RH law implementing rules clarifies gender sensitive provision of health services

For many women and families, the long wait is finally over. The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law was finally passed on December 21, 2012 after a “long and contentious battle” in Congress. Last March 15, 2013, its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) was signed at the Baseco Compound, Tondo, Manila. Indeed, a very “fitting” venue considering that the RPRH law aims to assist the marginalized sectors of society, particularly in reducing maternal mortality in the Philippines.

“This law will benefit the poor, especially those who have many children. I hope we will put all our efforts together in order for this law to benefit all,” Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) Chairperson Remedios Rikken said. The RH law, Rikken noted, is a “landmark piece of legislation” that the Philippines has waited for 13 years.

The Baseco community expressed their gratitude for the law’s passage and IRR signing. A Muslim woman shared her struggle in buying contraceptives because of stringent anti-RH rules in Baseco. She also said that she was able to take care of her family and do her role as a mother because of family planning. A father said that family planning is not exclusive to women. He encouraged the men to use family planning methods.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona thanked President Benigno Aquino III for his affirmation that it is “high time” for the country to have this law. “We will ensure that poor people have access to RH services. We will make sure that there will be no more mothers who die giving birth,” he added.

“The signing of this RH law’s IRR this Women’s Month is very symbolic. A woman’s image is a central figure when talking about reproductive rights,” Albay representative Edcel Lagman said. Lagman is also the principal author of House Bill 4244.

Senator Pia S. Cayetano, principal author of Senate Bill 2685, stressed the significance of the IRR signing especially for those living in rural areas. “It’s a nice feeling that our country and the world is acknowledging that we deserve an RH Law. This is for all the communities like Baseco.” she said.

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) PCW pushed for the inclusion of important provisions during the drafting of the IRR, for example, the need for health service providers to be trained on gender sensitive handling of clients, for referral facility for adolescents especially for those who experienced gender-based violence, and for the Commission on Human Rights, as Gender and Development Ombud, to investigate on the violations of the law.

Some of the provisions of the IRR include formation of community health teams to increase the awareness of health risks among families, wide information campaign on RH rights and services, capacity training of health workers, and reconstruction of hospital and rural health units to ensure quality maternal services.

More than 300 people from national government agencies, civil society groups, leagues of provinces, cities and municipalities, and Baseco residents attended the IRR signing. The event was hosted by the Department of Health Center for Health Development – National Capital Region and the Manila Health Office.

PCW, together with DOH and other government agencies, is a member of the drafting committee for the RPRH law. The IRR drafting started last January 22, 2013. Public consultations were conducted in Davao, Cebu and Manila earlier this month.