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Ona: We consulted groups on Responsible Parenthood bill

Health Secretary Enrique Ona denied Friday that the Aquino administration did not consult women’s groups in crafting the responsible parenthood bill. “Not only consultation but also listening to all the various opinions. Palagay ko misconception ‘yung hindi nakokonsulta [I think it’s a misconception that no one was consulted]," Ona said at a press briefing in Malacañang. The Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) earlier said it has repeatedly requested for a dialogue with Aquino on the issue, “but we were, and are continuously ignored, instead he gave in to the whims of the Catholic hierarchy." Elizabeth Angsioco, DSWP national chairperson, said many women voted for Aquino because of his pro-reproductive health bill stance during the campaign. “His withdrawal of support [for] the RH [Reproductive Health] bill totally ignores the rights and welfare of women, particularly the poor women, who because of his inaction, will continue to be under threat of complications related with pregnancy and childbirth," Angsioco said. Ona, who is in charge of crafting the Responsible Parenthood bill, said Malacañang really listened to and had dialogues with everyone, especially the very concerned women’s groups. He added the administration did not give in to the Catholic Church but listened to its leaders. “Ang ibig sabihin naman, this dialogue hindi naman ito forever na dialogue, eh [This means this dialogue will not remain as dialogue forever]," he said. “Parang pinag-uusapan natin ‘yung [It just means we discussed] areas where we differ and maybe at the end of the day, we will agree on the areas we differ." Ona reiterated that the DOH will not be distributing condoms this Valentine’s Day, as the department had done in the past year. “We are not going to distribute it… right now, wala tayong programang nagbibigay [we have no such program to give them away]," he said, adding that the duty to distribute contraceptives has been devolved to local governments. Family planning commodities will not be free to those who can afford it, he added. “It [contraceptives] will be given to those who cannot afford and to those who asked for it and for those who need it," said Ona. He said the indigent families can avail of the services in local reproductive health units and local health offices. He, however, clarified that he does not see condom distribution as an immoral act saying it depends on the motive of the giver and the receiver. “Hindi naman immoral ‘yung mamigay ng condom… Depende ‘yun kung ano ang objective mo. It depends on the objective of those who are giving it and those who are receiving it," he said. – Amita O. Legaspi/MRT/JV, GMA News