Stronger law, institutions needed to defeat human trafficking

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Principal author, Republic Act 11862
Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act

I laud the signing of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022 (RA 11862). This amends and reinforces our previous law vs. human trafficking (RA 9208) which was crafted in 2003.

As its principal author, I pushed for this measure to bring our 2003 law up to speed by making liable internet and financial intermediaries who knowingly, or through gross negligence, allow themselves to be used for the purpose of promoting and committing trafficking in persons.

The complexity of ever-evolving digital technologies stresses the need to update our policies and equip our law enforcers with the necessary powers to go after perpetrators of human trafficking, and those who aid them.

By reinforcing our laws and our institutions, we hope to build a safer environment for future generations, and swiftly bring to justice those who profit from the exploitation and abuse of society’s most vulnerable sectors, particularly women and children.

Human trafficking persists not just because of greed, but also poverty, which drives victims to extreme measures for money. And so aside from strengthening enforcement, we must support the recovery and rehabilitation of trafficking survivors, and their reintegration to society.

This law is the product of the collective efforts of advocates committed to win the battle against human trafficking. I thank former justice undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay Villar for working with us on these amendments and Senator Risa Hontiveros, who sponsored this measure.#

Senator Pia Cayetano in plenary
“By reinforcing our laws and our institutions, we hope to build a safer environment for future generations, and swiftly bring to justice those who profit from the exploitation and abuse of society’s most vulnerable sectors, particularly women and children.”

For breastfeeding moms

Are you a breastfeeding mom? Does your workplace encourage and support breastfeeding?

Here is a checklist of requirements in establishing a breastfeeding room or lactation station in places of work, as mandated by RA No. 10028, the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act sponsored by Senator Pia S. Cayetano:

1) Accessible to breastfeeding women

2) Adequately provided with necessary equipment & facilities, including:

  • Lavatory for hand-washing
  • Refrigeration or appropriate cooling facilities for storing expressed breastmilk
  • Electrical outlets for breast pumps
  • A small table
  • Comfortable seats

3) Private, clean, sanitary, well ventilated, comfortable, and free from contaminants/hazardous substances

4) Not located in the toilet

5) Has no form of promotion, marketing, and/or sales of infant formula and/or breastmilk substitutes

A breastfeeding station in SM
Senator Pia Cayetano stands in front of a breastfeeding station, which became a common feature in malls and public places, following the passage of the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act.
Checklist for a breastfeeding room
Here’s a checklist of requirements when establishing a breastfeeding room in the workplace under RA 10028, the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act.
working moms
At the opening of the Senate’s breastfeeding room in 2015 with Senator Pia Cayetano and breastfeeding moms working at the Upper Chamber.

Recognizing women in sports

Senator Pia sponsors resolution honoring boxing trainer Donaire

By Senate PRIB

The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution honoring Rachel Marcial Donaire for being the first woman and Filipina to receive the honorary World Boxing Council (WBC) Trainer’s Belt.

Senator Pia Cayetano, sponsor of the measure, said Marcial Donaire is the woman behind the defensive strategies of renowned Filipino boxer Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire Jr., who is a four-division conqueror and a three-time bantamweight champion.

“This placed Rachel Donaire in an unprecedented position as she became the first ever woman head trainer to coach a world champion,” Cayetano said, adding that the WBC Trainer’s Belt is given to boxing coaches and trainers who are recognized for their valuable work alongside legendary boxing champions.

Proposed Senate Resolution No. 983 honors Rachel Donaire as “a leading example of a strong Filipina, as she inspires fellow women by her ability to efficiently juggle her roles as a mother, wife, manager, strength and conditioning coach, and now as Nonito Donaire’s head coach.”

Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri expressed support for the measure, saying “we should have more women in all sectors not only as fighters or as the athletes themselves, but as educators, trainers or sports specialists.”

Following his victory last May 2021 for the WBC World Bantamweight Title against French boxer Nordine Oubaali in Carson, California, Nonito Donaire paid tribute to his wife and trainer, Rachel Donaire, whom he described as “the voice in the corner,” being the only one he could hear during the night of the championship.

“I am proud and honored to sponsor this measure commending and congratulating Rachel Donaire for forging her own path, a path ‘til now was untrodden by women,” Cayetano said.

Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia Cayetano sponsors a resolution commending Rachel Donaire for forging her own path in the male-dominated world of boxing. Rachel, the wife and trainer of world boxing champion Nonito Donaire, Jr., is the first woman to receive the honorary World Boxing Council (WBC) Trainer’s Belt.

Pia: repeal ‘forgiveness clause’ in Anti-Rape Law

Senator Pia S. Cayetano wants to repeal an ‘antiquated’ provision in the Revised Penal Code (RPC), which was upheld by the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, allowing a rapist to be exonerated from the crime of rape by marrying his victim.

Article 266-C of the RPC, the senator noted, also extinguishes the crime of rape when the legal husband is the offender and his wife, as the offended party, subsequently forgives him.

Cayetano, a lawyer and women’s advocate, took the opportunity to manifest the subject last week during the Senate’s plenary deliberations on SBN 2332, the bill raising the minimum age of sexual consent from the current 12 years old to 16.

The senator emphasized to her colleagues the urgency of repealing Article 266-C of the RPC, which is commonly referred to as the ‘forgiveness clause’ in the Anti-Rape Law.

“We do have an antiquated law which recognizes ‘forgiveness’ as a ground to invalidate a rape case. This is one of the provisions that many [women’s] advocates want to be repealed. I am bringing it to the attention of the body so that we can once and for all address this issue,” she underscored.

The senator from Taguig City and Pateros explained that tP

Responding to Cayetano’s manifestation, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a former justice secretary, agreed that the matter deserves to be studied and deliberated on by the chamber.

For his part, Senate President Vicente Sotto III backed Cayetano’s stand and committed to co-sponsor such a measure if it would be introduced in the Senate.

To recall, Cayetano, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women, and Family Relations in the 15th Congress, spearheaded the review of gender discriminatory laws for the purpose of promoting gender equality. #

Senate session hall
Arguing for the repeal of the antiquated ‘forgiveness clause’ in the Anti-Rape Law, Senator Pia S. Cayetano explained that there are cases where a rape complainant is forced to marry her perpetrator to avoid shame and scandal.

Pia renews call for Build, Build, Build for Health to equip PH for new normal

As the world faces a health crisis, Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing anew for the passage of a proposed measure that seeks to fast track the government’s health infrastructure initiatives.

The senator filed last year the Priority Health Infrastructure Bill (Senate Bill No. 63), known also as the ‘Build, Build, Build for Health’ Bill, which aims to create a comprehensive and sustainable approach to health infrastructure over the next five years.

“I filed this in the Senate last year, and the timing for its discussion is perfect now. As we begin a new normal due to the COVID-19 threat, we need to be forward thinking and put health care infrastructure on top of our priorities,” Cayetano stressed.

Citing the two recent online forums she attended last Thursday (April 23) – the  Asia-Pacific Parliamentarian Forum on Global Health and the World Bank Group’s Virtual Parliamentary Meeting on Pandemics and COVID-19 – Cayetano said “what was emphasized time and again” was the need for countries with less than adequate health care systems to focus on improving the delivery of their basic health care, particularly by addressing the health care needs of infants, mothers, the elderly, and the infirm or sickly.

“If communities are self-sufficient and can take care of the basic health care needs of their residents, that is already a huge step forward. Then, the next step would be the establishment of specialty medical centers for patients who need to be referred to these specialists,” Cayetano explained.

“Likewise, it is a good time to redesign our country’s health care facilities, to keep our health workers safe and to address the fear and the reality that these very facilities that are there to provide health remedies are also hot spots for the spread of viruses and germs,” she further noted.

SBN 63 takes off from the Duterte administration’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ Program for public works and is anchored on the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 to accelerate human capital development through quality health care services.

The measure is also expected to put the Philippines on track in attaining its target to provide essential health care for all by 2030 under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Under the bill, the Department of Health (DOH) shall be assigned to determine priority health infrastructure needs of government hospitals to be integrated in a five-year plan. An annual P10-billion budget shall be allocated for the improvement of health facilities in priority areas.

“On the other hand, given what we are currently experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am hopeful that this amount would be increased tenfold in the succeeding years,” said Cayetano, principal author and sponsor of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (RA 11469).

“Let’s learn from our experiences during this global health crisis. To most effectively protect and promote the health of our people against future crises, we need to revitalize and strengthen our public health infrastructure. This will require political and financial support over time,” she added.

As former chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, Cayetano led the passage of several landmark laws to enhance public health services. Among these are the Mental Health Act (RA 11036), the National Health Insurance Act (RA 10606), the Philippine National Health Research System Act (RA 10532), the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act (RA 10512), and the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RA 10354).#

Senator Pia joins the opening of the Human Milk Bank facility of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City.

Pia calls for stricter compliance with breastfeeding laws

In keeping up with this year’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month celebration, Senator Pia S. Cayetano called on concerned government agencies to ensure the proper implementation of laws that promote breastfeeding practices among Filipino mothers.

“I am duty-bound to do my part in promoting breastfeeding, being the author of the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Law, together with the late Senator Ed Angara,” Cayetano said in her privilege speech on Tuesday (August 6).

The senator was referring to Republic Act No. 10028 or the “Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009,” which she championed during her first term as senator. The law requires the establishment of Lactation Stations in public places, government facilities, and private offices. 

Ten years into the passage of the measure, Cayetano stressed that more needs to be done to fully promote the practice of breastfeeding, especially among working mothers. She said agencies tasked to implement the law should step up to properly enforce it.

“My call to action is for the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure that all sectors are compliant with RA 10028. We should direct all hospitals, health institutions, and even industries manufacturing and distributing formula milk, to follow regulations set by the law,” she said.

The senator also urged the labor department and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to strictly monitor if private companies and government offices are following requirements in setting up Lactation Stations and providing Lactation Breaks for nursing employees. 

“I have women who message me on social media [complaining] that their bosses are not giving them time off to breastfeed. But that is required by the law. We need the [concerned government agencies] to step up on this,” Cayetano said. 

“We also need all employers to be mindful of [our breastfeeding law] because otherwise, we would not set up the environment for successful breastfeeding,” she added. 

Furthermore, Cayetano called on local government units (LGUs) in the country to abide by the provisions of another law, which requires that breastfeeding areas be set up in evacuation centers in times of calamities.

“Breastfeeding stations must be present during disaster risk situations. It is required that every LGU provides the support that a breastfeeding mother and family needs,” she said. 

Republic Act 10821 or the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act, which Cayetano sponsored, requires that transitional shelters provide mother- and child-friendly spaces, including maternal, newborn, and infant care rooms where moms can feed their babies in private.

Lastly, the senator reminded employers of provisions of Republic Act 11210 or the “Expanded Maternity Leave Law” on granting working mothers 105 days of paid maternity leave.  

“This law complements our breastfeeding measures, because one of the biggest deterrents to women continuing to breastfeed is when they go to work and get separated from their children,” said Cayetano, one of the bill’s principal authors in the 17th Congress. #

Senator Pia Cayetano delivers a privilege speech on breastfeeding month. Behind her in the VIP gallery is the senator’s mother, Sandra Schramm Cayetano, who supported the Taguig lawmaker in her struggles as a young breastfeeding mom. (Senate PRIB)

Privilege speech on Breastfeeding Month*

Mr. President, I believe in the 12 years I was in the Senate, I think without miss, I delivered a speech on breastfeeding every August. And the reason for that is because August is Breastfeeding Month.

Thus, I am duty-bound to do my part in promoting breastfeeding, being the author of the Expanded Breastfeeding Law, together with the late Senator Ed Angara. 

But the question that I’d like my colleagues to ponder is this. Why do we need to promote something that is so natural that is a biological function of every mother? 

The reason for that is because over the decades, we have lost the breastfeeding culture, especially among mothers who work outside of the home, and there has also been a lot of misinformation on breast milk alternatives, which has resulted in sickness and death among our infants. 

A little bit of history, Mr. President. Obviously, women breastfed from the time of Adam and Eve. However, around the time of the Industrial Revolution, there was a major shift in the traditional woman’s life. They left their homes to join the workforce. Working hours and hours, half a day, and many of them living away from home. 

This caused the separation of the mother from her child, interfering with breastfeeding. The result was many babies fell sick and actually died. There were no studies to determine, to tell what were the acceptable alternatives to breast milk. Thus led to the invention of formula milk. 

And for a while, this was seen as a suitable alternative to breast milk for mothers. In fact, it became very lucrative because the demand of working mothers grew and for long, formula milk was even touted as the best food for babies. They would say that it makes babies grow stronger, grow taller, become smarter, etc. etc. 

Well over the decades, this was proven to be false. There is no formula or milk substitute that can provide the nutrients or immunological benefits that breast milk can provide. I repeat, there is no other product than the mother’s milk. Anyone else who says so is lying. 

I am now going to take the opportunity to greet a soon-to-be father, Former Congressman Samsam Gullas, who’s behind me, to remember that. Because the next part of my speech is about being a very supportive breastfeeding husband or father.

Anyway, the advertisements and commercials supporting formula milk led many mothers to believe that in fact they could give their [babies] this formula milk, and their babies would be healthier. The most affected always are the poorest of the poor, because they had very little money to spend, they would buy formula, and then they would even use it not within the prescribed manner of using it. They would dilute it with more water because they didn’t have the money to pay for all that formula milk. And thus, their baby would even get more malnourished. 

And during times of disaster, Mr. President, I’ll talk about this a little bit more. When formula milk was made available, without access to clean water, babies even got diarrhea and some would even die. So, this led to the passage of EO 51, which regulated the promotion and advertising of breast milk substitutes. That was before I became a senator, Mr. President. 

Meanwhile, I became a working mother myself, and from my own research, wala pa hong internet noon, so I bought books and I read on these books. I realized, I learned that breast milk was best for babies. I breastfed my three children, and indulge me, Mr. President, as I share this story. My mom, who happens to be in the audience today, she actually surprised me, I did not know that she would be here. So that’s my mom, over there. Mom, can you stand up? 

For those of you who were colleagues of my father, now you know where my brothers and I get most of our wisdom from. Our mother. Anyway, my breastfeeding story. My mom was my invaluable partner in my breastfeeding journey.  I lived in a two-bedroom house in Taguig with my brother, Alan, now the Speaker of the House. I lived in one room with my husband, and he lived in his other room by himself, as far as I know. 

Meanwhile, because I was breastfeeding night and day, my mom would come over and sleep in our house, and she would sleep in Alan’s room and get my baby at any hour of the night so that I could have a little but of sleep. And thus, Alan technically also witnessed and was a partner in my breastfeeding journey.

I had a very similar experience with my second child. It was not an easy experience in both cases, because I was a working mom, I had to stay up all night. I am not one of those mothers who had an oversupply of milk. I cried in the first two months of breastfeeding my baby. It was painful, I had no sleep, I went to work and had to budget my time, carrying what looked like a briefcase, but was actually a breast pump. 

Come my third child who is actually in the picture on the wall, my third child was Gabriel. He was born with a cleft lip and palate and he also had many other conditions brought about by his condition, which is called Trisomy 13. Thus, he could not really suck well and so I breastfed him through a tube that went all the way down to his stomach.

So that was my breastfeeding experience. Every mother has her own story to tell. 

Fast forward, I became a senator, and I was approached by many advocacy groups asking for help in promoting breastfeeding. And this gave me the opportunity to work with the late Senator Ed Angara, wherein we passed the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Law in 2009. 

This law required that we set up Lactation Stations in the workplaces, and in places frequented by women. So gentlemen, if you go with your wives to SM or other malls, please do me a favor and ensure that you see a breastfeeding center.  I mentioned SM because to be fair to SM, they even put up the lactation stations before it became a law. So… Yes, that is part of it. Senator Gordon pointed it out something that I will actually talk about. 

The law also required that we require doctors and health workers to talk about it, because surprisingly, we met a lot of mothers who said their doctors never talked about breastfeeding with them. Whether it was the OB-Gyne or the Pediatrician. I’d like to believe that since we passed this law, which has been 10 years, this has been improved.

It has also required that this be part of the Curriculum. What we want to see is that, when children read books, they see pictures of a breastfeeding family, and not a family that has a baby being fed through a bottle. Because we want to promote a breastfeeding culture.

Now to complement this law, and to also help in ensuring its implementation, I did my little share of talking to health workers, talking to mothers, visiting hospitals, encouraging LGUs to put up milk banks. And this is where the birthday celebrant, Senator Dick Gordon, comes in. Senator Dick Gordon is a proponent of blood-letting. I am a proponent of milk-letting. It is very similar… and let me get there. He is also a proponent of milk… breast milk promotion, because as the Red Cross chair, they require that our disaster centers are breastfeeding-friendly. 

So for those who don’t know what a breast milk… a milk bank is, what a milk-letting activity is, it’s similar to blood-letting where you ask people to volunteer. In this case, these are mothers who are actually breastfeeding and have milk to share. And they pump their milk and they donate it. And it will be put in a storage for mothers who would be needing it for their babies in the future. 

Fast forward, was the Maternity Leave Law, which we all passed just recently. And this law complements the breastfeeding laws that I mentioned because one of the biggest deterrents to women continuing to breastfeed is the fact that they go to work and they’re separated from their children. 

So, for those gentlemen here who will have women in your workforce who will be breastfeeding, please, not I encourage you, but I remind you that it is the law to allow them to have time to breastfeed. Sadly, our law only provides for 40 minutes, which is actually not enough, for those gentlemen. I know Joel was a supportive breastfeeding husband, so was Sonny. I don’t know the rest, but whoever else was, thank you for that. 

You know that 40 minutes in a workday is not enough to breastfeed. So I encourage you to be even more supportive than that. My staff who do not know that I am about to call their attention. My Chief of Staff, DG, who disappeared. My Personal Assistant, Claire. They both breastfed their babies while working for me.

On the Senate Lactation Room
When we first launched it, we had a tarpaulin, because when hearings start, we were very pleasantly surprised that visitors, our resource persons who would come, were very happy that we have a Lactation Room that they can visit. So let’s make them know that by putting up the proper signage so that they know that the Senate is breastfeeding-friendly. 

And I also had the privilege, Mr. President, of setting up the same in the House of Representatives when I was there over the last three years. 

So my call to action,  Mr. President is simply that DOH ensures that all the sectors are compliant, hospitals, health institutions, and even the industries that manufacture and distribute milk formula, that they follow our rules and regulations; the Department of Labor, that they ensure that the private companies are following the requirement that Lactation Stations are set up within their offices…

I have women who message me on Twitter and Instagram that their boss is not giving them time off to breastfeed, so that is required by the law. So we need DOLE to step up on this. The Civil Service, to ensure also that our government agencies are also compliant. We should take the lead. 

I’d like to point out that the Senate is very small compared to the House of Representatives. When I went there, that was one of the first things that I did, to check where the Lactation Station is. And in a setup like that, although the law does not dictate how many meters away that Lactation Station should be from a woman’s office, the fact that the House of Representatives is an entire complex, Mr. President, to walk from your office to the next building would already use up the remaining minutes you have to breastfeed. 

So we need employers to be mindful of this, because otherwise, we do not set up the environment for successful breastfeeding.

My final call to action is for the LGUs. as our colleague, Senator Gordon, said, breastfeeding must also be present in disaster risk situations, in evacuation stations, the picture I have there is actually my sister-in-law, Fille, who breastfed three of her babies, she’s there to give support to the evacuation center that was set up by my brother, Mayor Lino Cayetano. And again, this was compliant with the law and it is required that every LGU provides the support that a breastfeeding mother and family needs. 

So I end my privilege speech. Thank you so much, Mr. President, to our colleagues, who listened to this. For those who have been here for 12 years, for listening to me on this topic, for 12 years. Thank you very much. #

*Privilege speech delivered on the Senate session on Tuesday, August 6, 2019.

Senator Pia: “We need employers to be mindful of [the law allowing paid lactation breaks for nursing employees], because otherwise, we do not set up the environment for successful breastfeeding.”

Transcript of media interview (July 31, 2019)

Reporter: Ma’am, ‘Yung una po muna, hingi lang pong reaction dun sa biro ng Pangulo kahapon na, “When will your dynasty end?” 

Sen. Pia: Yeah, so first of all, biro nga ‘yun, ‘diba? So biro ‘yun, so if you ask me, biro. So I’ll leave it at that, kasi there are more important issues there. And that’s the TESDA App that was just launched [in Taguig City], which I feel is so interesting. And I think we should draw attention to what the important issues are, not a joke. 

But on that note, that is also something that I’m always willing to talk about. Kasi when you talk about dynasty, I always ask, let’s talk about governance. And I think with all due humility, the President’s high regard for our family, for my brother, is evident in no less than his being his endorsed Speaker. 

So, we’re so proud… I call on everyone to judge the new Speaker on the work that he will do. I’m so excited to be back in the Senate. I’m so excited for the work that I have to do as the new Chair of the Committee of Ways and Means and Chair also of the Committee on Sustainable Development. 

So, we want to be judged on the work that we do. That’s an open book, and we want to really do the kind of job that will make the Filipinos proud that they elected us. Let’s make it clear, we were elected. 

Reporter: Ma’am, does it also mean that you as part of the Senate or Congress will not support the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill? 

Sen. Pia: No. I’ve always said and you can always just refer to my statements on this. I always have an open mind on any issue that is brought on the floor. That has always been the position I’ve taken. 

I may have biases, so when you look… I did a quick scan on the political dynasty bills, and there are different definitions of political dynasty. So… it’s my job to have an open mind and to look at it. 

Reporter: ‘Yung Dissolution of Marriage Bill niyo po, can you explain lang, divorce po ba ito? Ano po ang mga magiging changes nito compared sa annulment?

Sen. Pia: That’s a very good question. And I think ang question niyo should be directed at those people who do not like the term “divorce.” You should ask them what they mean by dissolution of marriage versus divorce because I do not know.

I humbly have to say that I do not know what the difference is, but as one of the authors of the bill in the House of Representatives, I believe it was entitled, “Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage” precisely to address the discomfort that some had with the term, “divorce.”

But if may difference ‘yun, the title is there… But ako naman, as the author here also in the Senate, happy naman ako to listen to any and all concerns. I’m just happy that it’s being discussed.

For the record, there are three kinds of bills that were filed in the House. And I’ve refiled so far two of them – the Absolute Divorce or Dissolution [of Marriage], that’s one. And then the other one is the Foreign Divorce, which is actually already an existing form of divorce, actually the only form of divorce recognized in our Family Code. 

We just fine-tuned some details, which we were told for the last almost decade na it becomes a stumbling block for making that provision in the existing Family Code easy to use. It’s become very cumbersome for people to use because of lack of clarity. So ‘yun lang ‘yung sa Foreign Divorce.

Reporter: Ma’am, sa dissolution of marriage, paano siya naiba sa annulment, ma’am?

Sen. Pia: If you look at Article 36 on Annulment, the only ground there is the psychological incapacity. That is the existing ground that we have under our Family Code. So the grounds for divorce that I filed, there are more grounds. Some of them are similar to the grounds for legal separation. So that’s the easiest way.

You know what, I’d be very happy to have a forum on this and to answer more questions, kasi well it’s something that I’ve really worked on and I really believe in, so I’m happy to answer questions para walang… para people would understand, parang FAQs. 

Reporter: Why do you think is it time for the Philippines to legalize divorce?

Sen. Pia: My answer to that is based on scientific evidence. We went to three countries, [for consultations held by] the House of Representatives, where we had a lot of kababayans. 

I would say it’s partly because of that one bill, that is on the Foreign Divorce, because we have so many kababayans who are married to foreigners. But we also realized that so many of our kababayans are married to Filipinos and therefore, their need would be a regular divorce or dissolution of marriage. 

And so we went to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Japan, and we had hearings in the House and I have met with so many groups espousing divorce, and the stories are so sad. I hear one story, I think, “Wow, this is the worst,” and then I hear another story, it’s about mostly women – but of course it applies to both – women who after their husbands have left them, beaten them up, had another family, had other wives, they’re still supporting that man. Because under the law, they are required to support the man. 

And even – in this particular story – even her grown children were saying, “Nay, iwanan mo na si Tatay.” Eh pero she feels that she has a legal obligation, a moral obligation, until ma-divorce ‘yun. Baka sabihin niyo, ba’t hindi annulment? Eh kasi sa annulment, some of them don’t want to avail of it, because wala naman daw silang psychological incapacity to fulfill their obligations. Pinaninindigan nila na hindi sila pasok doon. 

You can… As soon as we start discussing this, I know that my Facebook will be flooded with questions on divorce. Kahit anong topic ang pag-usapan, laging meron pa ring bumabalik sa divorce. And all over the country, during the campaign, I was asked repeatedly about it…

Reporter: Have you looked at the chances here in the Senate?

Sen. Pia: I haven’t really bothered. As you know nga, the committees that I will be chairing this Congress are new to me. So, dun ako naka-focus. I haven’t really had time. It’s just that I’ve also read what you’ve read na most people tend to be open-minded because they’ve also heard stories of people they know, people who come to them. So I’d like to believe, I’d like to hope that people would have an open mind. 

And what I always reiterate, for those who are against it, you don’t have to avail of it. For those who are against it, in your own church, in your own religious organization, you can continue to believe what you want to believe. That is your supreme right. And never ko po aapakan or never ko… Wala ho akong karapatan na kwestyunin ang paniniwala ng mga tao when it comes to spiritual and religious reasons. 

But when it comes to legal, it is my obligation to have an open mind and pass laws that will be applicable to all Filipinos who want to avail of it. Kasi remember, this is a kind of law that is not mandatory, this is a kind of law people can avail of. ‘Yun ‘yun eh, may difference ‘yun. 

Reporter: So parang it’s a privilege?

Sen. Pia: Let’s say it’s an option. Baka mamaya may legal implication pa ‘yung privilege. It’s an option. 

Reporter: Sorry ma’am, additional grounds, irreconcilable differences, ano pa ‘yung mga possible grounds?

Sen. Pia: Give me time na balikan ko ‘yun, kasi ganun ako eh. Move on na ako sa ibang bills after napasa ‘yun sa House. I was hoping napasa na ‘yun sa [17th] Congress. Let me just go back to it and then I’ll discuss it further.

Reporter: Last na po, aside from the grounds, what else are the advantages of divorce over annulment? Kasi sabi nila may annulment na nga bakit pa may divorce?

Sen. Pia: Ah hindi. Kasi if you look at our provision on Annulment, any law student can tell you, we have one article on it. That’s it. One article – Article 36. There’s actually no provisions on support, they just use by analogy other provisions on support. There are no provisions on the procedure, so the bill that we filed, the bill that is the product of the House… 

I’ll reiterate ‘House,’ kasi I was in the House of Representatives, lagay niyo na lang ‘yun as background, baka malito ang ibang tao na what I’m talking about na bill na na-hear, that was while I was in the House. This is a product of lengthy discussions and so there’s a lot more details in it, including support, including what is known in other countries as alimony, napag-usapan din ‘yun kasi issue ‘yun. Some believe na in other countries, dahil sa walang forever, pero ‘yung support may forever. So mabigat daw, mabigat. 

So we had long discussions about that, and we tried to look for middle ground na there would be, if I remember right, please let’s confirm it lang, three years of support for the spouse who was dependent on the working spouse. Kasi ‘yung objective nga is mag-move on ka na, try to get gainfully employed also, give that person enough time to also gainfully…

But I wanna have an open mind about it if kailangan longer, kasi the objective din naman is to not abandon the spouse who dedicated their life to being a homemaker, whether it’s a man or a woman, it applies both ways.

But kaya ko rin naisip na hindi rin tama na ‘yung forever kasi paano kung ‘yung breadwinner, katulad ng mga na-meet ko na OFW? Tapos 20 years na siyang nagtatrabaho dun, sinusuportahan niya ang asawa niya, and then worst case, ‘yung asawa niya na nambabae na nagkaanak na sa iba, baka siya pa magbibigay ng support forever because siya ang technically working, you know what I mean? 

So you have to weigh these things. Sasabihin, yeah, pero si mister naman sa bahay ‘yung nag-aalaga ng mga anak, pero nangaliwa din siya. So iba-balance mo rin lahat ‘yun eh. So, I can’t pretend that there’s a simple, easy, hundred percent fair, but we have to do our best.

Reporter: ‘Yung finile niyo po, that was the same bill that was passed in the House last [17th] Congress?

Sen. Pia: Yes, but I’m very open pa to even making my own amendments to it.

Reporter: So kung ano ang pumasa sa House, ‘yun ang ni-refile niyo?

Sen. Pia: Oo, kasi you have to remember, that was a product of members of the House. Eh nandito na ako [Senate, 18th Congress], so kapag nandito naman ako, minsan naman nagkakaroon din ako ng bagong ideas, and then syempre… Ano naman ‘yun, kumbaga free for all ulit.

[Inaudible question]

Sen. Pia: Ay tapos na siya, pasado siya [by the House in the 17th Congress]. Oo, walang nangyari dito [sa Senate in the 17th Congress].

[Inaudible question]

Sen. Pia: That’s a good question, I have to say that it’s kinda my observation also, I don’t know kung may survey talaga. But it’s kinda my observation pagka ganun, ‘yung mga babae, “Yes!” Ta’s ‘yung mga lalaki, “‘Wag na ‘yan…”

Reporter: Pero do you find it a relief na ‘yung mga [inaudible – senators] most of them at least open to discussion?

Sen. Pia: Ganito, sa dami ng trabaho ko, kasi nga ‘yung mga bagong committees ko, and again, I have to emphasize ‘yung Committee on Sustainable Development, andaming sakop nun, syempre happy ako kung kahit anong bill na sinusulong ko maraming support, dahil mababawasan din ‘yung trabaho ko dahil wala na ako masyadong kukumbinsihin. So I’m always happy naman na open-minded, or may support, or willing to discuss, I’m always happy. Thank you!# 

Senator Pia Cayetano answers questions from the Senate media.

Full implementation of RPRH Law pushed on World Population Day

The full and intensified implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RPRH Law) is necessary to ‘empower’ the Filipino population and help bring down poverty levels in the country.

This was emphasized by Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Thursday, World Population Day (July 11), a global observation meant to raise awareness on population issues and finding solutions related to population growth.    

The principal sponsor of the RPRH Law, Cayetano said previous delays in enforcing the landmark measure have hampered government efforts to maximize gains from economic development and effectively redistributing available resources to benefit the population. 

But she noted how the situation has changed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, which has placed the National Program on Population and Family Planning (NPPFP) as a major component of its poverty reduction strategy. 

First introduced through the RPRH Law, the NPPFP seeks to avert unwanted and unplanned pregnancies by giving Filipinos universal access to reproductive health and family planning information, devices, and services. The NPPFP also aims to empower couples and women to attain their ideal number of children through responsible parenthood.   

“From his very first State of the Nation Address, President Duterte has indicated strong political will to fully carry out the RPRH Law as part of his administration’s socio-economic reforms to address poverty,” Cayetano pointed out.

“The full and intensified implementation of the RPRH Law, in partnership with sound economic policies and effective management of our human resources would be the key drivers in attaining sustainable and inclusive growth in the second half of President Duterte’s term,” she added.  

Cayetano noted that the President has backed up his first SONA by directing all government agencies to implement the RPRH Law to attain zero unmet need for family planning, and by providing sufficient budget to attain NPPFP’s goals.

The Philippine population is expected to hit 109 million by the end of 2019, according to projections of the Commission of Population. The country currently has the highest fertility rate in Southeast Asia at 2.7 per woman, and has one of the region’s fastest-growing populations, with an annual average growth rate of 1.6 percent. 

On the other hand, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is targeting to increase modern contraceptive rate to 65 percent and lower fertility rate to 2.1 average children per woman by 2022. 

Under the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, NEDA seeks to reap economic benefits from a young, healthy, well-educated and highly skilled working-age population, and ultimately reduce poverty incidence to 14 percent by 2022 from 21.6 percent in 2015. #

File photo: In a forum, Senator Pia Cayetano recalls the struggle that advocates went through to pass the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act.

Second batch of bills filed to advance PH development goals

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Monday (July 8) filed ten more bills in the Senate to support the Duterte administration’s efforts in attaining the country’s sustainable development goals. 

The returning senator said her second batch of bills reinforces her vision of helping the country meet its targets in line with the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 and the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In pursuit of Goal 3 of the SDGs, which is to ensure healthy lives and promote the wellbeing for all, Cayetano is pushing for programs to provide better healthcare services and facilities to Filipinos, particularly on reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health. 

These include three bills seeking to provide one midwife in every barangay; establish specialty centers in government hospitals and medical centers; and the promotion of Folic Acid food fortification and supplementation.

Furthermore, the senator filed measures aimed at upholding the country’s commitment to Goal 13 of the SDGs, which is to implement policies towards climate change mitigation.

Among these is the bill establishing the Department of Disaster Resilience, which will become the country’s primary agency in charge of responding to disasters and mitigating its impacts.

Other pro-environmental bills filed by Cayetano include the proposed ‘Sustainable Forest Management Act,’ which provides for the conservation of the country’s forest lands and resources; and the ‘Bicycle Act of 2019,’ which proposes to recognize bicycles as an alternative and sustainable mode of transportation.

Apart from these, Cayetano is pushing for the ‘Tulong Puhunan’ bill to institutionalize nationwide microfinance programs for the development of Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs). This is in line with Goal 8 of the SDGs – to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all. The measure is also inspired by the success of the Presyo Trabaho Kita (PTK) program, a brainchild of the senator’s brother, Taguig Representative Alan Cayetano, which helps provide seed capital to people’s organizations across different sectors nationwide. 

“Let this be a testament of our continued commitment to achieve the collective aspirations of Filipinos, as embodied in the government’s ‘Ambisyon Natin 2040’ vision, where every family enjoys ‘Matatag, Maginhawa, at Panatag na Buhay,’” the senator stressed.

Cayetano likewise filed pro-youth and -family measures during the second week, including the Magna Carta of Student-Athletes; Increasing the Maximum Value of the Family Home; as well as an Act Instituting Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines.

“My objective is to keep championing the rights and welfare of every member of the family. This has been my fight ever since. Hopefully, with the help of our colleagues in Congress, our legislative action plans can help us attain our shared vision for a better country,” the senator concluded. #