It’s CHR, Cabral vs Pimentel on anti-condom ordinance

Published by rudy Date posted on March 20, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – A public hearing held yesterday on an Ayala Alabang ordinance banning the sale of condoms and other contraceptives without a prescription became heated as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and former health secretary Esperanza Cabral faced off against former senator Aquilino Pimentel.

A CHR lawyer said the agency “strongly condemns” Barangay Ordinance 1 because it violates the rights of couples to choose the number of their children, to avail themselves of government health services and to privacy.

The barangay council passed Ordinance 1 to provide “for the safety and protection of the unborn child” by not only banning the sale of contraceptives without a prescription within the barangay and prohibiting advertisements featuring contraceptives, but also by forbidding schools within its jurisdiction to teach sex education without parental consent.

According to report by ABS-CBN, the ordinance also would have drugstores keep a list of the names of people who buy contraceptives and the kind of contraceptives they buy.

The CHR said the ordinance is a violation of the constitutional rights of Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City residents and international human rights accords, of which the Philippines is a signatory.

Cabral, on the other hand, said the barangay council should withdraw the ordinance because “it is abusive, it is ignorant of the law, as well as it also usurps the power of other agencies, but also because the sentiment of the people is clearly against the ordinance,” ABS-CBN reported.

Cabral was among the 300 residents and supporters who led a rally against the ordinance prior to the public hearing.

She said among the functions the barangay council wanted to usurp are those of the Board of Pharmacy, the Food and Drugs Administration, and the Department of Health. The FDA regulates the marketing and use of drugs in the country while the DOH is the agency that should determine the country’s family planning program.

She also said the Philippine Commission on Women told the barangay council that they were in violation of the Magna Carta for Women.

Separate doors

Supporters of both sides showed up at the De la Salle Zobel gymnasium to attend the hearing. According to ABS-CBN, there were two doors for the two sides, and each person was given a sticker: pink for those favoring the ordinance, orange for those against, and white for the undecided.

Pimentel, a former Senate minority leader, said there is nothing irregular about the ordinance. He said the claim that the ordinance violates the rights of the people in the barangay has no basis.

“The right to life (of the unborn child) must prevail over all other rights. There can be no right to privacy without life,” he said.

Former congressman Ruffy Biazon, former solicitor general Frank Chavez and lawyer Mario Aguinaldo echoed the CHR’s view.

Chavez alleged that the ordinance is being enforced in Ayala Alabang, with one drugstore chain no longer selling condoms to residents.

Barangay council spokesman Luis Sison earlier said the ordinance was already being enforced, but barangay chairman Alfred Xerez-Burgos Jr. said though the ordinance was passed, it was not yet being enforced pending approval by the city council.

Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro said they will “wait for the final recommendation of the barangay council” before the city council makes a decision on whether to lift the suspension on the ordinance or declare it null and void.

The city council’s committee on health sent a letter to the barangay council, saying that the ordinance violates national laws.

National implications

The Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, one of the organizers of the rally, said the ordinance has implications for the rest of the country. DSWP national chair Elizabeth Angsioco quoted Sison as saying that the barangay council wants the ordinance to become a model for other barangays to follow.

“This should not happen because lives of women are at stake here,” she said. “What if like-minded officials of poor barangays follow suit? The poor’s access to family planning programs, now already problematic, will get even worse.”

Angsioco said studies have consistently shown that effective family planning can reduce maternal mortality by at least 32 percent, which means “thousands of women’s lives saved.”

She said her group “will not allow rich barangay councils to make poor women and their families suffer more. This ordinance should be put in a trash bin where it belongs.”

Meanwhile, Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc., a group advocating the passage of the Reproductive Health bill, said, “this extremist piece of barangay ordinance is bound for oblivion, as already decided by Muntinlupa City council.”   – With Sheila Crisostomo –Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star)

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