(Unity of Women for Freedom– Philippines) Press Statement
Kaisa Ka National Office: # 22-A Libertad St. Highway Hills,
Mandaluyong City, Philippines 1501 Telefax: (632) 717 3262
Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
An Open Letter to P. Noy:
Reproductive Health & Education Are Integral To Women’s Rights
July 1, 2010
Dear P. Noy Aquino:
We apologize for starting this letter on an extremely personal note, but we cannot help
but notice that your four sisters have eight children among them – indicating that they
must have fully availed themselves, and justly so, of their reproductive rights; and
indicating, as well, they have been and are informed – meaning, educated – on the issue
of reproductive health.
Irrespective of the issue of poverty and/or overpopulation, it is our position that women
are entitled to control over their bodies, as enunciated by the UN Fourth World
Conference on Women, which was attended by over 10,000 women representatives from
all parts of the earth. This declaration was made to emphasize the truth that without an
absolute right to physical integrity, women become – as indeed they are – vulnerable to
all forms of physical, social, political and economic exploitation, and that women’s rights
rest on the bedrock of the inviolate right of women to physical integrity.
Such multi-faceted exploitation we see in the Philippines -- ranging from the disguised
trafficking that is the Labor Export policy to the funneling of women into domestic and
overseas prostitution to the brutal political murder of 20 women, even pregnant ones, in
Maguindanao, to the pernicious phenomenon of domestic violence -- stems indeed from
the treatment, both in law and in practice, of women as a sub-species of humanity whose
rights and access to information, particularly about their own sexuality, must be
This view of women does not come from our native culture, which, by all accounts,
recognized gender equality but was rather an imposition by Spanish colonialism, part of a
package intended to nullify the heart and source of our people’s strength and valor, by a)
substituting an image of foreigners as the face of Higher Authority; and b) providing
colonized men an illusion of power over an even worse-off group, the colonized women.
During the electoral campaign, we were struck by your forward-looking stance on
reproductive health and birth control, even in the face of aggressive threats from
personnel of the Catholic Church. We were therefore surprised when you chose to
appoint a La Salle brother as head of the Department of Education, who immediately
declared that he would “review” sex education.
Those who argue against sex education are tacitly rendering our children and youth
vulnerable to sexual exploitation. One extrapolated estimate of STD prevalence in the
Philippines, based on an 86 million population is 4,851,095; world statistics on STDs also
show a higher rate of infection for females than men for Southeast Asia. The
Philippines has a high record of teen pregnancies, with more than three million getting
pregnant each year, 92% of such pregnancies being unplanned and 78% of such teenagers
not even using protection in their first sexual encounter. This undoubtedly feeds into
the over 500,000 illegal abortions occurring in the archipelago, with all the risks that that
But reproductive health is not simply about reproductive rights, though the latter is
germane to the former. With the Philippines spending only 2.9% of its GDP on health
(thereby ranking 179 among 185 countries), maternal death at childbirth is 170 per
100,000 (ranked 49th among 136 countries, one of the highest in Asia). The crude
childbirth ratio is 24.16 per 1,000 people. Multiply that with a population nearing 100
million and you will come close to the problem.
We think it ironic and cruel that the church personnel choose to continue to afflict women
with ignorance and dominance, even over their very physical personhood. There are
myriads of issues more devastating morally that the church could focus on, which would
not entail the relegation of women to a sub-species. In an address to Filipino bishops on
August 26, 2003, John Paul II stressed this: We may note that poverty is certainly among
the major factors exposing Filipino families to the risk of instability and fragmentation.
How many children have been left to live without mother or father because one or both
parents have had to seek work abroad? Moreover, the many different types of
exploitation that can undermine family life -- child labor, pornography, prostitution --
are often linked to dire economic conditions. A Church of the poor can do much to
strengthen the family and to combat human exploitation.
In sum: John Paul II himself recognized the pernicious impact on the family of
class exploitation characterized by the country’s labor export policy, sex trafficking
and child exploitation.
We are therefore calling upon you to impress upon your appointed Secretary of
Education that he is not a secretary of education for, of and by the Church but rather is
meant to do what is just and correct by the people of the Philippines, especially the
women who comprise 52% of the population. We call upon you to remind him of the
principle of separation of Church and State. And indeed, we remind you of this; nowhere
in the legacy of your late father, Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., do we find abject surrender to
religion when it came to a matter of governance.
We are also calling upon you to anchor your perspective of responsible parenthood on the
iron principle of the right of women to the integrity of their physical self. And that in
turn should be anchored on reproductive health and safety and rights.
A Reproductive Health Law now!
Implement Sex Education for all!
End Labor Export!
End Sex Trafficking!
End Child Physical and Sexual Abuse!
The Liberation of Women is Germane to the Liberation of the Nation!
Atty. Virginia Suarez-Pinlac