By Tina Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:13:00 04/09/2011
BROADWAY star Lea Salonga and former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral on Saturday led residents of Barangay (village) Ayala Alabang, host to an upscale residential village in Muntinlupa City, in a demonstration calling for the scrapping of a local ordinance requiring prescription for contraceptives.
Some 100 residents, mostly clad in yellow, gathered outside the Ayala Alabang main gate at the corner of Madrigal Avenue at around 9 a.m. to protest Barangay Ordinance 1, which bans the promotion and purchase of any kind of contraceptive within the barangay without a doctor’s prescription.
Cabral hit barangay officials who were behind the enactment of the ordinance for apparently not acting on it even after a public consultation was held last March 19.
Under Barangay Ordinance No. 1, also known as the “Protection of the Unborn Child Ordinance of 2011,” a person who wants to buy contraceptives from stores in the area should first present a prescription from a doctor.
The city council, however, remanded it to the barangay level, citing some portions that may be seen as an infringement of human rights. It also asked the barangay officials, through a letter, to clarify certain provisions.
In a text message to Inquirer yesterday, Omar Acosta, public information officer of Muntinlupa City, said the city government was still waiting for the barangay council to submit the revised version of the ordinance.
He added that the measure must first be approved by the city council and Mayor Aldrin San Pedro before it can take effect.
“Until now, they have not done anything about it. I think we have given them enough time within which to act one way or another,” Cabral told Inquirer in an interview. “So now we want to force them to act on it already—either they say it’s totally dead or they want to push through with it—so we could also act accordingly.”
“Of course we want the ordinance totally scrapped,” she stressed, adding that their next move would be to ask the city council to act on the controversial measure with finality.
Cabral said that the barangay council should withdraw the ordinance because “it is abusive, it is ignorant of the law, as well as it also usurps the power of other agencies. She stressed that sentiment of the people is clearly against the measure.
Salonga, on the other hand, stressed that the ordinance signifies an invasion of a couple’s personal life.
“Me and my family chose to live here because we want some privacy; we just wanted to live peacefully. But when this ordinance came … it infringes the rights of the residents. It absolutely made no sense,” she said.
“What, my life is now going to be a matter of public record? With this ordinance, every time I go to a pharmacy and decide to buy a pack of condom or contraceptives, it has to be a matter of record because I would have to register my name and declare that this was what I bought. Eh pakialam naman ng kahit sino kung anung gamot ang binili ko di ba (What do others care on what medicines I bought)?”
In her blog recently, Salonga wrote she was instantly outraged upon reading the ordinance.
“What right, constitutional or otherwise, does another human being, plus an entire barangay, have to what I practice in the privacy of my bedroom? No one has a say in how my husband and I express ourselves sexually, or what contraceptive measures we decide to employ, or not employ. I detest being told what to do, in general … even more so when it comes to something as personal and as private as this,” part of her blog entry read.
Some members of various reproductive health (RH) advocacy groups also came to support the residents’ protest action.
They carried placards bearing the messages “Respect our right to family planning,” “Keep your theology out of my biology,” “Keep your bigots out of our bedrooms,” and “Separate Church and State,” among others.
Other known personalities who joined the demonstration included Carlos Celdran, a sought-after Intramuros tour guide and reproductive health rights advocate who has been protesting the Church’s lobbying against the RH bill.
Although the demonstrators said their protest has nothing to do with the controversial RH bill, most of those who joined the demonstration said they are in favor of contraceptives.
In a previous interview, Barangay Ayala Alabang chair Alfred Xerez-Burgos Jr. maintained that the ordinance was “consistent with the Constitution.”
At the same time, he clarified that the measure had yet to be implemented.