Former Representative Edcel Lagman and Health Secretary Janette Garin’s efforts to promote family planning earn them international recognition
BALI, Indonesia – Former Representative Edcel Lagman and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette Garin were among the winners of the 2016 Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning Awards for their role in aiding the passage of the landmark reproductive health (RH) law.
The award was given by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute and the Indonesian National Population and Family Planning Board at the International Conference on Family Planning which ended Thursday, January 28.
“When we were fighting to pass the RH Law, I was called an abortionist. There were pictures of me burning in hell,” said Garin. “I wished I could be seen (instead) as an angel of reproductive health.”
Garin who previously served as Iloilo representative before becoming DOH secretary was one of the co-authors of the RH Law.
“Family planning dates back to antiquity. People have been trying to control having babies since they started making them,” said Lagman during his acceptance speech, drawing laughs from the audience.
Lagman recalled the long road to passing the RH law which set out to provide contraceptive information and services to poor women. During his term in Congress, Lagman was a staunch RH supporter and one of the principal authors of the RH law.
“And now the saga continues. The new challenge is the full and speedy implementation of the law. We cannot rest on our laurels,” said Lagman.
Since it was passed in 2012, the reproductive health law has been met with continuous opposition. It was challenged by anti-abortion groups, causing the Supreme Court to temporarily halt its implementation. In 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law.
The following year, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the DOH from purchasing and distributing implants based on complaints filed by anti-abortion groups that claimed that implants are abortifacients. (READ: [Dash of SAS] Why do some pro-life groups hate women so much?)
The latest blow to the implementation of the law was the scrapping of the P1-billion budget allocated for contraceptives. Legislators and activists called the budget cut “unethical” and “immoral.”
The DOH has been scrambling for funds to fill in the shortfall.
According to Garin, P337 million will be taken from funds meant for the purchase of blood pressure apparatus and an additional P50 million will be taken from trainings.
“The total amount now earmarked for family planning is P490 million. We’re looking at a gap of P510 million. We are making sure that allocation for HIV will not be touched. Of the P490 million identified, P50 million will go to (purchasing) condoms,” said Garin.
Garin admitted that it is still far off from the P1 billion original contraceptive budget.
DOH regional offices have their own budgets to implement regional or community programs, but Garin said reallocating funds from the regional coffers has not yet been resolved.
“We are also looking into that, but we have to make sure other programs like immunization are not affected,” she said.
The Philippines failed to meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing maternal mortality and new HIV infections. The country has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the region and one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world. (READ: Meeting RH-related SDG targets: ‘Work must start Day 1’)
More than 3,000 people attended and participated in the 4th International Conference on Family Planning, a biennial conference that gathers experts and activists toward reaching the goal of enabling an additional 120 million women to access quality contraception by 2020. –Ana P. Santos, Rappler.com