Last October 30, I lost a mentor. My former seatmate, mentor, and friend Senator Flavier passed away. I paid my respects, and for the last time, looked upon his smiling face.
You always made me smile. So this one’s for you… for once, you are taller than me.
Today, we had the necrological service for the late Senator Flavier in the Senate.
With Senate President Drilon, we welcome the ashes of the late Sen. Juan Flavier at the Senate necrological services
At the necrological services, listening to my colleagues deliver their eulogy was very touching. Everyone recounted how wonderful a person Tito Johnny was. Despite the solemnity of the occasion, we erupted into laughter at anecdotes that were so classic Flavier.
This is the eulogy I delivered.
Delivering my eulogy and saying farewell to my friend and seatmate.
My story starts in 2004 when I began my term as a senator. I sat in front as I still do now between the Majority Floor Leader and Senate President Pro Tempore. The SP Pro Tempore then was the honorable Sen. Juan Flavier, but our families’ friendship goes back to when dad and Sen. Flavier, “Tito Johnny” to me, became colleagues in the senate. In fact they both served in the Ramos administration. Senator Flavier was secretary of health, while my dad was the chief presidential legal counsel.
Back then I was a private citizen, a young lawyer who already idolized this amazingly charismatic health secretary who was taking on health campaigns, that little did I know would be my very campaigns as well.
In my blog which I wrote when he retired from the senate, I said, “My seatmate is never absent nor late. He is always the first one there. When I arrive, he always greets me with a warm smile. And in return, I give him a kiss on the cheek.
Then I sit down and he says, ‘How are you young lady?’ And so there I was a new senator, in need of fatherly guidance and affection. I would pour out my daily woes. He patiently nodded and listened.” I guess Senator Miriam, Senator Loren and I have the same experience in that sense.
He was a father to me. But as a legislator, we complemented each other. We shared a common passion for healthcare. He was the teacher and I was the student. I had dreams and aspirations; he had wisdom and experience. I had a passion for healthcare. He had the medical degree and expertise.
At the start of the 13th Congress, I asked him if he would continue to chair the Committee on Health, he said, “It’s your turn. I will support you.”
With the former secretary of health at my side, I faced the challenges with a positive outlook. I sponsored my first bill on the expanded vaccination program. I discussed breastfeeding at length with him.
We talked about lobby groups and how, at times, they managed to block or delay key legislation. On many occasions, I would turn to him in frustration. I told him it was difficult working with some NGOs and professional groups because they wanted me, expected me, to carry their cause without taking into consideration other views, which I could not do.
His advice was simple. He said, “Hayaan mo silang kumisay!”
You had to know him to understand what he meant. He could say this because he had earned people’s respect. He could say this because people knew he didn’t mean it in an insulting way. It was just his way of putting his foot down with a bit of humor mixed in.
In my blog, I wrote, sometimes being in the senate was like being in school. We have a school bell that rings and tells us it’s time to come in. Having been one of only four women senators in 2004, it was common for me to be the subject of my male colleagues’ jokes and friendly ribbing. Senator Flavier was my defender. This man, small in stature, was my protector, just as he was the protector of millions of Filipinos.
On the senate floor, he tempered my dreams and aspirations with his wisdom and experience. I was impatient; he knew there was a time for everything.
His patience paid off. Two decades after his ‘Yosi Kadiri’ campaign, after I sponsored and defended the Tobacco Graphic Health Warning bill in three congresses, throughout 2007 and 2014, with the help of our Senate President Frank Drilon, it became a law.
The same can be said for the Reproductive Health (RH) Law. He was a strong advocate of family planning when he was President Ramos’ secretary of health. After conducting my first hearing and a series of consultations on RH at the start of my term in the 13th Congress, I asked for his advice on how to proceed. I had my doubts if the timing was right because aside from the resistance of some sectors, then President GMA was vocal about her opposition.
His advice to me: Watch and observe. “See if it makes progress in the Lower House. Take it from there.” It was the advice I needed to hear at that time.
Two congresses later, its time had come. We had a new President who was pro-RH. Both houses of Congress had outspoken members ready to champion its cause. NGOs and advocates and the advent of social media allowed more discussions and created a better understanding of the issues.
And although he was not in the Senate when two of these very hardly fought health bills – Tobacco Graphic Health Warning RH, and if I could include, also the amended Sin Tax Bill – were passed, he provided the foundation, and should forever be a part of the legislative history of these laws.
Sitting next to me, I knew what my seatmate was up to all the time. In between debates and administrative functions, he would be writing. Wondering what it was he was always writing, I asked. At times he would be making changes in his long and never-ending biography, but other times, he would be sending a personal handwritten response to all the letters he received.
If he was not sitting next to me, he was up on the podium as presiding officer. And although it has been seven years since he has been on the senate floor, I can still see him sitting there. At the end of session, he would say with much enthusiasm, “Session will resume at such and such time, at 3 pm, SHARP!” That was Sen. Flavier’s ending for every session day that he presided.
For the Filipino people, he was the charismatic doctor to the barrios, the energetic, fearless secretary and senator known for his “Let’s DOH it” attitude.
But as I wrote in my blog, I knew a little bit more of this man — that which completed him was his family. His beloved grandchildren who were but little kids then, may have surely ‘outgrown’ Mr. Bean. But from his stories and the joy in his eyes, I know that truly this was his most cherished position – a mere member of his grandchildren’s secret society – ‘Mr. Bean Watchers Club.’
His most cherished position – a member of his grandchildren’s Mr. Bean Watchers Club. With Kia, Pio, and Tita Susan
At the necrological service, I finally met the famous Kia, beloved granddaughter
Tita Susan, Jondi, Johnet, James and Joy, thank you for sharing this great man with us. He will be missed but never forgotten.
With his wife, Tita Susan
At the necrological service with his son James, a spitting image of him
My Seatmate…Senator Flavier
Juan Flavier – Mr. Let’s DOH It, People’s Senator, quietly passes away
Well-loved jovial ‘giant’ Juan Flavier dies at 79
Quotas as a means to increase women’s participation in politics.
This was the debate this morning at the Meeting of the Women Parliamentarians here at the 131st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva.
For years, the IPU Committee on Women, of which I was Chair from 2008-2010, has been tracking the number of women in the parliaments all over the world. Worldwide, the average is 21.8%, still off the target of 30%.
When I took the floor, I pointed out that the Philippines has had two women presidents and have elected women to various positions in government. Despite that, Congress has yet to break the 30% barrier.
At present, the Senate has 6 women, which represents 25% of the Senate, while the House has 79 women out of 290 representatives, or 29% of the lower chamber.
I pointed out that with or without a quota requirement, a political system must ensure:
– political leaders accept and recognise the need for equal representation of men and women in political positions
– training programs, workshops, leadership seminars for young women
– support groups and training for women already in politics
– that we evaluate our portrayal of women in politics as seen through the eyes of children, i.e. how women are portrayed in text books and other media that are readily consumable by the youth. What is the role of women from the perspective of a student and young Filipino?
Those against quotas say women should win their seat fair and square, while others express concern that quotas don’t work without the corresponding programs that will allow women effective participation within political parties and in parliament.
To my mind, whether or not we adopt a quota system, these important steps must be taken to ensure an effective mechanism for increasing the number of women in parliament.
Running the Rome Marathon has always been on my bucket list. When I found out that the Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting that I regularly attend on behalf of the Philippine Senate was going to be held the week before Rome Marathon and on my birthday weekend, I knew that Rome was mine to take!
The Arch of Titus and the Coliseum
The day before I ran Rome Marathon, I did a short run to the Colosseum to take some pictures. While there, I contemplated on the life we have now vs. the lives of women then.
I realized I may not look like a gladiator, and I don’t know if I would survive a battle to the death in the Colosseum during the Roman times, but I do know many women who are modern day gladiators. Among them are the women who took to the streets lobbying for their right to reproductive health.
In the Roman times, women picketed the houses of lawmakers to pressure them to repeal the Oppian law which they deemed oppressive in a time of prosperity. The said law sought to limit a woman’s possession of gold, wearing of dresses in different colors, or riding of a horse-drawn carriage within the city. Their efforts were successful and the law was successfully repealed (source: http://www.the-romans.co.uk/women.htm)
It doesn’t seem like a cause we would fight for today, but I guess in the context of the times, these women were fighting for equal treatment.
And even as our country has been recognized as among the most gender equal nations in the world, we still have laws that are discriminatory against women. In this regard, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Family Relations, and Equality, I conducted hearings to review such discriminatory laws with the view of bridging the gender gap in our legislation. The first two subject matters in the following enumeration have gone through the committee and are already on the Senate floor, and we are currently drafting the Committee Report for the third law.
- There are many provisions in the Family Code where the decision should be lodged with both husband and wife. And yet, the Family Code gives the husband or father the final say in the following matters:
– Administration of the spouses’ common property (Family Code, Arts. 96 and 124)
– Exercise of parental authority over their common children (Family Code, Arts. 211 and 225)
– Giving parental consent to the marriage of their child (Family Code, Art. 14)
These are discriminatory because the decision of the husband and wife, or father and mother, must be given the same weight in our laws, instead of holding one supreme over the other.
- Premature marriages make it a crime for a woman to marry within 301 days after the death of her husband, or before having delivered if she was pregnant at the time of his death. No such prohibition is placed on men. (Revised Penal Code, Art. 351)
- On marital infidelity, men and women are treated unequally. A married woman is made criminally liable for one count of adultery for each act of sexual intercourse with a man not her husband. Meanwhile, the law enumerates stringent conditions before a man can be held criminally liable for having sexual intercourse with a woman not his wife. (Revised Penal Code, Arts. 333 and 334)
In addition to these, the Committee will also be reviewing other laws with discriminatory provisions against women, including the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.
Women have come so far in fighting for and attaining equal rights under the law. Despite the progress we have made, it is important to remember that there was a time in our recent past where women did not get equal opportunities for education, to pursue a career, or to vote. It is a continuing struggle to achieve gender equality in every aspect of our lives, and getting our laws up to speed is a good place to start.
And my Rome Marathon? It was actually the slowest marathon I ever ran – thanks to my decision to run my first ultra marathon in Cebu two weeks prior – but it is one of the most memorable. It was like running back in time through many historic sites. Truly unforgettable.
Polvoron sand and the beautiful blue sea. That’s what comes to mind when I close my eyes and think of Bohol. It started with a ferry ride from Cebu to Bohol with my bike in tow. My bike is my best friend and my preferred mode of transportation whenever possible. It doesn’t happen as much as I’d like, but I do grab every opportunity I can get. On this trip, I actually had it because I was doing the Defy Tri in Panglao Island. But first, I had to attend to some official business at Bohol Island State University (BISU). As Chair of the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, I am an ex-officio member of the board of state universities and colleges (SUCs).
BISU is a progressive university that has over 14,000 students spread over six campuses, with its main campus located in Tagbilaran City. Over the years, BISU has become a livewire in licensure exams, churning out topnotchers in engineering licensure exams and exams for teachers, among others. <http://bisu.edu.ph>
Part of the latest buzz in BISU is its new Fablab, the country’s first fabrication laboratory managed by BISU. It is a technical prototyping platform that allows local manufacturers to make prototypes and products, and is expected to boost local entrepreneurship in the province.
On display was a prototype of an easy-to-assemble-and-transport house that was designed by a Japanese architect. Its concept is a puzzle house made of scrap wood, designed for victims of calamities (e.g. victims of the recent 7.2 earthquake in Bohol).
What’s heartbreaking, however, is that one of BISU’s main buildings, a 3-storey structure, was severely damaged by the earthquake last year. At the time of my visit, the rehabilitation funds had not yet been released but thankfully, as of the time of this writing, P112 million has already been released to BISU.
My last stop in BISU was a short unplanned talk at the orientation of the incoming freshmen – all DOST scholars majoring in Math! Wow! What a powerhouse class! So excited to see how these kids will do over the next few years.
And that ends Part 1 of my Bohol trip. Coming soon is Part 2 of My Bike Chronicles in Bohol.
I write this blog on the occasion of Dr. Jose Rizal’s 153rd birthday. As a child, I grew up reading comic books and short stories about his life and later on reading his two masterpieces Noli Me Tangare and El Filibusterismo. A few years ago I had a chance to visit Spain and do a Rizal tour, going to the places Rizal and other Filipino freedom fighters frequented. Last year, I joined our ambassador to Spain, Ambassador Carlos Salinas and our kababayans at the Rizal shrine in the Avenida de Filipinas to honor Rizal. Apparently there are monuments to Rizal all over the world including Italy, Belgium, France, Switzerland, China, Japan and in various parts of the United States.http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/262449/pinoyabroad/pinoyachievers/jose-rizal-a-revered-hero-abroad-not-just-phl
I am in awe of this man who spoke 23 languages, both foreign and local, at a time when there were no apps or tutorials you could download. He was a doctor, who specialized in opthalmology and devoted his practice to the poor, a poet and novelist who dared to write about the inequities and social realities of his time, and above all a man who was willing to die for his country.
A man like this deserves our utmost respect. And yet, Dr. Jose Rizal and other heroes, namely Gat Andres Bonifacio, and Padres Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora, may soon become names on an alcoholic beverage if Destileria Limtuaco, Inc. has its way.
Rizal: Photo taken from wikipedia.org; Bonifacio: Photo taken from malacanang.gov.ph; Gomburza: Photo taken from wikipedia.org
Similarly, Destileria Limtuaco also intends to appropriate historic landmarks in the Philippines as names for their alcoholic beverages.
Laguna: Photograph by Jerwin Lim; Vigan: Photo taken from virtualtourist.com; Banaue: Photo taken from http://www.banaue-tours.com/
Laguna, Vigan and Banaue – images of famous Philippine locations that showcase the beauty, history, and culture of our country. Laguna is steep in history, the birthplace of Jose Rizal and now a tourist attraction known for the arts. Vigan is a World Heritage Site that can easily transport one back in time with its unique fusion of Asian design and construction and Spanish colonial architecture. Banaue is home to the Rice Terraces, another World Heritage Site.
Tacloban: Photo taken from wikipedia.org
After the devastation wrought by typhoon Yolanda, Tacloban has become a rallying symbol to the world for hope, disaster recovery, relief cooperation, and Filipino resilience.
It boggles my mind that anyone would try to appropriate these names for commercial use but even worse is that its intended use is for alcoholic beverages.
Is this allowed?
Most certainly not! R.A. 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code lays down stringent guidelines when registering a mark associated with names, national symbols and geographical areas:
Sec. 123.1.a: A mark cannot be registered if it consists of immoral, deceptive or scandalous matter, or MATTER WHICH MAY DISPARAGE OR FALSELY SUGGEST A CONNECTION WITH PERSONS, LIVING OR DEAD, INSTITUTIONS, beliefs, or NATIONAL SYMBOLS, OR BRING THEM INTO CONTEMPT OR DISREPUTE;
Sec. 123.1.g: A mark cannot be registered if it “is likely to mislead the public, particularly as to the nature, quality, characteristics or GEOGRAPHICAL ORIGIN of the goods or services”; and
Section 123.1.j: Also says a mark cannot be registered if it “consists exclusively of signs or indications that may serve in trade to designate the xxx GEOGRAPHIC ORIGIN xxx of the goods or rendering of the services, or other characteristics of the goods or services.” [all EMPHASIS ours]
On this same matter, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) issued the following statement:
“The Commission strongly opposes such applications. Historic persons, national heroes and heritage site are given the highest level of recognition and dignity by the states and imbued with public interest. Thus, their misappropriations for commercial enterprise and products, not only distract from the achievements of these persons or the importance of these sites, but sends the message that their names can be desacrilized, privately owned and used to enrich private interest. xxx”
The IPO is duty bound to deny the application for trademark registration based on the above provisions of the law. It shocks me that the IPO even allowed Destileria Limtuaco to publish its application for the use of “Intramuros.”
Let us unite and join the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Intramuros Administration in opposing this irresponsible and callous move by Destileria Limtuaco.
We do not want to see our heroes faces and names on bottles of alcoholic drinks. I call on Destileria Limtuaco, Inc. to act as a responsible corporate entity and withdraw its applications. I call on the Intellectual Property Office to deny the applications outright.
We have heroes so that we are reminded of the freedoms we enjoy today, freedoms that our heroes fought for. Their lives speak to our youth about the value of hard work and sacrifice. It gives us a vision of what we can achieve. Likewise, our historic landmarks take us back in time and allow us to learn from our past through the lives of our ancestors that define who we are today.
Laguna: Photograph by Jerwin Lim via https://www.flickr.com/photos/jerwin_lim/7271502834/
Vigan: Photo taken from virtualtourist.com
Banaue: Photo taken from http://www.banaue-tours.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/BAAUE-RICE-TERRACES1.jpg
Tacloban: Photo taken from wikipedia.org
Rizal: Photo taken from wikipedia.org
Bonifacio: Photo taken from malacanang.gov.ph
Gomburza: Photo taken from wikipedia.org
Where are you? In the middle of the sea.
At sea off the coast of Cambados in Galicia, Spain
That was the message I got from my daughter and my response to her.
Our study of the Galicia autonomous region included a small municipality with 14,000 inhabitants named Cambados. Its major source of income and livelihood comes from three major industries that are intertwined – fisheries, wine, and tourism.
Municipal Office of Cambados
We learned about how small government units function as part of the autonomous regions. Depending on the population size, the responsibility of the municipality grows, like providing health care centers, parks, and transportation.
The alcalde (mayor) took us to their fish depot where fish were auctioned daily.
Selfie with Sen. Koko Pimentel at the fish depot
We then took a boat to see their version of “fish pens” which were floating rafts with ropes that went 12 meters down into the sea. The shellfish – mussels and scallops – cling to it and grow to full size before being harvested.
Their boats have big windows below deck so you can see the ropes and the shellfish.
Of course to pair with their seafood is their local white wine, which they boast is in demand all over the world.
A typical meal is their sardines or mussels served with cheese on cracker or bread.
We capped off the visit with a tour of the 400-year old family-owned winery.
One of the rooms in the winery, with a hand-painted wall done in the 1800s.
That was one inspiring little municipality.
I am so proud to wear the Philippine map on my face for Earth Day.
#EarthFaces is a project of Niccolo Cosme and the Climate Change Commission
It was way back in 1970 when Earth Day began. A full forty-four years ago, 20 million Americans rallied for the protection of the environment. Today, more than 150 countries and over a billion people celebrate Earth Day the world over.
For Earth Day, I decided to create a simple photo blog highlighting my Senate work and projects to save our environment.
We all have different environment projects we like to support. That’s all good. But we need to ensure that our children are raised with the consciousness that they are caretakers of the environment, and that they are equipped with the information to make earth-friendly decisions in their homes and their own communities. That is embodied in the law I sponsored, RA 9152 or the Environmental Education Act.
I love running and I love trail runs in the mountains. In my first term, I started hearing the Sustainable Transportation Bill. Sadly, almost 10 years later, it is not yet a law.
(Feb 09, 2013) The gruelling 37km Mt. Ugo Sky Run is one of my fave races of all time.
A project close to my heart is the MRF – Material Recovery Facility in Taguig in coordination with Barangay the Fort and the City Government. It showcases how waste, when properly segregated, can be drastically reduced, and eliminate tons of garbage in landfills.
April 17, 2013
Biking! My favorite human-powered mode of transpo. I still hope for the passage of my Senate Bill on sustainable transportation, which calls for a policy developing efficient and healthful mass transit, and more walk ways and bike paths.
LRT Bike On Bike Off (Nov. 08, 2009); E-trike with Former Mayor Hagedorn (Palawan, Feb. 16, 2008); E-jeep with Greenpeace (Bacolod, Jan. 23, 2008);
In 2008, I visited a plastic recycling plant where plastic products from PET bottles to plastic “sando” bags are recycled.
Sept. 29, 2008
Nature has given us everything we need to thrive and survive. We can all do little things that will protect the environment, so that our children, and their children after them, can inherit a better place.
By a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court declared the Reproductive Health Law as constitutional.
This is the final victory of a long-fought battle – one that lasted almost two decades and several Congresses – to provide Filipinos with a most basic right: the right to reproductive health.
Today, this gives us the green light to continue and institutionalize programs that will provide Filipinos, especially women, access to information and services to have a safe pregnancy, plan their families, and be responsible persons.
Based on the press conference of the Public Information Officer of the Supreme Court, we understand that portions of the law were declared unconstitutional, particularly parts of Sections 7, 17, and 23.
Primarily, these provisions relate to the obligation of private health facilities and health care service providers, including those owned by religious groups, to refer a person seeking reproductive health services when it conflicts with their ethical or religious beliefs.
Although I disagree with this part of the Supreme Court’s conclusion, this does not affect access by those who need it most – the poor. Public hospitals and health centers will provide a full range of reproductive health services. This was upheld by the Supreme Court.
I still believe in the constitutionality of each provision as I have studied these thoroughly and defended it on the Senate floor throughout the 15th Congress (2010-2013).
Then in 2013, numerous petitions questioning the constitutionality of the RH Law were filed. I joined the fight to defend its constitutionality and argued our case before the Supreme Court.
The full decision has yet to be released. When I see it, I will be able to make a more comprehensive review.
But for today, I can say that despite all the difficulties, I love my job because of the opportunity it has given me to fight side-by-side with amazing women and men who have embarked and succeeded on what was said to be an impossible task – a comprehensive reproductive health law.
With women who have been fighting for RH rights for many years
My legal team who burned the midnight candle with me
On the first Saturday of the year, my amazing Senate legal team indulged me and let me buy them a cup of coffee each in exchange for working on a weekend. I wanted to take stock of where we were so we could start our year strong. It happened to be the birthday of my daughter Max and my youngest brother Lino, and thus I was also under time constraints to release my staff as soon as possible so we could all go about our weekend activities.
We did our annual review of our legislative agenda – some of the Senate bills and resolutions we had previously filed, heard in committee hearings, and defended on the floor, like the tobacco graphic warning bill. Others were new bills which needed to be drafted, fine-tuned, and filed.
So this is what we are looking at this year:
– I filed a Resolution calling for a review of the implementation of the sin tax law, specifically the allocation of funds for health projects and the support of farmers. I’ve spoken to Senator Sonny Angara and he will hear the resolution I filed soon. For a backgrounder on my call to review the Sin Tax Law, please check out this news story from Rappler.com.
– I filed a Resolution calling for the review of all laws that may be discriminatory to women, as mandated by the Magna Carta of Women. This is scheduled to be heard soon.
As posted on my Instagram and Facebook:
Modification: With a little help, I can keep house, raise kids, climb mountains and save the world
Art by David Hayward from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor/2013/04/women-leaders-we-apparently-need-to-avoid/
– Graphic Health Warning Bill: This bill requires all tobacco product packaging to have graphics or images depicting the dangers of smoking. We already held the hearing last week, January 22, 2014. I was pleasantly shocked to hear the four tobacco companies express support for the measure, very unlike the first hearing I held some six years ago.
This news story from the Philippine Daily Inquirer provides the highlights of the hearing we conducted on the Graphic Health Warning Bill.
– Firecracker bill: We need to review our existing laws and practices and identify once and for all what practices are acceptable and not. I for one, prefer to limit firework display to LGUs and those they accredit.
– Student Athlete’s Rights Bill: This is a product of the recent issue involving the UAAP 2-year residency rule. Last year, I initiated an online petition to revoke the UAAP’s 2 year residency rule. But since the UAAP turned a deaf ear, I am filing a bill aims to recognize the rights of a student to participate in competitive sports and pursue an academic degree free of undue pressure or restriction of their basic rights.
With UP rookie swimmer Mikee Bartolome and her father, Vic Bartolome, holding up their petition to take the UAAP residency rule to court
UP rookie swimmer Mikee Bartolome went to court to fight for her right to study and swim for the school of her choice. The court upheld that right. Here are links to some related articles recounting the struggle to overcome the UAAP’s two-year residency rule:
‘Revise the new UAAP residency rule,’ online petition of Sen. Pia S. Cayetano on Change.org
‘Sen. Pia Cayetano decries high school residency rule,’ by Job de Leon, GMA News Online, April 1, 2013
‘All she wants is to swim for UP,’ by Josiah Israel Albelda, Rappler.com, August 30, 2013
‘Court grants TRO for UP swimmer, orders UAAP not to impose 2-year rule,’ by Yahoo! PH Sports, September 3, 2013
‘Bartolome wins gold but boycotts mar UAAP swimming,’ by Rappler.com, September 21, 2013
– Rare Diseases Bill: This bill aims to ensure that each patient diagnosed with a rare disease will have access to timely information and adequate medical care, through a sustainable health care system, the proposed Rare Disease Registry, and integrated educational and informational campaigns.
– Sustainable Transportation bill. I re-filed this bill for the 16th Congress. I am hoping that the committee will hear this soon. For a quick background on the Sustainable Transportation Bill, please read this article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
– Philippine National High School for Sports. This will create a system that will centralize the sports program in the high school level to develop student-athletes to maximize their talents and skills and prepare them for international competitions and a possible career as a sports practitioner.
– Scholarship and various grants in aid/financial assistants to students. We already had an initial hearing, the outcome of which is the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Higher and Technical Education Act. This shall harmonize existing national government programs for scholarships, grants-in-aid, loans for higher and technical education, and such other mechanisms to access educational opportunities.
– HIV/AIDS. This bill aims to address the gaps in Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, in order for the government to respond more efficiently to the rising number of reported cases of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines.
At an HIV/AIDS awareness photo exhibit in the Senate with fellow advocates, DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag and photographer Niccolo Cosme.
– Amendment to Art. 36 of the Family Code on annulment of marriage based on psychological incapacity. A review of the said provision is necessary because of perceived gaps and ambiguities in determining psychological incapacity.
– Inclusive Education Bill. The main objective of the bill is to provide Children and Youth with Special Needs (CYSN) with access to basic education within the general education stream so that they may equally access programs and services given to typically developing learners.
Meanwhile I continue to sit on the board of the State Universities and Colleges and hope to improve the state of our tertiary education through policy on the board levels of each institution but also through legislation where necessary.
I will also be busy working on legislation and policy to address the power crisis that continues to hound us. This will require reviewing the EPIRA law, which introduced competition in the electric power industry via privatization and the creation of a spot market.
We will also have our hands full reviewing the Bangsamoro law, a product of the signing of the peace agreement between the MILF and government.
On the international front, I will continue to participate in the Inter-Parliamentary Union conferences and other events that will bring about better cooperation among nations, where we can learn from best practices and also share our experiences. I will also be keenly observing developments in the Philippine West Pacific Seas otherwise knowns as South China Seas and events within our region.
Finally, we continue to review the bills we have filed and those referred to the committees I chair and make adjustments as necessary. From experience, there are always unexpected issues that come up that need to be addressed. But as always, my team and I try to meet our self-imposed deadlines, to the extent possible.
With that, I wish everyone a happy, blessed, and productive new year. But since this has been sitting on my drafts folder for almost a month, I think it is more appropriate to wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai!
On Friday, I launched a breast milk bank at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center – the first of its kind in the Visayas. This is in connection with my advocacy to promote breastfeeding, and is also consistent with the mandate of RA 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Act, which I sponsored.
Six years ago, I spoke at the launch of the Lactation Unit and Human Milk Bank at the Philippine General Hospital. A year later, I led the launch of the country’s first community milk bank in Makati City, where the collected milk was transferred to Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial. Thereafter, we’ve sponsored several community breastmilk-letting activities, not only to help the Fabella Hospital and PGH milk banks, but also to promote breastfeeding among Filipino mothers.
This event served as an opportunity to meet and share ideas with health workers and pregnant moms. I reiterated the need to promote breastfeeding and to start immediately after birth. Not only is breast milk best for babies, it is also the most affordable way to feed an infant.
The breast milk bank will provide precious breast milk for babies who do not have access to their mother’s milk. The VSMMC will run the facility where nursing mothers can donate their milk and have it stored in the bank for other babies in need.
When the hospital administrator and medical staff lamented the lack of space in the maternity ward, I proposed putting up a separate birthing center to decongest the main hospital. I was happy to hear that there were already such plans. The idea is to provide a separate place for mothers who are expecting normal deliveries without complications. This birthing center will be manned by trained midwives and supervised by the doctors. The tertiary hospital and the specialists can then focus on the deliveries with complications, which is really their mandate and where their expertise can best be put to use.
After the discussion, we visited the maternity ward. At present, it’s a 4:1 ratio of mothers with their babies to a bed. Can you imagine that? I’ve been here and to many other maternity wards before. The scenarios are almost always identical – overcrowded. I think the pictures below say it all.
Despite this situation, many mothers seemed relatively happy. Most of them were doing well and starting to breastfeed. I shared some personal advice about breastfeeding, just some tips and tricks that worked for me.
What broke my heart was seeing so many teen moms. I looked into the eyes of these children having children of their own. Every single one I spoke to had not finished grade school. I don’t know what kind of future they will have. I tried to talk to as many of them as I could, encouraging them to go back to school so they can provide a better future for their child. I talked to them about planning their family and not getting pregnant again any time soon in order to take better care of their baby and also prepare for their future. They just nodded in response, with blank looks on their faces.
I have to admit I left with a heavy heart. RA 10354 or the Reproductive Health Law is meant to address issues such as teen pregnancies. And yet, many still do not understand, or else they refuse to see, that without information, so many of our youth will continue to get pregnant before they become adults, some even before they finish grade school.
[Learn more about teen pregnancies in the Philippines: (1) (2) (3)]
Another problem that still persists is our high maternal mortality rate – that is, mothers dying due to childbirth-related complications. Again, the Reproductive Health Law seeks to address this by providing support for family planning and the needs of pregnant women.
[Learn more about the Philippines’ maternal mortality rate: (1) (2) (3)]
Despite the setbacks in the implementation of the law, I am hopeful that with each small step that we take, such as the establishment of the breast milk bank and eventually the new birthing center, we will slowly address these problems. It is just disappointing that our progress is delayed, and as we await the Supreme Court hearing, mothers and newborns will continue to die, and teenagers will continue to get pregnant with little hope for a brighter future.