A True Chronicle of the Reproductive Health Law’s Odyssey

Book Review: The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises by Marilen J. Dañguilan
Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2018

The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises

The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises

A monumental legislation like the Reproductive Health Law needs an outstanding chronicle like Dr. Marilen Dañguilan’s book,The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises. This book does not only discuss the core of the RH bill but also documents the interesting sidelines that embroider the RH story.

Almost six years after the triumphant passage into law of the Reproductive Health Bill, Marilen has gifted us with her outstanding, comprehensive, detailed, and ultimately, very objective book, which in itself is also an extraordinary achievement.

This is the story told by an “outsider” – meaning neither an active combatant nor a legislator – who chronicles the RH’s travails and triumphs without making an opinionated judgment. The significance of Marilen’s narrative is that it is not adulterated by the anguish and fury of one who was in the thick of the RH controversy.

The book is retelling of the telenovela-like saga of the RH Bill, from its short-lived stint as House Bill 8110 and its final form as Republic Act 10354 to the behind-the-scenes compromises and the heated Supreme Court oral arguments and the subsequent favorable High Court decision.

But it goes over and beyond merely recording the arduous voyage of the bill through the legislative mills of various Congresses to its finally being signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III a few days before Christmas on December 21, 2012. It also discusses intelligently and expansively the various population policies and prejudices of past Presidents in order to set the stage for the main event, which is the enactment of the long-awaited RH law.

Dr. Marilen Dañguilan’s book is a validation of the adage that when there is unity, there is victory.

It showcases a full cast of very interesting characters from the staunch and steadfast RH champions to the zealous and unforgiving opponents of the measure, to everyone in between who played an indispensable role in making the final version of the law clear, comprehensive and truly rights-based.

I know that most of us here who have read and enjoyed the book have experienced a rush of excitement, a ripple of hope or a moment of pride when we realize that we are all here in this book, formed and molded though the skillful ministering, dissected by the sharp scalpel, and brought to life by the painstaking attention to detail of Marilen.

Republic Act 10354 can be credited with having swept away the cobwebs of antediluvian prejudice that a woman cannot and should not have full control over her own body, and obliterated primitive notions that an all-male clergy can dictate the family planning choices that the faithful make – choices and decisions that women and couples should make independently given appropriate information and without the threat of eternal damnation. 

The RH Law forever changed the political landscape of a country whose lack of a rights-based, health-oriented, and development-driven policy on reproductive health and family planning made it seem permanently fossilized in the Middle Ages when it came to women’s rights. 

Being in the trenches and bombarded with fire and brimstone of criticism coming from the Catholic hierarchy, I can tell you that is was a hell of a fight. Our cause, our campaign, our crusade for the enactment of the RH law was one of the hardest battles I have ever fought in my close to three decades as a legislator, and I am honored and grateful to have been part of it and part of a wonderfully supportive and boundlessly vigilant RH family.

As I have always said, we triumphed over seemingly insurmountable obstacles and deliberate misinformation campaigns because we both had the ascendancy of reason and the superiority of numbers. And, our hearts were in the right place.

The RH advocates in the Philippines triumphed because we were dogged and determined; united in our efforts; came up with creative solutions; arrived at the negotiation table primed for battle but prepared to make concessions as long as they do not water down the measure; and firmly stood our ground on provisions that comprised the heart and soul of the RH law – informed choice, access to all methods of family planning, maternal and child health, and sexuality education for the youth.

We had genuine respect for one another and the common mindset that it did not matter who took the final credit or who was in the limelight, for as long as we achieved our goal. It was teamwork at its finest.

Marilen’s book is a validation of the adage that when there is unity, there is victory. Indeed, with collaboration, exceptional things can be achieved; with teamwork, what was first considered impossible became a reality.

Our deepest thanks to Dr. Marilen Dañguilan for telling our collective stories with a voice that is clear and genuine, powerful and intelligent, and comprehensive and truly objective.

Speech delivered by REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN at the Book Launch of Dr. Marilen Dañguilan’s book - The RH-Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises on October 19, 2018 at the Rappler Headquarters, Ortigas, Pasig City.

 Dr. Marilen J. Dañguilan will launch her book in in San Francisco on January 24, 2019, 6-7:30 pm at the San Francisco Public Library.