By Mikhail Franz Flores and Gianfranco Roggiero Geronimo
Supporters and opponents of the reproductive health bill staged simultaneous demonstrations at the University of the Philippines, Friday.
Pro-RH groups marched around the Academic Oval and gathered at the Palma Hall steps.
Meanwhile, eight students expressed opposition to the bill by flying red balloons in front of the RH supporters.
Earlier in the day, the anti-RH group tied red ribbons around trees along the academic oval with stickers bearing the “No to RH Bill!” slogan.
The pro-RH group, however, replaced each red ribbon with purple ones as they marched around the oval in the afternoon.
House Bill 4244 or the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2011 includes, among others, provisions for ease of access to contraception and for women’s healthcare in indigent communities. The bill is currently being debated at the House of Representatives.
“Our group promotes reason, science and secularism, and scientific evidence point to the passage of the RH Bill,” said Red Tani, president of the secular group Filipino Freethinkers.
However, Kiboy Tabada of UP Against RH said the people will not benefit from the bill in the long run.
“It is too generalized as a solution,” Tabada said.
Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio of the UP Center for Women’s Studies said the university should use its expertise as scholars to push for the RH Bill.
“We honestly believe that the bill is enlightened social policy to help the country achieve several good outcomes,” Claudio said.
Claudio said they welcome the RH Bill opponents in a “secular space” like the university.
Leanne Torrato of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) said they respect people’s opinions but added that these should be justified.
“I hope they do not become discriminatory,” Torrato said.
SCAP is a network of student councils around the Philippines.
The student councils of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, School of Economics and College of Science headed the rally and a short program at the AS steps.
(This article was edited on July 8, 2011 at 12:20 a.m. to amend factual errors.)