Arroyo’s incumbency validates the finding of the Population Council of New York that “artificial contraception contributes less to declining birth rates than the combination of improving the economic condition of the family, urbanization, women empowerment, and breast-feeding.”


Indeed, as Mikey stressed, in his mother’s time, economic conditions improved, to 7.9% growth rate based on GDP, and 8.2% based on Gross National Income, as of the first half of 2010. On the other hand, our self-rated poverty dropped from 55% in 2001, when she came into power, to 43% by the time she stepped down on June 30, 2010.

In fact, Arroyo stressed, during the global recession, the Philippines was among the 1/3 of the world that did not suffer negative growth. In Asia the countries that managed to avoid recession were those with LARGE DOMESTIC MARKETS, such as China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. 


 Mikey Arroyo emphasized that as an economist, his mother GMA believes that “the RH bill is an unnecessary policy prescription." And as practicing Catholics, he said, his mother and he “cannot be unmindful of the faith that formed our conscience and our country’s culture.”  He and GMA therefore voted No to RH, as did Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado (Dato) Macapagal Arroyo.

From the above statistics, it is no surprise that population growth would down in the GMA years even without artificial birth control means. For as the late US
President Ronald Reagan clearly said: "The best contraceptive is economic growth."

 What a pity that GMA's eco student, Noynoy Aquino, could only see the contraceptive, as the liberal left urged him to do, and not the bigger picture--- how unnecessary it is when there is economic growth and the poor have jobs.


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