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Systems failure

Our systems are killing us. Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 10 to 5 to halt for four months the implementation of Republic Act 10354, the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012,” otherwise known as the RH Law. The 120-day status quo ante order is a setback for RH advocates, who have labored for nearly 15 years to see this bill passed.  And it was passed by both Houses and signed by President Benigno Aquino III in December last year, but a slew of consolidated petitions filed in January this year led to this outcome. Supreme Court spokesman Ted Te calls this order “preliminary” and says the highest court in the land may yet rule in favor of its legality. Officials of the Roman Catholic Church, which prompted most, if not all, of the petitions against the RH Law, hail this development as an answer to their prayers and “God’s will.” The Department of Health had already marked last March 15 the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Law. DoH Secretary Enrique Ona said that the law “will empower women through informed choice and voluntarism…” as the IRR provides “improved access to family planning services…provision of mobile health clinics in remote and depressed areas, improvement of PhilHealth coverage on RH services especially for the poor,” and other support services. Secretary Ona added, “This is just the beginning of our continuing effort to ensure that no woman will die while giving life.” Statistics from womens’ rights advocate EnGendeRights say 11 women die each day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Given that, 1,320 women might die during the 120 days of the SQA. How many more women and children will die from botched abortions, miscarriages, complicated births, and the other risks and dangers of unwanted pregnancies? Another system that needs revamping is the University of the Philippines’ tuition structure. Because of glitches in the system that misclassified her fee bracket, placed her on leave of absence for non-payment of tuition, and took away her ID card, freshman Kristel Tejada took her life. She could not bear to go on living when her best efforts to obtain a degree went to naught.  Despite her academic performance and commitment to learning, the system failed her. When I was a UP undergraduate in the days before STFAP, I paid around five hundred pesos per semester. It was a lean time for my family, so an uncle paid my way through college, my entire education costing him around five thousand pesos in tuition. I would not have been able to finish my bachelor’s degree if I had gone to any other school, as it would have been too expensive and we might not have found anyone willing to shoulder a higher cost. The STFAP was implemented after I graduated and since then, no one can obtain a UP education for that little amount of money anymore. And why not? Isn’t the government supposed to subsidize education in public schools, especially in the state university? All Kristel wanted was a better life through learning, but the rules of the system made this inaccessible to her. Education in the state colleges and universities should be made free or as close to it as possible, for the Iskolar ng Bayan to flourish and give back to Inang Bayan. Government needs to see what’s important and what’s not – and should they need to be reminded, the youth and their proper education are important, for they are the future of the country. UP failed Kristel, and failed in its mission. This is not the UP I went to. This is not the UP I love and am proud of. This is not the UP that it should be. Various colleges of UP are holding a luksang pamantasan for Kristel with activities such as indignation rallies and candle-lightings to commemorate her tragedy and fight for change. Perhaps we should also hold a luksang bayan for all the systems that have failed and continue to fail us. Email: jennyo@live.com, Blog: http://jennyo.net, Facebook: Jenny Ortuoste, Twitter: @jennyortuoste
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