Quezon City, September 4, 2009 – “Yesterday, September 3, EnGendeRights, represented by its Executive Director Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, submitted a Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (the “Committee”) in time for its review of the Philippines on September 15 during the Committee’s 52nd session.
The Shadow Report drew attention to adolescents’ lack of access to modern contraceptive methods, emergency contraception, education on sexuality and family planning, safe and legal abortion, and safe pregnancy and childbirth. The report additionally discussed HIV/AIDS issues, forced marriages, gender-based violence and rape, human trafficking, discrimination against and suicide among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. All of these matters will be examined by the Committee in an effort to bring to the forefront the Philippine government’s violations of adolescent sexual and reproductive rights.
According to the 2008 UNFPA State of the World Population Report, adolescent Filipino girls aged 15-19 are already giving birth at 47 births per 1,000 women of their age. The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) estimates that approximately 15% of women aged 20-24 in the Philippines were married before they were 18 years old. Under Muslim law, girls are allowed to marry at age 15 rather than age 18. By allowing girls in the Philippines to marry at such a young age, the Philippine government is perpetuating a harmful practice to girls that greatly impacts these adolescent women’s education, health, and their total well-being.
The Shadow Report calls the attention of the Committee on the Executive Order No. 003 (“the EO”) issued by then Mayor Jose L. Atienza, Jr. which effectively banned supplies of modern contraceptives from Manila City-run public health facilities and denied women referral or information on family planning services. Atty. Padilla said, “Mayor Lim, on the other hand, still has not repealed the EO despite repeated requests for him to do so. The EO is preventing Filipino women, including adolescents, from accessing information, supplies, and services on modern contraceptives in Manila-run public health care facilities. This is a problem primarily for poor and adolescent women who are in greatest need of such supplies.”
The Shadow Report also emphasized the rights violations caused by the lack of emergency contraception (EC) in the Philippines. Postinor, the emergency contraceptive, is banned in the Philippines due to the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD)’s claim that Postinor has an “abortifacient” effect. Atty. Padilla added, “Lack of access to EC unnecessarily exposes women to the multiple risks associated with unintended pregnancy. In the Philippines, the prevalence of laws criminalizing abortion compounds these risks. The immediate re-listing of Postinor in the registry of available drugs would be an important first step toward preventing unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and reducing maternal mortality.”
The illegality of abortion in the Philippines is a violation of the Convention. Results of a study conducted by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) revealed that in 2000, 473,000 Filipino women had illegal abortions and that approximately 800 women die every year due to complications resulting from unsafe abortion. Although abortion is outlawed, hundreds of thousands of Filipino women undergo the procedure unsafely with detrimental repercussions. Atty. Padilla asserted, “Criminalization of abortion has created an extremely prohibitive environment leading to discriminatory and inhumane treatment of women seeking medical attention after having undergone an unsafe abortion. Low-income women are disproportionately impacted by the ban on abortion…it is estimated that two-thirds of women who undergo abortion are poor.”
“Unsafe abortions contribute to the astoundingly high maternal mortality rate of 230 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008. The law criminalizing abortion does not eliminate abortions; it only makes it dangerous for women who undergo clandestine and unsafe abortion. The criminal provision penalizing the woman and the physician for self-induced abortion must be repealed,” Atty. Padilla explained.
Atty. Padilla disclosed that, “Access to quality healthcare facilities is a major barrier facing pregnant Filipino adolescents, especially in rural areas. Only 60% of births in the Philippines are assisted by skilled birth attendants.”
HIV/AIDS is another issue discussed in the Shadow Report. Many new cases are being diagnosed in Filipino adolescents, and Atty. Padilla stated that, “Due to lack of sexual education, many of them are unable to negotiate safe sex and have limited or no access to information about protection. The spread of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines could easily be curtailed by a comprehensive national reproductive health policy that increased knowledge and use of contraceptives, including condoms. Yet, the Philippine government has no such policy and allows the Catholic Church to continue to deceive the Philippine public about the efficacy of condoms in preventing the spread of disease.”
Incidence of gender-based violence and rape remain high in the Philippines, with an average of eight women and nine children raped daily. Despite the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 and the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998, the Shadow Report stated, “Numerous complaints for rape are dismissed at the preliminary investigation level and in the Regional Trial Courts… Many judges and public prosecutors still do not understand the realities of rape as gender-based violence.”
Studies show that three out of five Filipino women have been victims of physical abuse. The “Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children Act of 2004” took effect five years ago, but Atty. Padilla claimed, “There is still an ongoing disjunct between the law and how the law is being implemented in barangays, police stations, and courts.”
In 2005, an estimated 800,000 women and children were forced into prostitution in the Philippines. If caught, these women are imprisoned; Atty. Padilla clarified, “The existing criminal law imposing imprisonment on women in prostitution disregards the fact that many are lured to prostitution because of the desperation due to poverty and lack of alternative sources of income. The discriminatory provisions imposing penalties on women in prostitution should be repealed.”
On the issue of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals (LGBTs), the Shadow Report highlighted the blatant discrimination LGBTs routinely face including homophobic statements issued by Court of Appeals justices during hearings on a writ of amparo case filed by a lesbian who was locked in a room for a month by her own mother. Despite Committee recommendations in 2005 to “establish adequate mental health services tailored for adolescents,” suicide rates still remain high for the LGBT adolescent population. The Shadow Report pronounced, “Adolescence is a time of great change in any person’s life, particularly as one discovers and navigates her or his own sexuality and sexual orientation. This elevated suicide risk among gay, lesbian, and bisexual young adults is related to issues ranging from experiences of discrimination, experiences of sexual-orientation related violence, perceived stigma, and internalized homophobia.”
Friday, August 21, 2009
Quezon City, September 4, 2009 – “Yesterday, September 3, EnGendeRights, represented by its Executive Director Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, submitted a Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (the “Committee”) in time for its review of the Philippines on September 15 during the Committee’s 52nd session.
Posted by Clara Rita A. Padilla at 7:43 PM
Quezon City, August 21, 2009 – “Yesterday, August 20, thousands worth of cytotec were seized by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Quiapo. Contrary to what fundamentalists and the misinformed say, cytotec, with generic name misoprostol, is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a life-saving device.” In April 2009, the WHO announced the inclusion of misoprostol to its Model List of Essential Medicines based on its proven safety and efficacy for the treatment of incomplete abortion and miscarriage,” said Atty. Clara Rita “Claire” A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.
The inclusion to the Model List of Essential Medicines was made by an expert committee that evaluated available evidence, which includes several guidelines and numerous randomized and comparative clinical trials for this indication.
In the proposal submitted by Gynuity Health Projects to the WHO, it state the following evidence and considerations:
• “Misoprostol is effective for this purpose. More than a dozen randomized or comparative trials have been carried out, the most recent showing that misoprostol has a success rate of about 90-100% for treatment of incomplete abortion and miscarriage.
• Medical evacuation of the uterus with misoprostol offers an alternative to surgical treatment, which in low-resource settings is often unavailable and may be associated with significant morbidity.
• Misoprostol is inexpensive and so offers a low-cost but safe and effective means of treating this common obstetrical condition.
• Misoprostol is safe. More than 600 studies have been published on the use of misoprostol in obstetrics and gynecology that have involved well over 90,000 women.
• Incomplete abortion contributes disproportionately to maternal morbidity and mortality in much of the developing world.”
The WHO Model Essential Medicine List guides the development of national and institutional essential medicine lists. The Model List has led to a global acceptance of essential medicines to promote health equity.
Atty. Padilla said, “The denial of access to safe life-saving medicines such as cytotec is not only contrary to international human rights law and international medical standards but will further compound a major public health crisis in the country involving half a million unsafe abortion procedures every year, 79,000 hospital admissions for complications from unsafe abortion and 800 deaths.”
“Twelve percent of maternal deaths in the Philippines are due to unsafe abortion. The latest Philippine statistics on abortion also show the following profile of women who induce abortion: nine in ten women are married or in a consensual union; more than half have at least three children; two-thirds are poor; nearly 90% are Catholic,” Atty. Padilla continued.
“Our national statistics reveal that criminalizing abortion does not eliminate abortions; it only makes it dangerous for women who undergo clandestine and unsafe abortion. No one wants women to be in a circumstance where they have no choice but to seek an abortion. But the reality is that unequal power relations prevent women from having control over their bodies and their reproductive decisions,” added Atty. Padilla.
“Furthermore, in the Philippines the full range of contraceptive methods is unavailable, which directly contributed to the high rate of unwanted pregnancy and pushes women to resort to unsafe abortions that in many cases result in death. The obligation to provide access to information and family planning methods as a means of reducing abortion has been recognized by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) and the Beijing and Cairo Conferences consensus documents,” said Atty. Padilla.
Recognizing the need of women for misoprostol, organizations like Women on Waves and Women on Web have come out with guidelines on its use for medical abortion up to nine weeks of pregnancy.
Atty. Padilla continued, “Predominantly Catholic countries around the world have long separated fundamentalist Catholic Church doctrine with the states’ policies. A classic example is Spain, whose colonial rule in the Philippines converted many Filipinos to become Catholics, which allows abortion on certain grounds. Other predominantly Catholics countries that allow abortion are Belgium, France, Italy, Hungary, Mexico, Portugal, Poland, and Colombia. While Spain and other predominantly Catholic countries have liberalized their laws to protect human rights and ensure social justice, we Filipinos have been left to contend with the vestiges of our outdated colonial laws and values.”
“During the August 2006 periodic review of the Philippines, the CEDAW Committee, urged the Philippine government to ‘consider the problem of unsafe abortion as a matter of high priority’ and ‘consider reviewing the laws relating to abortion with a view to removing punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo abortion and provide them with access to quality services for the management of complications arising from unsafe abortions and to reduce women’s maternal mortality rates in line with the Committee’s general recommendation 24 on women and health and the Beijing Platform for Action,’” Atty. Padilla stressed.
Atty. Padilla added, “The critical link between unsafe abortion and maternal mortality has also been a matter of concern for the Human Rights Committee, the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee, and the Children’s Rights Committee. They have consistently called upon states with criminal abortion laws to review their laws as a means to ensuring women’s basic human rights.”
“In the communication K. Llantoy v. Peru filed with the Human Rights Committee (HRC) where a 17-year old woman was prevented from terminating her risky pregnancy of an anencephalic fetus (a fetus with a partial brain) where the infant died five days after birth and the woman fell into a deep depression, the HRC found in 2005 that: forcing the woman to carry her pregnancy to a term constituted cruel and inhuman treatment in violation of article 7 of the ICCPR; violated her right to privacy under article 17; and violated her right to receive the special care she required as an adolescent girl from the health system under article 24. The State party was recommended to provide an effective remedy to the author, including compensation, and to adopt measures to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future,” Atty. Padilla continued.
“Although misoprostol (with brand name cytotec) is already in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, cytotec is still an unregistered drug here in the Philippines. Recognized as a life-saving device, cytotec must be registered by the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) to make it readily available to women who need it. The Philippine government must ensure that international human rights standards and medical standards are upheld in the Philippines,” concluded Atty. Padilla.
* * *
 Misoprostol is already included in the 14th (2005) and 15th (2007) editions of WHO Model List of EssentialMedicines (22.1 Oxytocic) because of its proven safety and efficacy for medical
abortion and labor induction. In April 2009, WHO announced the inclusion of misoprostol to its Model List of Essential Medicines for the treatment of incomplete abortion and miscarriage.
Spain permits abortion on grounds of rape and fetal impairment.
 Belgium, France and Italy permit abortion upon a woman’s request.
 Hungary’s constitution protects life from conception but permits abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation.
 Mexico City legalized abortion in the first trimester without restriction (April 24, 2007).
 Portugal allows abortion up to 10 weeks of pregnancy but with a mandatory three-day "reflection period” (up to 12 weeks if her health is at risk; up to 16 weeks if the pregnancy is a result of rape; any time during the pregnancy to save a woman's life).
 Poland allows abortion to protect a woman’s life and physical health; rape, incest; fetal impairment
 Colombia now permits abortion on the following grounds: where the woman’s life or health is in danger; the pregnancy is the result of rape; when the fetus has malformation incompatible with life outside the uterus. Colombia’s abortion law formerly outlawed the procedure under all circumstances. The law was challenged in the Constitutional Court by a Colombian citizen on April 14, 2005. The argument included the CEDAW and ICCPR monitoring bodies’ recommendations for Colombia to decriminalize abortion under the most extreme cases.
 K. Llantoy v. Peru, Case No. 1553/2003, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/85/D/ 1153/2003 (2005).
 Id. ¶ 2.1.
 Id. ¶¶ 2.5 & 2.6.
 Id. ¶ 6.3.
 Id. ¶ 6.4.
 Id. ¶ 6.5.
 K. Llantoy. v. Peru, Case No. 1553/2003, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/85/D/ 1153/2003, ¶ 8 (2005).
Quezon City, August 14, 2009 – “The signing of the Magna Carta of Women is a milestone in the promotion and protection of the rights of women. The Magna Carta of Women is an important law. Finally, we have a law that incorporates Article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW or Women’s Convention) which defines discrimination against women,” said Atty. Clara Rita “Claire” A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.
Sec. 4(b) of the Magna Carta defines discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”
Atty. Padilla added, “Included in the law is the prohibition against discrimination of pregnant teachers and students outside of marriage (Sec. 13, paragraph c). This will stop dismissals of women teachers and students from school because of pregnancy outside of marriage. I know of a case where a national high school terminated a female teacher merely for being pregnant outside of marriage. I have also received reports of college students from a Catholic school who were forced to get married because their school wouldn’t admit them for the reason that they had borne a child outside of marriage. With the Magna Carta, a government official who is found to have violated this provision and other provisions of the Magna Carta will be sanctioned under administrative law, civil service law or other laws while a private individual can be made liable for damages and other applicable criminal laws.”
“The Magna Carta is indeed an important step towards the promotion and protection of the rights women. The effective implementation of the law will contribute towards the prevention and prosecution of discrimination against women,” concluded Atty. Padilla
Posted by Clara Rita A. Padilla at 7:16 PM
Quezon City, August 5, 2009 – “At a time when the Philippines needed an icon to bring down a dictator, Cory Aquino was there. At the time of death, Cory again rouses our love for country, for democracy, for fellow Filipinos, for family. Cory is not just an icon of democracy she is the epitome of an extraordinary Filipino woman who is strong-willed, of pure and kind heart, selfless, calm, simple, and with abundant faith. Kudos to you, Cory,” said Atty. Clara Rita “Claire” A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.
“As the epitome of an extraordinary Filipino woman, the world would be a better place if we emulate Cory’s essence in our hearts and minds,” added Atty. Padilla. “This also comes very timely when the 2010 elections are coming. It would do the Philippines good if candidates for the coming elections do a lot of introspection and keep in their hearts the essence of nationalism and good governance,” concluded Atty. Padilla.
Posted by Clara Rita A. Padilla at 7:14 PM
Friday, May 22, 2009
Quezon City, May 20, 2009 – “Instead of hounding Vanessa that she owes the country it is the country that owes Vanessa. The country owes rape victims the proper judgments where they are believed for their rape complaints. A rape victim should be given credence when she says, ‘No, I did not consent to the sexual act,’” said Atty. Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.
“The actors in our judicial system are the ones who owe rape victims the justice they seek. If there is proper prosecution, investigation, and the perpetrators are convicted and punished, then that is justice,” added Atty. Padilla.
Atty. Padilla continued, “The rape acquittals constitute a failure of the Philippine government to comply with its obligation of due diligence in addressing violence against women (VAW). The Philippines is mandated to ‘refrain from engaging in VAW, to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, punish acts of VAW and to provide access to just and effective remedies including medical assistance to victims; to take appropriate and effective action whether those acts are perpetrated by the State, by private persons or by armed groups or warring factions.”1
Atty. Padilla continued, “Convictions of rapists prevent other rapes from happening. These convictions will send a strong message that rape cannot happen with impunity. This is what the country owes rape victims. No less.”
“It is also through effective prosecution and proper punishment of rapists that we can encourage rape victims to come out, file their cases, and get vindication of their rights,” added Atty. Padilla.
“Our justice system must put a stop to impunity of rapists. Our media and the common tao must simply stop blaming victims of rape. The perpetrators of rape are the ones at fault, no one else,” Atty. Padilla stressed.
“Let us also be mindful that there would not have been a Vanessa and Nicole if there was no Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The VFA should never have been ratified not only for being lopsided and defying our sovereignty but for bringing militarism which, we are all aware, brings human rights abuses including rape into our country. There mustn’t be any more Nicole and Vanessa. The time to abrogate VFA is now,” Atty. Padilla concluded.
1. Extension of mandate of U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (UNSRVAW) by the Commission on Human Rights in 2003, 59th sess., Res. 2003/45.
Posted by Clara Rita A. Padilla at 2:41 PM
Quezon City, March 10, 2009 – The torture, possible rape, and killing of Rebelyn Pitao, a 20-year old civilian teacher and daughter of an NPA commander, is evidence of the continuous human rights violations that is happening under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. “The abduction of Rebelyn on March 4 and later her body found dead on March 5 at the time when women should be celebrating women’s gains and solidarity for their causes this Women’s Month is indeed a slap in the face of all Filipino women,” said Atty. Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.
Atty. Padilla added, “All the perpetrators of this gruesome violence against women, the four armed men and those who issued the orders, must face accountability and be immediately dismissed from service after a thorough investigation and hearing. Under the doctrine of due diligence, the Philippine government has the ‘duty to prevent, investigate and punish international law violations and pay just compensation.’”
“The Philippine government is directly responsible for the acts of the perpetrators under the international law of State responsibility,” continued Atty. Padilla. The Articles on State Responsibility adopted by the International Law Commission and subsequently noted by the UN General Assembly. Article 4 of the Articles provides:
Article 4. Conduct of Organs of a State
a) The conduct of any State organ shall be considered an act of that State under international law, whether the organ exercises legislative, executive, judicial or any other functions, whatever position it holds in the organization of the State, and whatever its character as an organ of the central Government or of a territorial unit of the State.
b) An organ includes any person or entity which has that status in accordance with the internal law of the State.
Atty. Padilla stressed, “Thus, actions of the operatives that are inconsistent with the Philippines’ international human rights obligations amount to a failure by the State to fulfill its human rights obligations. Having ratified the Conventions on Women, Torture, and Civil and Political Rights, the Philippine government must put a stop to these human rights violations.”
Inaction against the perpetrators and the continuing failure of the judiciary to actively prosecute the perpetrators provide evidence of the failure of the State to fulfill its human rights obligations and the complete lack of will to address the human rights violations.
Posted by Clara Rita A. Padilla at 2:24 PM
Quezon City, March 18, 2009 – “Nicole has been a victim. She was a victim of the ills brought forth by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). She was raped by a U.S. military personnel. She has been victimized by those who didn’t believe her complaint for rape. She has been victimized by a government that refuses to assert its sovereignty by allowing Daniel Smith to be detained in the U.S. embassy. And now she is being blamed for succumbing to pressure,” said Atty. Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.
Atty. Padilla added, “As a private prosecutor of violence against women cases, I’d like to say that we should respect Nicole’s decision. The pressure must really have been too much for her.”
“If those who drafted the supposed recantation thought they were successful in raising doubts, they are mistaken because the supposed recantation failed miserably in doing so. On the other hand, it even strengthened Nicole’s lack of consent to the sexual act,” Atty. Padilla added. She stressed though that, “It is also important to mention that the Philippine Supreme Court has decided in a long line of cases that recantation of a witness should not be given weight. It has also been decided by the Supreme Court that the findings of fact of a lower court, the regional trial court in this case, bears a lot of weight. Thus, the conviction of Smith should be upheld by the appellate court.”
Atty. Padilla continued, “The timing of the supposed recantation at this point where there is strong clamor to abrogate the VFA is also suspicious. If the pressure to issue the supposed recantation was specifically made to squash the momentum to abrogate VFA, then those behind this move are mistaken because no such acts will dampen the hearts of Filipinos who want the VFA abrogated. The fight to abrogate the VFA will continue to rage on. Without the VFA, there wouldn’t have been a Nicole.”
As regards the publication of the name and picture of Nicole, “it would have been best if the name and picture of Nicole were kept confidential in accordance with the protective measures provided under Republic Act 8505. Keeping the identity of a rape victim confidential makes life easier for rape survivors and it encourages more rape victims to file complaints,” added Atty. Padilla.
Posted by Clara Rita A. Padilla at 2:18 PM
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Women’s Rights NGO Calls on Congress to Pass the RH bill into Law Amidst CBCP Opposition by Clara Rita A. Padilla
Manila, February 22, 2009 --Attorney Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights, said, “We are calling on the Congress to the pass the reproductive health care (RH) bill into law in this present Congress and not later. She said senators and congresspersons should show their full support to the RH bill to manifestly express their political will.”
“The 2008 national and Manila City surveys of the Social Weather Stations both confirm that majority of Filipinos want the RH bill passed into law, 71% and 86%, respectively. Politically, it is popular for legislators to support the RH bill. With these statistics, a clear support for the RH bill increases the possibility of winning a seat in the coming 2010 elections. More and more voters are keeping tab,” Atty. Padilla added.
The national and Manila City surveys even show that majority of Catholics want the RH bill passed into law (71% and 85%, respectively). The recent walk-out of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) during the Senate Technical Working Group meeting only shows that the CBCP is not responsive to the needs of the Filipinos—Catholics included,” Atty. Padilla added.
In reaction to the CBCP’s statement saying that they will campaign against the reproductive health care bill pending in Congress, Atty. Padilla emphasized, “CBCP’s stance on the reproductive health care bill is detrimental to women’s reproductive rights.”
Atty. Padilla said, “The recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) findings on Manila City reflect the sentiments and needs of Manila residents. CBCP is completely disregarding the needs of Manilans and this is detrimental to the lives and well-being of Filipino families especially the poor residents of Manila City.”
“The SWS survey clearly showed the correlation between large family size and the very basic problem of hunger that the family experiences. The CBCP should instead heed the call of Manilans avowing for the need for reproductive health services, the enactment of a law protecting their reproductive rights, and for sexuality education,” continued Atty. Padilla.
“As can be seen in the survey, the residents of Manila want the reproductive health care bill passed into law. The poor of Manila took the brunt of former Mayor Atienza’s policy under EO 003 (Series of 2000) by restricting their access to contraceptives. And they are still feeling the impact of such restrictive policy even now under Mayor Lim’s term since the Office of the Mayor is not providing funding to buy free contraceptives for Manila residents. The impact of such a policy is especially felt by poor women who cannot even afford to buy a 25 peso kilo of rice for their families,” stressed Atty. Padilla.
“In my work with the community women from Tondo, I interviewed women who wanted to undergo ligation during Atienza’s term but they were completely denied access by the local public hospitals. They were told that such services were prohibited because Manila was ‘pro-life’. Now, under Mayor Lim’s term, we asked the Family Planning Services of the Manila Health Department for a measly P5250 to cover medications of 35 poor women who wanted to undergo ligation and we were flatly told that they did not have the funds. These are clear incidents of denial of women’s access to reproductive health care,” added Atty. Padilla.
“With political will and heeding the call of Manila residents, Mayor Lim should quickly overturn former Mayor Atienza’s policy. Otherwise, in the coming 2010 elections, he might suffer the same fate that Atienza had in the last elections,” Atty. Padilla pointed out.
Atty. Padilla stressed that, “The impact of the lack of reproductive health information and access to health care services is grave especially to poor women who do not have money to pay for their own contraceptive supplies and for counseling from private doctors.”
“The impact of such restrictive policies is also pervasive and damaging to the lives and health of adolescent girls. I have interviewed an adolescent who, due to lack of access to sexuality education and lack of access to reproductive health information and services, already had six children at the very young age of 21. There were also many adolescents who started childbearing at 14-18 years of age and continued childbearing successively,” continued Atty. Padilla.
“If we have a comprehensive reproductive health care law, we will not have these restrictive policies in place. We will have more women having access to sexuality education and reproductive health information and services,” says Atty. Padilla.
It is the obligation of the Philippine government as cited in the 2006 Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Concluding Comments on the Philippines to “strengthen measures aimed at the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, including by making a comprehensive range of contraceptives more widely available and without any restriction”; “give priority attention to the situation of adolescents and that it provide sex education, targeted at girls and boys, with special attention to the prevention of early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.”
“Our representatives in Congress must realize that our very own Constitution states that, ‘Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.’ Elected officials must be reminded that they are mere representatives of the Filipino people and that their obligation is to the Filipino people and not to the Catholic Church and its bishops who are against the passage of the bill into law,” said Atty. Padilla.
“Elected officials must respect plurality in our society. They must uphold access to reproductive health information and health care services and give primary importance to a person’s right to reproductive self-determination. Our legislators should immediately pass a comprehensive reproductive health care law. That’s what we need.” Atty. Padilla added.
* * *
For a copy of the SWS survey, see www.sws.org.ph.
Posted by Clara Rita A. Padilla at 12:51 AM
Monday, January 26, 2009
Women’s Rights NGO Hails Obama for Rescinding the Global Gag Rule on Abortion and Reject’s the Vatican’s Statement as Contrary to Women’s Rights
Manila, January 26, 2009 --Attorney Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights, hails U.S. President Obama’s act last Friday, January 23, in rescinding the Global Gag Rule. Under the policy, organizations that received USAID funding were prohibited from using their own funds to advocate for safe and legal abortion and provide for life-saving safe abortions services.
Atty. Padilla said, “The rescission works towards the advancement of free speech and puts a strong message forward that access to safe and legal abortion is a human right.”
“As Obama mentioned in his statement, ‘this will also work to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls,” Atty. Padilla continued.
Atty. Padilla added, “contrary to recent statement of the Vatican officials against the executive action, Obama’s action will spell the difference between life and death for almost half a million Filipino women every year who are driven to induce abortion with 79,000 admitted to hospitals for complications from unsafe abortion and 800 women who die.”
The Vatican’s position on access to access to safe and legal abortion is contrary to international human rights law. The United Nations treaty monitoring bodies have recognized access to safe and legal abortion as a matter of women’s rights to life, health, non-discrimination and dignity. Their position is based on principled interpretations of human rights norms, commitments contained in global consensus documents and evidence of the impact of unsafe abortion on women’s health.
During the August 2006 periodic review of the Philippines, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), urged the government to “consider the problem of unsafe abortion as a matter of high priority” and “consider reviewing the laws relating to abortion with a view to removing punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo abortion and provide them with access to quality services for the management of complications arising from unsafe abortions and to reduce women’s maternal mortality rates in line with the Committee’s general recommendation 24 on women and health and the Beijing Platform for Action.”
The CEDAW Committee has rightly noted that the lack of access to contraceptive methods and family planning services, as well as restrictive abortion laws, tend to coincide with the prevalence of unsafe abortions that contributes to high rates of maternal mortality. The critical link between unsafe abortion and maternal mortality has also been a matter of concern for the Human Rights Committee (HRC) the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee (ESCRC) and the Children’s Rights Committee (CRC). The HRC ESCRC CEDAW and CRC have consistently called upon states with criminal abortion laws to review their laws as a means to ensuring women’s basic human rights.
The figures around the world reveal that criminalizing abortion does not eliminate abortions; it only makes it dangerous for women who undergo clandestine and unsafe abortion. The social justice implications of restrictive abortion laws has been recognized in many predominantly Catholic countries around the world, including Spain, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, and Hungary (whose constitution protects life from conception but permits abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation). Recent abortion liberalizations occurred in Colombia , Mexico City (legalized abortion in the first trimester without restriction in April 2007) and Portugal (allows abortion up to 10 weeks of pregnancy).
“All the above-mentioned predominantly Catholic countries belie the claim that restricting access to contraception and even safe and legal abortion in the Philippines is a matter of practice of the Catholic religion. It is simply fundamentalism and non- adherence to standards of medicine, science and law and clinging to our colonial past that detrimentally impacts women’s health and lives,” Atty. Padilla stressed.
Atty. Padilla explains, “Furthermore, in the Philippines the full range of contraceptive methods is unavailable, which directly contributed to the high rate of unwanted pregnancy and pushes women to resort to unsafe abortions that in many cases result in death. The obligation to provide access to information and family planning methods as a means of reducing abortion has been recognized by the CEDAW Committee and the Beijing and Cairo Conferences consensus documents.”
“The Philippine government must respect women’s rights and in so doing comply with international law,” Atty. Padilla concluded.
Posted by Clara Rita A. Padilla at 6:46 PM
October 8, 2008, Manila--EnGendeRights, represented by lawyer Clara Rita A. Padilla, was part of the team that went to Zamboanga for a fact- finding mission on the state of Filipinos who are being massively deported from Sabah by the Malaysian government. Representative Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party and Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante International were also part of the team.
Clara Rita Padilla said, “In this fact-finding mission, I was face-to-face with the harsh realities our fellow Filipinos confront—the lack of access to education, lack of jobs, poverty and the impact of war in the conflict-ridden areas in Mindanao. Most of the deportees are unschooled or undereducated from Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Region 9, and Basilan. Women from these areas experiencing the same harsh realities fall prey to trafficking in Sabah.”
Atty. Padilla continued, “It’s really unfortunate. You have Filipinos who suffer human rights violations at the detention centers and yet they still want to go back to Sabah to find work.”
“In February 2009, Malaysia will be reviewed by the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the Universal Periodic Review and that will be an important opportunity for us to hold the Malaysian government accountable for its compliance with the conventions it has ratified such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” added Atty. Padilla.
“Deportation or forcible transfer of population, rape, sexual slavery when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population is a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court but Malaysia has not ratified the Rome Statute,” said Atty. Padilla.
The fact that Malaysia has not ratified the Rome Statute, the Migrants Convention, Torture Convention and the Optional Protocol to the Torture Convention, Racial Discrimination Convention, Civil and Political Rights Convention, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Convention, the Optional Protocol to the Women’s Convention, the Disabilities Convention and the Optional Protocol to the Disabilities Convention and the Enforced Disappearance Convention will also be reviewed by the HRC. The HRC will also review the reports of special rapporteurs on Malaysia and the non-issuance of a "standing invitation" to the Special Rapporteurs. A standing invitation is an open invitation for the Rapporteurs to visit Malaysia.
Atty. Padilla continued that, “The state of the Filipino deportees can also be brought as urgent appeals to the UN Special Rapporteur on Migrants and Trafficking in Persons. In the case of trafficking of women, both the Malaysian and the Philippine governments have failed in their obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women.”
In the report of then UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro on her 2002 visit to the Philippines, she recommended that Philippine “consular and embassy officials should investigate and document incidents of abuses during the deportation proceeding and detention up to the moment of embarkation from Malaysia.” In our fact finding mission, we found no such investigation and documentation of abuses being done by the Philippine consular and embassy officials.
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 See the Philippines “Note verbale dated 18 April 2007 from the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations addressed to the President of the General Assembly”, par. 15 states, “In recognition of the contributions of migrant workers to the society and the economy of both sending and receiving States in the region, as was emphasized in the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, the Philippines will continue to advance the cause of migrant workers.”
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Posted by Clara Rita A. Padilla at 6:31 PM