Over 200 educators from ADMU, UP back RH bill

Published by rudy Date posted on March 24, 2011

Over 200 faculty members from the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and the University of the Philippines (UP) declared their support for the Reproductive Health (RH) bill and urged lawmakers to immediately pass the bill in Congress.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the faculty members from two of the country’s most prestigious universities said they are putting their expert opinion behind the RH bill, which they believe is “a vital piece of legislation.”

The signatories of the statement signed the statement in their individual capacities as educators and scholars from various academic disciplines. The faculty also come from all levels of the academe, from young instructors to professors emeriti and deans.

Among the notable signatories were:

# Marvic Leonen, current UP Law dean and head of the government panel in the GRP-MILF peace talks;

# Raul Pangalangan, former UP Law dean who was earlier nominated to become a Supreme Court associate justice;

# Harry Roque Jr., UP law professor and legal counsel for the families of journalists killed in the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre;

# Evalyn Ursua, UP law lecturer and former legal counsel for Subic rape victim Suzette Nicolas;

# Meynardo P. Mendoza, ADMU history professor and husband of whistleblower Heidi Mendoza;

# Bienvenido Lumbera, acclaimed poet and National Artist for Literature; and

# Solita “Winnie’ Collas-Monsod, economist and former Socio-economic Planning Secretary under former President Cory Aquino’s administration.

Professor Marita Castro Guevarra from ADMU said the effort started as a very small initiative by a group of teachers, who realized they had common concerns as scholars who had been involved in RH debates. “We were amazed at the response from our colleagues. It took us less than a week to gather the signatures,” she said in a statement.

The statement said many of the faculty members who signed it have been working on reproductive health and its related issues, some of them for decades.

“We issue this statement because we see the need for our active engagement in social issues, believing as we do that the academe has a distinct role to play in achieving social justice and national development,” the statement said.

The academics also decried the misuse of science by oppositors of the controversial measure.

“We have witnessed the misuse of outdated studies, data that have already been disproven, or studies that cannot be replicated to support what are merely ideological positions,” the statement said. “One example that is particularly dangerous is the lie that condoms do not protect against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.”

“There have also been those who misrepresented extremist positions as the prevailing consensus of the scientific community. This evidence-based consensus, however, does support the provision of reproductive health services that include contraceptive access and sexuality education. It also supports the services for adolescents and children that (the RH bill) mandates,” the statement also said.

Incentives for anti-RH statements

The statement also expressed the faculty members’ concern over reports of teachers offering incentives or ‘bonus points’ for students to make anti-RH statements or engage in anti-RH activities.

In February, a professor from University of Santo Tomas admitted that he offered bonus points for his students who posted anti-RH comments on a party-list group’s Facebook page.

“We welcome disparate opinions as necessary to the vitality of any scholarly community. Thus, we believe that it is an abuse of our role as value formators to dictate the political actions of our students in this way,” the statement said. “We denounce any such violations of our duties to inculcate critical thinking and respect our students’ right to their own opinions. We denounce this, regardless of whether the teacher is for or against the RH Bill.”

They also cautioned people to be more critical of the data and opinions presented to them.

“We are heartened by polls that show that most Filipinos know of the bill and support it, and in so doing have shown their capacity for enlightened citizenship,” the statement said.

Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio from UP said they are not confining the statement to just the two universities, as colleagues from other universities and colleges have also expressed their support. She added that more signatures will be collected in the coming weeks. — RSJ/KBK, GMA News

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