Thursday, October 13, 2011

RH Bill or HB4244 loves Lolong

House Bill 4244 or the Reproductive Health Bill has a serious flaw and that is it hardly addresses the possible corruption that can take place with a program that may cost billions of pesos to finance.

The blog "Urban Meter" is probably atypical of the sort of response that proponents and supporters of the RH bill will give when confronted with its inadequate safeguards against corruption.
Corruption is a different issue. Even if RH Bill is not passed, and the money is transferred to another government project, that money could still be corrupted. With this kind of thinking we might as well stop funding schools or roads or public housing because it will be corrupted anyway.  It doesn’t mean that if the money will be corrupted we should also stop providing services for the people. 
What this says is this: Corruption is inevitable, so don't avoid it.

The responsible thing to do, I guess, is to fix the problematic aspects of the bill before trying to get it enacted.  

If the Reproductive Health Bill is indeed so vitally important, then it should be re-crafted in such a way so as to minimize chances of corruption and maximize the delivery of RH services as well as condoms/pills/procedures.

Leaving the RH Bill wide open to corruption is almost certainly like aiding and abetting the commission of corrupt acts that will surely follow after its enactment.

I've already pointed out the sections and items in the HB4244 that might be exploited by corrupt government officials and bureaucrats in a previous post.  What I'm doing here is just emphasizing key points in that rather long post.

What bugs me is the somewhat naive assertion that the RH Bill, by whatever virtue is conjured up for it, will not be tainted with corruption unlike so many other laws and government programs.

A former boss once said, "Where money flows, corruption goes."  

On one level, it can mean that where money can be made or where money is involved, that's where the graft and corruption happens.  

On another level, it can also point to the fact that if there's little or no money involved there'll be little interest or opportunity for graft and corruption to take place.

Customs, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Department of Public Works and Highways, and other agencies are almost the default examples of corrupt government agencies.

One smart ass retort that repeatedly crops up is that if all government programs and projects are tainted with corruption, then we should stop funding all these programs and projects.

The fact is that government cannot stop collecting revenues and it cannot stop spending money even if its operations suffer from an almost crippling systemic loss of funds because of corruption.  Otherwise, I guess, that would be the end of government as we've come to know it.

On the other hand, it is quite possible to have an RH program without necessarily relying on government funds or grants from other countries.

Accessibility to contraceptives need not be government funded. Contraceptive companies should instead market their products more efficiently (i.E. Vending machines in rest rooms of hotels/motels/bars/restaurants/gas stations). Government can provide a level playing field for vendors of contraceptives -- sans religious interference. Think about it -- all the commercial establishments in the Philippines making contraceptives accessible and visible to the public. 
I am okay with the push on education and awareness -- but socialized contraceptives procurement AND distribution? National to LGU? Good luck with that. 
It is an apprehension that I share with Benk’s who also stated that: 
“the more I think about it, the more I think this whole fixation on contraceptives is completely wrong — it already is on the church’s part, but on the part of those who think it’s so damned important to have free or low-cost contraception as well. Contraceptives, at least something basic like condoms, are already widely available. If you can’t afford them, you can’t afford to be screwing like a mink. I worry that the RH bill, for all the good it does actually contain, might not unintentionally contribute further to some harmful attitudes and behaviors.”
Further on, BongV points out a number of possible alternatives to government procurement:

I propose that the government procurement section be struck out. Replace it with a blend of tax policy and markets instead, specifically:
Tax exemptions/fiscal/non-fiscal incentives to investments in contraceptives 
Tax deductions on capital outlay for contraceptive business 
Waive off sales tax on contraceptives, contraceptive ads, movies on smaller families, movies showing responsible families 
Additional tax deductions for businesses that sell contraceptives.
Lower taxes for households with only two children

 Better yet, what's wrong with taking another route and one which confronts the real monster: Poverty.

Overpopulation does not per se cause poverty.

This was also tackled by BongV:

Let’s look at hard data and see if the RH bill’s argument that overpopulation causes poverty is spot on. 
* has a population of 240 million
* Land Area: 1,811,569 sq km
* GDP – per capita (ppp): $4,300 (2010 est.) 
* has 90 million population-
* land area: 298,170 sq km
* GDP per capita – $3,500 (2010 est.) 
* 120 million population;
* land area – 364,485 sq km -
* GDP – per capita (ppp): $34,200 (2010 est.) 
North Korea
* has 24.5 million population;
* land area – 120,538 sq km -
* GDP – per capita (ppp): $1,800 (2010 est.) 
The argument that overpopulation is a cause of poverty is negated because for such a principle to hold true then Japan, too should have the same GDP per capita as the Philippines and Indonesia. Obviously – the numbers don’t add up.

Apart from cataclysms that people don't learn to prepare for and avoid, I guess it is the lack of economic freedom and economic opportunity makes people poor.

The thing is, it has been cited ad nauseum that poor people need the RH Bill because they can't afford condoms and pills.  That's why the government must give them free condoms and pills.

I'm looking at it the other way and rather than demean our poor people further by encouraging them to be mendicants, I'd rather that we give them jobs and economic opportunities so that they can earn more money and therefore AFFORD TO BUY CONDOMS, PILLS, and GOOD HEALTH CARE.

And you what it'll take?  It's so simple and so eloquent: Amend the economic provisions of the 1987 constitution, strike out the 60/40 foreign capital participation and limits to land ownership.

By doing so, you can expect bigger investments to flow into the country and that will mean more jobs for as well as opportunities for everybody.

(More on this tomorrow. I've got a 39 degree Celsius fever that won't quit. )

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