Women achievers feted at the Senate

Women achievers are role models not just to young girls, but to young boys, as well
Manifestation on outstanding women commended by the Senate

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Thank you, Mr. President, just a short intervention. I join my colleagues in honoring the women present with us today, and those who are not here, the TOWNS (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service) awardees.

Mr President, what I’d like to emphasize is this: when we showcase women and what they have achieved, it is very common that we say that little girls will see them, and know what their full potential can be. And this is the role that they now have because they are paving the way for young girls.

But, I had the chance to speak to two of our Jiu Jitsu international champions over here [World Jiu-Jitsu champions Meggie Ochoa and Kimberly Custodio]. And I told them, aside from inspiring the little girls, they are also inspiring the future of boys who mingle with these little girls. These boys will understand that women equally hold the fort, that women are equal partners. In fact, in many instances, and many of my dear [male] colleagues here will admit, that their partner is the ‘better’ partner: running the household, taking care of the children, and also working in whatever career they have. That is the truth, your honor.

And until men, and for that matter, young boys are able to see that through women like them who pave the way, we will continue to have the struggle of inequality. And for that reason, I honor all of you because you show the world, both boys and girls, what women can achieve. Congratulations and thank you, dear colleagues, for taking the time to honor these women. #

Pia Cayetano
In her manifestation acknowledging outstanding women feted at the Senate, Senator Pia S. Cayetano stressed that women achievers are inspiring models not just to young girls, but to young boys as well, particularly in instilling awareness on gender equality and respect for women.
Senators commend the 2022 awardees of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) at the first session of the Senate in 2023.
World Jiu-Jitsu Champions
Senator Pia S. Cayetano poses with Philippine Jiu-Jitsu team members Meggie Ochoa and Kimberly Custodio, gold medalists at the 2022 Ju-Jitsu World Championships, and Team PH coach, Stephen Kamphuis.

Pia urges equal opportunities for women

Women should be given equal opportunities in leadership and decision making, including in the military establishment.

This was underscored by Senator Pia S. Cayetano in her interpellation of the proposed budget of the Department of National Defense (DND), held around midnight of Friday (November 11).

Opening her interpellation, Cayetano inquired whether the women military officers who were seated in the session hall audience gallery were part of the DND leadership at the VIP gallery assisting the defense budget’s sponsor, Senator Ronald Bato Dela Rosa.

“Mr President, I direct my question to the Chairman [Sen Dela Rosa]. I suppose the people beside you, except for the women here, and behind here [referring to women officers seated in the gallery], are all part of the leadership of DND, correct? Is there any woman in the leadership group?” she asked.

To which the sponsor, Senator Dela Rosa, replied that it is the protocol of the military estabishment to to take care of women, and to not place them at the ‘frontline.’

“That is a gentlemanly answer. Pero that can be a form of discrimination because, [in] your desire to protect [women], you may not be giving them the opportunities to advance in their career to prove themselves. I do not put any malice there, I believe you,” Cayetano said.

“I will share with you the same comments I make when I talk to a governor or a mayor, and I ask about gender equality and women representation in their political parties, and they say to me, ‘ay ito ma’am, may isa kaming babae.’ [But] we are not talking about one – we’re talking about serious representation,” she stressed.

In response, Dela Rosa noted that the military’s chief nurse and surgeon-general are both women one-star generals. He also shared that female cadets now comprise 25 percent in the Philppine Military Academy (PMA).

“And maybe starting next year or the following year, you will see more female officers holding sensitive positions. Dahil yung mga female graduate na babae are already full colonels. And so they will be holding command positions, like brigade commander. We have battalion commanders who are female,” Dela Rosa explained.

Cayetano acknowledged the information shared by Dela Rosa: With the background you gave me, I am quite confident. And to emphasize my point, that is Sustainable Development Goal 5. Target 5.5 states that we ‘ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunity for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.'”

“The [military service] used to be a man’s world, but it’s a world where we know we will do better if women have equal representation,” she concluded. #

Update on the case of OFW Jovelyn Tang Andres

Mr President, this is just a brief manifestation in response to the request of our colleague, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, for assistance for the family of our Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), Jovelyn Andres, of Sarangani province.

You will recall, I delivered a privilege speech on the PPEs. But Sen. Risa brought to our attention a matter, which was very painful to hear. And we committed, along with the Majority Floor Leader, that we would look into it immediately. So, that same day, your honor, we got in touch with the relatives of Jovelyn Tang Andres, and we were informed that they found out that Jovelyn died through a Facebook post on March 27 pa, your honor, like 6 months ago.

And then they went to DFA GenSan on March 29, so a day and a half perhaps, after they found out, to inquire about this because they just saw it on Facebook, and then they were informed that they could have an autopsy done but it would take 6 months for the body to return.

They opted to have the autopsy done in Saudi Arabia. They were told that if there was no autopsy to be done, the body could be brought back to the Philippines within 2 days, but they opted for an autopsy to be done.

However, they never got the autopsy report. So eventually, they decided to bring the body of Jovelyn – the remains of Jovelyn – home and she was transported back home on September 18, which was soon after the delivery of the information by our colleague, Sen. Risa, to us.

They called OWWA on Sept. 18 to ask for help, OWWA provided P125,000 as insurance, that Jovelyn is entitled to, and OWWA would shoulder the cost of repatriation. They have shouldered.

We then intervened and called the Sarangani Provincial Police asking for an autopsy to be conducted. We were informed that there is only one medico legal per province, who was on study leave. But we were able to connect with Police Major Norman Castro, OIC RFU-12 Sarangani Provincial Forensic Unit and he was the one who arranged for the autopsy and provided the necessary assistance.

So on Friday, the family confirmed that they will push through with this autopsy initiated by Police Major Castro. I am not sure if I mentioned that OWWA would shoulder the cost of the autopsy.

I want to take this opportunity, your honor, to thank, on behalf of the Senate, Mayor Salway Sumbo, who provided the car and gasoline for the travel of the doctor who conducted the autopsy, Police Major Norman Castro, OIC RFU-12 Sarangani Provincial Forensic Unit, Police Major Sergeant Richard Tindaan, Police Staff Sergeant Abdul Ampac, Police Corporal Jai Candelon, Patrol Jona Liedo, and Patrol Ramil Gomez. Sila po ang mga tumulong, and Police Lieutenant Colonel Maria Analiza Dela Cruz, the medico legal officer of regional forensic unit of Region 11.

Thank you, Sen Risa for bringing this matter to our attention. I felt it… The Senate, and there were quite a few senators who were very concerned about this. I am happy to report that kahit paano, in our own small way, nakatulong po tayo. I’ve also brought this to the attention of Sec. Ople and actually, she had coordinated earlier with OWWA so I suppose some of this information had already been shared by the government offices.

Yun lang po, Mr. President, maraming salamat. #

In a manifestation, Senator Pia Cayetano gave an update on the autopsy done last Friday (September 23) on the remains of OFW Jovelyn Tang Andres, a victim of abuse in Saudi Arabia.

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.”