Lawmaker lays down processes, challenges awaiting Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress

PRESS RELEASE

11 April 2014 – As the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) gears up to finish drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez today arrived in Davao City for a Bangsamoro conference to discuss the processes and the challenges that await the proposed law in Congress.

As the guest speaker, Gutierrez explained how the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be treated in Congress, what are the processes it has to undergo and the possible struggles or obstacles to its passage, emphasizing the ‘long and intense debates’ that will emerge among the supporters and opponents of the law.

“After the Transition Commission finishes its draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, they will turn over the proposed legislation to Congress where it will be tackled as an ‘urgent bill’. And like any other bill, it will undergo a regular legislative process. There will be committee hearings, deliberations, possibly amendments in its provisions and voting among lawmakers. The proposed law will undergo the same process in both chambers of Congress before it will reach the President for approval,” Gutierrez said.

“We do not expect this law to pass Congress in breeze. In fact, we are already anticipating a long and tedious process and intense plenary debates on the proposed law,” he said.

Gutierrez served as Undersecretary for the Political Adviser at OP before he was elected as an Akbayan representative to Congress, the lawmaker has since expressed his strong support for the institution of a peace agreement through the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), urging Congress to ensure ‘quick action’ on the law and ‘set the ball rolling for peace-building in Mindanao’.

“Our quest for a real and lasting peace must start now,” the lawmaker said in a statement.
“This bill is one of the most significant measure that will give teeth to the peace agreement, seal the deal and finally put an end to the decades of unrest here in Mindanao,” he added.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law is set to reach Congress on May as it resumes session.

The lawmaker reiterated the urgency and importance of the approval of the bill as a way for Mindanao and the rest of the country to finally ‘move forward’ towards peace and security.

“We should not lose sight of the end view of all these efforts we’re putting into making the peace agreement work–that is to conciliate and effect peace and secure it for the present and future generation of the Mindanaoans and the rest of the country. And this is something that we must seriously work on as soon as we can,” he said.

Attended by various regional and local leaders in their organizations, the conference was aimed to create a venue to discuss the political issues that will affect the government’s reform agenda as well as the peace process with the MILF towards the creation of the Bangsamoro.

The two-day conference held at the Grand Regal Hotel in Davao J.P. Laurel Ave, Lanang started today and will end tomorrow, April 12, 2014. It was organized by Office of the Political Affairs under the Office of the President (OP).

The first day of the conference was graced by Undersecretary Tom Villarin from OPA, SIMCARRD Trustee Atty. Luz Ramos and MILF Panel Negotiator Atty. Raissa Jajurie.

The result of the conference will be consolidated and will serve as an instrument in enhancing support for the government’s campaign for political reforms and good governance objectives.###

On the SC decision declaring the RH Law constitutional: Celebrate the victory, continue the struggle

 

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Akbayan Partylist welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law. While the ruling was not the complete victory many hoped for — with some portions of the law being stricken down — it nonetheless remains a historic triumph for women, for the poor and marginalized, and for the Filipino nation. It is a remarkable advance against ignorance and inequality, and a clear victory for social reform and progressive thinking. Now, the people have an important policy tool to wage the struggle against poverty and bring about the sustained and comprehensive development which has so far eluded our country. Now, millions of Filipino women and their families will have another chance at achieving a better quality of life.
We congratulate the Filipino people, particularly the courageous and unyielding women, who pushed for the enactment of RH legislation for the better part of two decades, for this outstanding victory. This would not have been possible if not for the unrelenting struggle that was waged by the Filipino women together with the social movements, civil society organizations and reform-oriented lawmakers to ensure universal access to reproductive health and maternal care for all. In the face of the name-calling, intimidation and misinformation resorted to by some of those who chose to oppose the implementation of the RH Law; our women have endured, persevered and emerged triumphant. Akbayan is proud to be one of the principal sponsors of the RH Law. We are proud to have been part of the long, difficult, and sometimes painful process of enacting this landmark measure which, hopefully, heralds the advent in the Philippines of sound and determined law-making, that is at the same time, sensitive to different constituencies and respectful of a plurality of opinions.

In the same manner, we commend President Aquino’s commitment in seeing to it that this law is passed under his term. President Aquino’s generous use of his political capital as well as his good exercise of leadership on this issue is truly laudable. The RH law will without doubt be one of the principal legacies of his Presidency.

But while we celebrate this historic triumph, we must express some measure of disappointment at the SC’s decision to strike down some portions of the law. While seemingly narrow, the exceptions carved out by the Court in favor of “religious belief,” particularly those involving public officers and publicly licensed medical practitioners may potentially create difficulties in ensuring the full and effective implementation of the policies and objectives of this landmark statute. It has always been our position that the RH law as enacted, already struck a delicate yet reasonable balance between individual belief and public necessity — a balance reached after 15 years of extensive debate and discussion through the last five Congresses — and it was our hope that the SC would give greater weight to this painstaking process.

We must also remind our fellow Filipinos not to be complacent. More than ever, we must exercise vigilance to protect and secure our hard-fought victory. Tuloy pa rin ang laban! First, we must ensure that the law is fully and immediately implemented. Second, we must work hard to reformulate and amend the provisions which were stricken out by the SC. The RH Law can only work best if most of its progressive provisions are intact. Akbayan pledges to exhaust all legislative measures to make certain that the law is truly responsive to the needs of the people. Lastly, the most regressive forces arrayed against the RH Law are still lurking in the dark, convalescing and concocting new schemes to once again prevent, or at the minimum delay, implementation of the RH law. We must not let them rob the Filipino people of this victory. We must not let them repudiate the people’s will.

But more than vigilance, our best weapons are compassion and understanding. While it was necessary and inevitable that lines were drawn during our struggle to uphold reproductive health and rights, now that the battle for the RH Law has been won, in the spirit of unity and reconciliation, those lines must be redrawn. The antagonism brought by our long drawn fight to push for the RH Law must now be left behind. After all, all of us share the dream of a society where women do not become mere statistics of maternal deaths, young people do not succumb to the burden of unwanted pregnancies, and where the poor need not want for the health care they need to attain a better quality of life for themselves and their families.

The RH Law is crucial to fulfilling this dream. Let’s all give it chance to succeed. ###

Akbayan to SC: Break the glass ceiling, uphold the RH Law


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Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez on Monday urged the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of  the RH Law during a press conference held at the Akbayan National HQ.

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07 April 2014–A day before the Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law, Akbayan Party-list called on the high court to break the proverbial glass ceiling by upholding the measure that seeks to guarantee universal access to reproductive health and maternal care programs.

According to Akbayan Chairperson Risa Hontiveros, her political party looks forward to the high tribunal to uphold the constitutionality of the RH Law to “breach the barriers that hinder the advancement of women’s reproductive rights and welfare.”

“We call on the Supreme Court to uphold the RH Law, help us break the glass ceiling and change the status quo wherein thousands of women lives are on the line as a result of the lack of reproductive health services,” Hontiveros said.

“The SC is on the verge of making history. We hope and pray that it will be on right side of history when it makes its ruling by providing the populace a chance at a better quality of life rather than bringing them back to dark times of yore where superstition, bigotry and conservatism reign over their lives,” Hontiveros added.

Unfavorable ruling is a repudiation of people’s will, betrayal of public trust

Hontiveros said an unfavorable ruling on the RH Law is a clear repudiation of the people’s will.

She said the SC should demonstrate the same courage and political will that the House of Representatives, Senate and President Aquino have shown in support of the law.

“We remind the high court that an unfavorable ruling on the RH Law is an outright reversal of the people’s will. Worse, those who will vote to declare it unconstitutional might be guilty of betraying the public’s trust,” Hontiveros stressed.

“Unless it wants to be remembered as an institution which used its judicial review mandate to kill a progressive law which was the product of the people’s 14 years of struggle, we hope the SC will seize on the rare opportunity to stand up against intolerance and antiquated thinking,” Hontiveros said.

“Don’t give us a Pyrrhic victory”

Meanwhile, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez cautioned the Supreme Court from giving the public a “Pyrrhic victory” by upholding the RH Law while declaring many of its progressive provisions unconstitutional.

“Even as the possibility that the SC will uphold the RH Law albeit several provisions declared unconstitutional is real, we hope it will not severely dismember the measure leaving no room for legislative improvement and modification. The people need a real victory not a Pyrrhic one wherein the law is alive on paper but its spirit is dead,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez, who is also a former UP law professor and Director of the Institute of Human rights, said some of the contentious provisions include the definition of abortifacient where contraception is not abortion, penalties for “conscientious objectors” or health professionals who refuse to perform RH services and/or refer a patient to another health care service provider, and inclusion of reproductive health education.

“The high tribunal cannot afford to play politics over the lives of women and their children who are at great risk of becoming victims of high and unmitigated maternal mortality rates, unwanted teenage pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases,” Gutierrez said.

“The consequences of a severely mutilated RH Law’ are just too perilous. The RH Law can only work best if its progressive provisions are intact. We hope the SC will not tread this path in the hope of appeasing all parties,” Gutierrez added.

“Rolling hot for RH” bus ride to Baguio

For their part, Akbayan-Youth said it will send a bus load of young RH advocates to Baguio on April 8 to join other groups and supporters in what it deemed as the “final battle” to defend the RH Law.

Dubbed as the “Rolling Hot for RH Law”, the bus ride to Baguio will also include passengers from different women’s groups and university student councils.

“While it is vacation time for many of us, we will use a part of our long holiday to join the fight to uphold the RH Law,” Akbayan Chairperson Rafaela “Paeng” David said.

“Pupunta kami ng Baguio hindi para magpalamig kundi upang pag-initin ang nagpupuyos na damdamin ng mga kabataan, kababaihan at kalakhang mamamayan para maipanalo ang RH Law,” David concluded. ###

More women participation in governance?

More women participation in governance?

FOR WOMEN PARTICIPATION. Lawmakers and women's rights advocate discussed the merits of the bill seeking to increase women participation in governance. Photo by Gwen dela Cruz/Rappler

FOR WOMEN PARTICIPATION. Lawmakers and women’s rights advocate discussed the merits of the bill seeking to increase women participation in governance. Photo by Gwen dela Cruz/Rappler

 

MANILA, Philippines – Would increasing women participation in politics improve Philippine governance?

Some lawmakers and women’s rights advocates believe it would.

In line with Women’s Month, lawmakers and women’s rights advocate organized a Legislator’s forum last March 27 at the Sulo Riviera Hotel, addressing a bill that aims to promote women participation in governance.

The bill is known as House Bill 3877, or the “Women Participation and Representation in Political Parties Act of 2013.” It seeks to promote women participation and equal representation in the government by granting incentives to political parties that give priority to women candidates.

Women’s voice

According to Sylvia Claudio, Director of the UP Center for Women’s Studies, women would make better political leaders because they engage more fully in consensus building and tend to introduce more legislation.

Citing US Pew Research Data, Claudio said that increasing the number of women in governance is one of the most effective strategies to remove the stereotypes of women being delegated to the sidelines in government.

However, Claudio cautioned that a female politician is not always going to be a game changer in a dominantly male political system. Women are “socialized differently,” according to Claudio, and are therefore, “more likely to bring different leadership values.”

“It [does] not matter if you are intrinsically male, but we have to recognize that there are many ways by which we are socialized, and unfortunately, the political system […] allows certain behaviors that are more likely to be sieged by men, to flourish, and therefore, they become trapos,” Claudio said.

Dr. Socorro Reyes, Regional Governance Adviser of the Center for Legislative Development added that there are international conventions and treaties that give importance to women participation in the field of politics, such as the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the 2012 General Assembly Resolution.

Not enough

AKBAYAN representatives Barry Gutierrez and Walden Bello, who support the bill, say its not only the quantity of women in politics but also the quality of women participation that should be encouraged.

In the Supreme Court, 3 out of 15 sitting justices are women. In the 16th Congress, 78 out of 288 representatives are women while 6 out of 24 senators are womenAccording to Gutierrez, this shows that women participation in the political sector is still very minimal.

Mixed reactions

Some of the local government units gave their support for the passing of HB 3877. The Lady Municipal Mayors Association of the Philippines, for instance, believe that there are certain characteristics needed for governance that women have and that are distinct from men.

“Given the opportunity, women can employ these inherent qualities to work with men as partners in nation building,” said San Luis Mayor Anabelle Tangson.

On the other hand, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) gave recommendations to further improve the bill. Instead of referring to 30% as the ratio for ‘equitable representation’ of women, PCW suggested that it be called a “gender quota” for it to become gender-neutral so as to avoid ‘biases and discrimination.’

PCW proposed that further study should be done regarding the incentives and how it is given to political parties. They called for a limit in the amount of incentives and the consideration of other non-cash incentives such as free airtime in government-owned broadcast stations for women candidate advertisements.

Also, the bill should ensure that women are given equal chances of representation in all positions. Finally, for PCW, COMELEC should be tasked to implement the bill once it is passed while PCW will assist them in policy making.

Claudio also suggested that the bill be rephrased in order to include transgendered women, or “trans-women”, adding that they are “natural persons with good stature.”

Meanwhile, Nanay Clarita Eneria, president of the Kapit-Kamay association Inc., expressed her satisfaction with the proposed bill. Having originally lived along the train tracks of Malabon, Eneria mentioned how difficult it was to run for barangay councilor in Pandi, Bulacan, especially since she came from a different province. She cited the lack of financial support as one of the factors that made campaigning in local elections difficult.

“I have no political machinery. We were unwelcome before because I used to live alongside train tracks. I just dared to run,” Eneria said in Filiipino.

Points for improvement

While there were those who supported the passing of the bill, there were also some who were doubtful of it.

Beatrice Sanga, Secretary of the Committee on Women and Gender Equality, said that she does not feel any gender disparity in the House of Representatives.

“From the top, well, of course, except for the Speakers, Sec Gen (Secretary General), Deputy Sec Gens (Secretary Generals), Directors, even Committee Sectors like Debbie (Garcia) and I, most of us are women,” Sanga said. “The committee secretaries – we’re the souls of the lawmaking process. We call the shots.”

Proponents and those critical agree that more more discussions with other political parties and other concerned agencies are needed to improve the bill. However, with the right amount of support, House Bill 3877 might just be the law that will give women the equality they deserve. – Rappler.com

Akbayan slams China over latest Ayungin incident

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Akbayan Partylist members in an earlier anti-China protest last year.

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Akbayan Party-list today stormed the Chinese Consular Office in Makati to express its indignation over China’s latest act of harassment of a Philippine civilian vessel at the West Philippine Sea.

The ship, according to reports, was on a mission to deliver fresh supplies to personnel stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre situated at the Ayungin Shoal.

Led by Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, the protestors brought “giant tape measures” saying China does not know how to properly measure its territorial boundaries as it was clearly illegally encroaching on Philippine territory.

“We express outrage over China’s latest attempt to prevent our Coast Guard from resupplying our personnel stationed at the Ayungin Shoal. China has no business conducting illegal sea patrols and border checkpoints within our own territory. It’s continuous use of fear and intimidation within our rightfully-owned territories is a serious attack on our nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said China needs to undergo a refresher course on how to properly measure its territorial boundaries.

“How China measures and determines its territory is mind-boggling. The Ayungin Shoal is 105 nautical miles from the Philippines. The area is well within the 200 nautical miles of a Philippine exclusive economic zone which allows the Philippines to navigate and make productive use of the resources around the shoal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Gutierrez said.

Akbayan also voiced its full support to the 4,000 page ‘memorial’ filed by the Aquino government before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLoS), in support of its arbitration case concerning its sea dispute with China.

“We welcome and continue to reaffirm our support to the continuing efforts of the government to secure our country’s territorial claim against China. The memorial is our most powerful weapon in fortifying our territorial claims against China,” Gutierrez said.

The memorial contains all the legal bases and justifications of the Philippines’ territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.

“This is a step towards the right direction that will solidify our territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea. It will remove all doubts against the legitimacy of our claims and fully secure our sovereignty in the area,” Gutierrez said.

However, Gutierrez lambasted China for saying that the Philippines’ arbitration case before the United Nations “seriously damaged bilateral relations” between the two countries.

“If bilateral relations means China can use force, threat and coercion to enforce its will upon us, then by all means, the case we filed before the arbitral tribunal is an attempt to inflict severe damage to this abusive relationship,” Gutierrez asserted.

“China must learn to respect its neighbors’ sovereignty. Our case before ITLoS is a lesson on how to treat others fair and just,” Gutierrez said.

For his part, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello called on the Aquino government to use the memorial to consolidate and mobilize the populace to defend Philippine sovereignty.

“Instead of defaulting to detrimental pacts with foreign countries such as the pursuance of basing agreements with the United States, the Aquino government must rely on the strength and symbolism of the memorial to rally the people to defend our country’s sovereignty,” Bello said.

“The Aquino government must use the memorial it filed before the ITLoS to maximize the full potential of militant and forceful citizen diplomacy to secure our territorial integrity. The memorial is more forceful than the Chinese government’s bullying in the region. It is more powerful than the United States’ armada of naval ships,” Bello said.

Bello also emphasized that the development Kalayaan Island Group is the “key to permanent possession of Kalayaan”.

“We must accelerate the development of Pag-asa Island, the strategic center of the Kalayaan Island group of seven reefs and two islands that belong to us.  The development of modern harbor facilities is long overdue,” Bello said.

“Malacañang has to move on the economic development plans  for Kalayaan, particularly in Pag-asa Island. The Chinese, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese have apparently undertaken in the same in parts of the Spratly archipelago they occupy.  We must realise Kalayaan’s strong potential for being a fishing station and tourist spot. Not only will this provide livelihood support  to the 300 -people- strong population, it will likewise boost our claims to the territory,” Bello concluded.###