Working with like-minded parliamentarians to raise awareness on these three global public health threats allows us to assist and learn from one another Read More
8 March 2011
Senate of the Philippines
Film Showing on the State of Maternal and Child Health
Last March, in celebration of Women’s month, my office and the Senate, in cooperation with Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity of UP Manila College of Medicine, hosted a film showing on women’s lives.
The films which include a documentary and short films are part of the recently concluded 2nd Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival for Health (QEFF2). This film festival is a nationwide film-making competition by the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity. This combines the visual power of cinema with the passion of the health advocates.
The first film “Sa direksyon ni Makoy: Da Final Cut”, Jury’s Pick for Best Short Film, tells the story of the six final days of a young boy who lives a lonely life because he has HIV. He knows he is going to die just like his mom who also had HIV.
The second film “Badong Buntis” is a very short and funny but so real- a man experiences being pregnant and all the difficulties of being a woman.
The third film is “Ang Ina” which is Jury’s Pick for Best Documentary. Ang Ina is a documentary about the economic hardships of raising a family. It gives us the sad statistics about maternal and infant deaths.
The fourth film is the QEFF Grand Prize Winner “Limang Libo” about how the paths of a midwife and a scavenger with a pregnant wife are intertwined because of poverty.
The last film shown is “Tinalikdan” which follows the plight of two women forced by poverty to make difficult life decisions out of hope and despair.
After the film showing, Dr. Anthony H. Cordero, Director of the Center for Gender and Women Studies- University of the Philippines- Manila, facilitated an open forum.
The film showing was warmly received by a diverse audience including non-governmental organizations, government agencies, students, senate employees and senator’s staff. Senator TG Guingona joined us as well. Also in attendance were members of the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity of UP Manila College of Medicine led by Dr. Danilo DV. Alpapara Jr. Also gracing the event and giving a short introduction on their works were Mr. Donnie Sacueza of Ang Ina, Ms.Aiza Jane Idanan of Limang Libo and Mr. Edgar Baltazar of Tinalikdan.
For related blog on our series of film showings.
Lino got me into triathlon. He was hooked at a time when I was a contented runner and scared of venturing into something new. He took me on my first “serious” ride around the village. I got hooked after two rides. Then he got a job that kept him up throughout the nights. I continued to train. He watched me with pride and envy, occasionally joining me for a 10k race or a duathlon.
Last year, he took a year off to study and live in New York. I missed him. He suggested we do the New York tri together last July since he lived only a few blocks from the race venue.
He didn’t tell me we had to park our bikes in his bathroom, that we had to carry them down 5 flights of stairs..and then carry them back up. But hey, what could be better than racing in NY with my brother..
I trained a LOT in Manila, he trained a LITTLE in NY. I ran and biked under the sun, he sunbathed in Central Park..
I did wet suit swims, he bought a wet suit one week before the race. I raced seriously, he smiled for the camera.
He threatened to beat me. I laughed…Not this race, baby.
Truth is, he could beat me any day IF he trained just a little bit more.
That same year, he convinced me it was a chance of a lifetime to do New York marathon together. I convinced him to meet up with me after my conference in Geneva and do Amsterdam Marathon. We did both 2 weeks apart. I ran to do my personal best, he ran to capture his first marathon on video.
The day he returned to Manila was a surprise to me. I was running with my training partner Joey early one morning and out of the corner of my eye I saw this familiar figure in black sitting on the curb of the road. I started screaming. Joey had no idea why until a few seconds later when he saw Lino.
Lino is now back in Manila working. It’s harder for him to train when he has shoots. But we text each other daily making plans to meet within the week. He joins me for a swim or a run. Some days, we lie around talking about my work, about his work, about my life and his life. About our dreams of watching my kids become world class athletes. In Boracay over the last weekend, we gave my girls a crash course in volleyball which was both our sport in college.
Other times we hang together reading our books and ignoring each other. When he can, he comes over and cooks in my kitchen, eats and hangs with my kids. And we all go to church together.
And yes, we train together whenever we can.
n.b. Ani, Joey and I are convincing him to join the Camsur 70.3. Easy for him to do once he sets his mind to it… and if he had a bike. He left his in New York.
Yesterday, I organized a forum on Cervical Cancer Prevention in the Senate together with Cervical Cancer Prevention Network (CECAP). The objective was to raise awareness about the causes of cervical cancer and how to prevent it.
We invited various NGOs and women representing different sectors of society to participate in the forum. Our speakers gave very interesting and informative talks.
After that, the anti-HPV vaccination provided by Glaxo-Smith Kline were given to some of the women who symbolically represented Filipina women from all walks of life.We had a public school teacher, a police woman, a government employee, a barangay official, a health worker, an OFW, student, a mom, and our special guest, Bianca Gonzales, who was able to keep smiling while she was being vaccinated.
We were all given pink bands with 3 cute icons, meant to be a reminder of the 3 shots that need to be completed.
After the Forum, I delivered a privilege speech. I mentioned that a year ago I conducted a hearing on cervical cancer and expressed hope that my colleagues would support the bill on this.Unlike other cancers, cervical cancer is preventable. According to CECAP, 99% of cases it is caused by the HPV virus that is transmitted sexually. With increased awareness, we could prevent the death of women from cervical cancers.
As part of my commitment to women’s health and prevention of cervical cancer, my public funds were used to purchase equipment for PGH, including a colposcope which is a complete diagnostic and therapeutic facility pr premalignant diseases of the cervix.
Facts about Cervical Cancer (Data from DOH, CECAP)
Next to breast cancer, cervical cancer is the 2nd most common cancer killer among Filipina women. For every 3 Filipinas diagnosed, 1 will die within the year.
This high death rate is mainly due to late detection and lack of awareness.
What causes cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which is transmitted sexually. It may not develop into cancer for as long as 10-20 years from infection. About 80% of women will be infected with HPV in their lifetime. It is the most common sexually transmitted viral infection.
However a strong immunity can help prevent cervical cancer from developing. This would include a healthy lifestyle which means exercise, good nutrition and a lifetime of mutual monogamy with one’s partner. Those at high risk are: those who smoke, those who started sexual activity at an nearly age, those with multiple sexual partners and previous sexually transmitted infections.
Aside from a healthy lifestyle, a woman should also have regular pap smear tests every 3 years from the time she becomes sexually active but not later than 21 years. There is also vaccination that is now available to women.
A study was recently conducted by UP-DOH showing that a visual examination of the cervix aided by acetic acid wash is a cost-effective screening method for cervical cancer.
This is an option that can be made available to women who cannot afford to get a pap-smear, and is one of the projects that I am embarking on at the barangay level with CECAP.
I have come to accept that I will never see my son again in this lifetime. He died in my arms almost eight years ago. But Edith Burgos does not know the fate of her son. He is missing.
What does a mother do, when her son has gone missing?
If you were Edith, you will rally in front of Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, hear mass followed by a visit to the Senate to push for the passage of “Enforced Disappearance” bill.
Exactly two years ago, Jonas Burgos was abducted in broad daylight inside a mall in Quezon City. One of the evidence of his abduction is the plate number of the vehicle used by the perpetrators. The family of Jonas maintains that the vehicle was traced to the 56th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Division then headed by Maj. General Jovito Palparan. On the principle of command responsibility, Gen. Palparan was expected to take the lead in investigating this case.
But to this day, no one has been held accountable for Jonas’ disappearance. And yet, Gen. Palparan was later promoted and is now a member of Congress in the Lower House representing a party-list group.
Edith pleaded for a writ of amparo. The writ of amparo is an order issued by a court to protect the constitutional rights of a person. It compels the state to act on disappearances, to look for missing persons. It can hold officials liable if the court finds that they did not exert enough effort in finding the person.
In this case, the Court of Appeals partially granted her plea by directing the military and police to provide her with documents. But it denied Edith’s bid to inspect military camps possibly holding her son. It ruled that Edith Burgos failed to show that the military was behind the kidnapping of Jonas. The Court of Appeals did order AFP chief of Staff Lt. Gen Yano to reinvestigate the case with vigor. It also ordered PNP Director Gen Avelino Razon Jr to investigate and file charges. Both Yano and Razon were directed to submit compliance reports within 10 days after the completion of their investigations.
Edith Burgos told me that General Yano and General Razon NEVER SUBMITTED the compliance report required by the Court of Appeals and that the report she got was given to her ten months AFTER the CA order and only because they were about to be cited for contempt. She has elevated this case to the Supreme Court, but there has been no decision yet.
In this case, can we say that the writ upheld the constitutional rights of Jonas? Has the state acted sufficiently on the his disappearance? Were any officals held liable for not exerting enough effort to find him?
The minority floor leader, Aquilino Pimentel delivered a privilege speech on this matter. I stood up to interpellate him.
“I am appalled that government officials involved in this incident and similar crimes, can go to sleep at night and then wake up in the morning pretending that this never happened or that it is acceptable that it happens.”
I asked the minority leader, “what exactly do they expect us to think?”
Senator Pimentel replied, “all of the above, but the reason why these kinds of crimes persist, is because the perpetrators are rewarded with higher positions in government. And for those who tell the truth and report a crime like Jun Lozada, they are persecuted.”
“Ohhh,” I said, “it’s a system of reward and punishment that any child can relate to. So is this the lesson this government is teaching our children? Commit a crime and get a reward? Do a good deed, and get punished?”
In a press statement issued today, Lorena Santos, the Deputy Secretary General of Desaparecidos posed the question, “So, how long do we keep looking for a desaparecido?
To this I add: “How long do you keep loving a child? How long do you keep fighting for justice? I should hope that my children, the grandchildren of Senator Pimentel and Edith Burgos will continue to fight for justice and bring to closure the cases of all desaparecidos.”
On that note, I ended my interpellation with an appeal to our President, our chief executive and the commander in chief of the Armed Forces, to finally do what is right. Reward the just and punish the guilty.
Is that too much to ask?
n.b. Incidentally, the definition of the writ of amparo was a bar question when I took the bar exam. It was unheard of at that time. It has recently been touted as the “magic solution” to missing persons cases. But is it?
Worms were not part of my agenda in going to Dumaguete. But it found its way into my schedule after City Mayor Agustin Perdices and Governor Emilio Macias III, each told me how they are using worms to create organic fertilizer. The process is fairly simple: Mix manure, organic products like leaves and a handful of worms in a big sack. The worms eat and excrete and in a few weeks, voila, you have organic fertilizer. The goal is to get more farmers to make their own organic fertilizer instead of buying commercial fertilizers which are much more expensive and have chemical ingredients.
My staff actually had been there for the last three days conducting seminars on breast feeding and women empowerment.
I arrived on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Aren’t rainy Saturday afternoons just perfect for going to sleep? But this was a working Saturday for me and I was scheduled to meet the governor and get a tour of the provincial hospital.
The governor, it turns out is a PGH trained surgeon, a passionate healthcare advocate who shared a lot of his ideas about devolved health care, its problems and possible solutions. It was great to meet him and the medical staff of the hospital. I hope to use their experiences in reviewing our health care policies.
From health care Negros Oriental style, I got a taste of women power, Siliman University style. I met their student council, headed by SC President Stacy Danika Sia Alcantara. Wow! What an energetic talented group of young women, to say the least. They proudly told me that their school is very gender sensitive and has always had a strong women studies department, that the young men who enter the University are soon enough indoctrinated into a lifestyle that is gender equal in all aspects. More power girls. I promised to write a future entry on women empowerment and the girls promised to contribute?
Later that evening, I met with Green Alert Negros, who expressed their concern about the plans to cut thousand of trees and develop part of Mt Kanlaon as a source of geothermal energy. I actually climed Mt Kanlaon years ago and was quite familiar with the affected area. But more importantly Mt. Kanlaon is a natural park protected by law, rich in biodiversity and is home to many endemic species.
Next day, I woke up to a dark morning, with tree branches swaying from the strong winds.. It looked like rain was inevitable, but in fact, shortly after 5 am, the sky started to lighten up.. Ani and I ran straight from our hotel to the starting line where we joined thousands of runners who like us, got up at dawn for the fun of running in one of the 3 distances of the Milo Maratthon series –3k, 5k and 21k.
I joined the 21k run which took us along Rizal Boulevard, right by the Tanon Strait which was a beautiful site. Then we turned into a side road and went thru very pleasant countryside, where the locals lined the streets to watch us go by.
The exciting part of every run for me is seeing the strong women runners race. We had a chance to chat after the awarding ceremonies. They come from all backgrounds, mothers, students, teens and women in their 40s, all fast runners who outrun most men!
In just about 24 hours from the time I got to Dumaguete, I was homebound. I didn’t get much of a chance to explore the beautiful city, but thanks to the local government officials, the locals, my staff and everyone who gave us some of their valuable time, we had a productive and fulfilling trip.