THE Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday expressed alarm over violations of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act in Sorsogon and Manila.
At a news conference, Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit spearheaded the launch of a national inquiry on reproductive health to run from March until the first week of May.
“You may ask, what is a national inquiry? And why RH?” she asked.
She differentiated a public inquiry normally conducted by CHR from a national inquiry, citing the latter would gather numerous accounts, complaints, statements on denial, barriers, and lack of access to RH services and information, or the absence of it.
“A national inquiry process is a strategy adopted by national human rights institutions in order to deal with a large number of individual complaints in a pro-active and cost effective way,” she told reporters.
“So why RH?” she asked.
While the past years have seen gain in looking after the welfare of the women sector through the passage of Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women in 2009 and RA 10354 or the RH Law in 2012, there are still several local government units that do not support the RH law, she said.
During the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2015, findings of its special inquiry on reproductive health showed the government was accountable for grave and systematic violations.
She cited Manila for its issuance of Executive Order 00310 on the prohibition of the use and provision of modern contraception by then mayor Joselito Atienza in 2009.
“Also in Sorsogon City, in February 2015, the mayor issued a pro-life resolution. Contraceptives were pulled out from health centers, depriving women of reproductive health services,” she said.
In addition, Sorsogon City proposed a measure criminalizing the dispensation of family planning commodities. It is still pending in the city council, she added.
A public hearing in Metro Manila is set on April 4 to document the barriers and problems being experienced by service providers, both state and non-state, and the affected women, particularly to those most vulnerable and marginalized.
The other public hearings will be held in Legaspi City, Albay on April 14, Zamboanga on April 21, Leyte’s Tacloban City on April 25 and Cagayan de Oro on April 29.
“Let our voices be heard, and let our stories count. Together, we call and we claim reproductive justice,” Gomez-Dumpit said.
She lamented that many women still continue to face significant inequality and discrimination in accessing reproductive health information and services.
“The Philippines has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the Asia and the Pacific region and is off-track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 5,” she said.
CHR has partnered with the United Nations Populations Fund, Likhaan Center for Woman and other civil society organizations focusing on reproductive health to investigate violations.