“There seems to be no major difference in the policy of the new DTI leadership and that of the previous one.”

That was the observation Akbayan Representative Walden Bello made when deliberations on the budget of the Department of Trade and Industry revealed that the department continued to pursue an export-oriented policy track and maintained little regard for the security of tenure of workers.

Bello pointed out that there have been “major changes in the world and in the international market” that the DTI needed to take into consideration for policy-making.

“We have seen the decline in our traditional markets, and economies all over the world are now focusing on domestic markets as a response to woes of the global economy,” Bello pointed out. “The DTI is behind the curve and needs to review its current policy to reflect these changes.”

Akbayan Party Spokesperson Risa Hontiveros today challenged opponents of the Reproductive Health bill in the Legislature to switch camps and support the proposed piece of legislation, which was certified as urgent by the Aquino government.

“This is their last chance at redemption. This is their last chance to be on the side of the people on this very important issue,” Hontiveros said.

“The lines have already been drawn, and it has never been as clear as now. The President has already spoken. The majority of the Filipino people have spoken as well. Are they in favor of providing poor Filipino families another chance in life as what the RH bill seeks to provide or will they continue to expose our people to the perils of a lack of a comprehensive reproductive health program?” Hontiveros added.

Akbayan Party today lauded the announcement made by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to include the Reproductive Health bill among the 13 priory measures, which he reportedly will ask Congress to pass immediately.

Akbayan Spokesperson Risa Hontiveros said President Aquino’s decision to make the RH bill a priority measure was a “bold move.”  

“We thank the President for this grand gesture of support. It was a very brave act especially at a time when advocates and supporters of the RH bill from both the public and the government are being subjected to bigotry and hatred. It sends a strong signal that the government will not be cowed by a noisy minority who uses and abuses the people’s faith to advance their archaic perspectives,” Hontiveros sad.

Akbayan Party congratulates newly-proclaimed Senator Koko Pimentel. We believe that the public, particularly the people of Mindanao have gained another champion in the Senate of the Philippines. We hope Senator Pimentel will use his office to be of utmost service to the people starting with finding closure to the allegations of election cheating, of which he was a victim.  

We believe Pimentel’s long fight to right a wrong should not end in a mere confirmation of his electoral victory. Rather, it should serve as a catalyst, the spark to expedite the investigation and just conclusion of this issue. We stress that those responsible for the series of election cheatings must have their day in court.

With the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s decision that Sen. Pimentel indeed won, it is evident that the will of the people had been negated by keen election operators working for certain political patrons. However, those who cheated are still free together with their political bosses, and every day they remain free they only guarantee that this kind of cheating will happen again.

We believe urgent measures must be undertaken to immediately ensure that those who have had a hand in the election cheating in both the 2004 and 2007 elections must be made to pay for their crimes. The truth in its entirety must be unearthed to finally rectify a wrong. Even if it means sullying “saintly reputations” acquired by those who benefited from cheating, yet, are free of blame because they shrewdly decided to jump ship in a “graceful manner” when they felt it was already sinking.

The 2007 elections must be the last of its kind. We hope Sen. Pimentel will help the people make this a reality. ###

Cabinet Secretaries declare Support for RH in budget hearings

“The verdict is clear, Congress should pass the RH Bill.”

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello expressed the urgency of passing the Reproductive Health Bill, as attested to by the SWS Survey showing that an outstanding 73% of the population expect the government to provide all legal information available on family planning  and 68% of the population agree that the government should fund all means of family planning.

According to Bello, the survey has cleared the “muddled-up” issues behind the reproductive health bill.

“The survey says Filipino people believe that the government should ensure their access to family planning,” Bello said. “At this point it must be the people’s will that we in Congress and in government must obey.”

Support for RH at the budget hearings

Upon questioning from Bello, key members of the Cabinet have also expressed their support for the passage of the controversial Reproductive Health bill during the budget hearings of select government agencies.  

“RH is a crucial development policy, and it was important to ensure that the initial deliberations of the budget reflected that,” Bello explained.

Accodring to Bello, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, and Health Secretary Enrique Ona had each come out with strong declarations for the passage of the bill.

Justice Secretary De Lima had said that she, as a human rights advocate, mother, and woman, believed that the reproductive health bill is “long overdue.”

Health Secretary Ona, who has long since declared his support for the institutitonalization of reproductive health rights, reiterated his position: “Reproductive Health should have been passed years ago.”

Population and development

Bello also explained that the passage of the RH bill is crucial to “temper the still rapidly-growing population of Filipinos,” a concern that is shared by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Paje.

“Population growth must be tamed,” Paje was quoted to have said.

“Our population is nearing the hundred-millionth mark, we continue to grow at over 2% per year, and 26.5% of Filipinos are poor. If we are unable to manage the population, government-reform programs and economic policies will translate to very meager benefits for the ordinary Filipino,” Bello continued. “Let us learn from our Southeast-Asian neighbors who are reaping the development benefits of population management.”

The Akbayan legislator thus urged colleagues in Congress to pass the reproductive health bill.

“Without doubt, the Filipino people stand to win reproductive health rights and reap the benefits of development with the Reproductive Health Bill, and they know it. We in Congress owe it to the people to pass the RH Bill,” Bello concluded.