The Pampango senator, ridiculed by the pro-RH side for his inability to debate the “reproductive health” (RH) bill’s proponents in English, managed to eke out the figure Tuesday from one of the measure’s sponsors, Sen. Pia Cayetano.
After hemming and hawing, Cayetano admitted during interpellations on Senate Bill 2865 that the Department of Health (DOH) had asked for P13.7 billion to implement the RH bill for the year 2012 alone – an amount bigger than the individual budgets of the departments of energy, finance, foreign affairs, justice, labor, science, tourism, and trade. The figure also dwarfs the budgets proposed for the Office of the President and Congress, as well as for the entire Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The revelation of the huge RH budget is the latest in the string of exposes to hound the pro-RH lobby, which had earlier been found to be using outdated data on maternal deaths and abortion. RH proponents had long been saying that the budget would only be P3 billion annually.
Lapid pointed out that even at P3 billion per year, slum dwellers could already be sent back to the provinces and given their own land over a 10-year period.
“[Iyan ay] sapat na halaga para bigyan ng lupa ang squatter sa probinsya,” he told Cayetano.
The gargantuan RH budget prompted Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to interject, asking why DOH officials did not mention the amount in budget hearings.
Enrile blasted RH proponents for not being transparent on the real purposes of the bill, pointing out that billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money could go only to artificial birth control and that this could all boil down to “tawaran” or haggling.
“This now suggests to me that at the bottom of this bill this is a measure to control the population of the country. Why is DOH not telling us that it is anticipating that it will involve such a huge amount of funding coming from tax money? We have to scrutinize this bill very carefully. This might be a trap for the country.”
Enrile recalled that the Marcos regime did not entirely implement a US-funded population control program, as it was a US foreign policy dictate. True enough, the declassification in the 1990s of the National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests, written by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1974, showed that the Philippines was among 13 countries targeted for depopulation to protect American commercial interests.
“This bill is unfair to the Senate. It does not tell us what it wants to do. Maybe I’m dense or not as intelligent as the sponsors of the bill but my impression is this bill is not candid enough on what is its real purpose,” he said.
In response, Cayetano again resorted to appeals to emotion, nearly shedding tears in describing the situation of poor families and mothers dying of childbirth – ignoring recent studies that maternal deaths have gone down by more than 80% since the 1980s.
Cayetano said part of the funding would go to “basic” and “comprehensive” facilities, or birthing centers at the community level.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, however, said such facilities have long been put up in the communities, even without an RH bill.