Archive for risa hontiveros-baraquel

My Top Seven Favorite Quotes from RISA HONTIVEROS

For inspiration, introspection, or provocation, on the last few days before May 10:

–          On LGBT rights and discrimination:

“This is a human rights issue…This is the real clash of civilization, this idea that one group of people is inferior to another. What we need to counter this is also fundamental. We have to change the way we live as families, the way we raise our children, the way we befriend each other, or enter into relationships with each other. Dapat din yung mga institusyon ng lipunan natin ay maabot ng ganitong uri ng pagbabago and that’s what the Anti-Discrimination bill wants to be a part of – a change of consciousness and a change of systems as well.”

–          On Reproductive Health (debating Kit Tatad):

“Kabuuan po ang katawan naming mga babae pati kayong mga lalaki. Bahagi ng kalusugan ang reproductive health… Kailangan laman pong malaman na kasinungalinan sabihin na may aborsyon sa RH bill… Definitely hindi sakit ang pagbubuntis; kailangan iwasan yung unintended pregnancies para mabawasan yung pagkamatay at pagkasira ng pamilya…. Ang ininusulong po ng RH bill ay yung access sa impormasyon, sa serbisyo, at kung pipiliin,modern family planning methods para sa bawat babae o kanyang asawa o ka-partner para ma-plano ang kanilang pamilya at mabuhay sila sa isang makataong antas ng pamumuhay. ”

–          On jobs and the economy:

“I think there are a lot of spaces yet in our economy where we can and should find places where people can get a job or make a living… (Increasing productivity) will have to be (a focus of our platform) para buksan pa yung space for further social reforms including asset reform and greater economy in the economy. We do have to make the pie bigger and more meaty so there’s more substance to be distributed for all the citizens to share. If we generate more and quality employment with a degree of security to it for the employees, that should be an incentive for greater productivity across all sectors of the economy… “

–          On parenthood:

“I have to be there for my kids’ happenings. If it means waking up early and sleeping late, I will do that. To do stuff for them and with them – ngayon lang ‘yan eh. When they have their own lives, we can take back ours.” (Interview with HIPP magazine.)

–          What she tells her kids, and young people:

“Follow your bliss, find the thing you love most that you’re good at doing, that will make you happy. ‘Yan na rin ang magiging serbisyo nyo.” (Interview with HIPP Magazine.)

“In this time of hate and violence, find the thing you’re happy with because happiness transforms you.” (Interview with 100 magazine)

–          On her passion for public service:

“Knowing what’s happening, understanding what’s happening and forming an opinion and based on that opinion, trying to find out what can be done – that’s what I’m passionate about…. Let’s get involved and let’s get it right this time. This is the rest of our lives.” (Interview with 100 magazine)

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Pharma and Karma

As with most of the progressive policy reform bills that we try to push in Congress, we did not expect that passing the Affordable Medicines Bill (House Bill 6035) would be easy. When deliberations on the bill actually began, we had mixed feelings about what was to come. On one hand, the bill was certified as urgent by GMA (for once she did something right), which meant that we could theoretically depend on the support of JDV and the majority bloc. It has also been passed on third reading by the Senate, which we hoped would somewhat strengthen the impetus for the Thirteenth Congress to add something important to its less-than-impressive list of laws made.

On the other hand, we heard through the grapevine that the lawyers of PHAP, the umbrella org of pharmaceutical companies operating in the Philippines (whom I personally think of as an evil bunch, subject maybe to a few exceptions), were directed “to spare no expense” in making sure that the bill would not see the light of the day.

This, of course, was far from surprising. For years, multinational pharmaceutical companies have dominated the sale and distribution of medicines in the country, and they could not be expected to give up their huge profit margins without a fight. Imagine, on the anti-hypertensive drug Norvasc alone, Pfizer earns more than a billion pesos a year. That’s right. Not millions, but BILLIONS. That’s on ONE drug alone, for ONE company, in ONE country.

Here are more facts to digest: The price of medicines in the Philippines is said to be second highest (if not the highest) in Asia. The difference in prices across the region is astounding. For instance, Ponstan, a popular pain reliever produced by drug giant Pfizer, costs around P21 in the Philippines but only P2.61 in India and P1.38 in Pakistan. A 10-mg tablet of Norvasc costs about P70 in the Philippines. In India, Pfizer sells the exact same product for only P9. Ventolin, a drug for persons suffering from asthma, sells for P315 here while Glaxo sells it for P123 in India and only P62 in Pakistan. Outrageous, noh?

Big bad pharma will say that the high price of medicines in the country is due to their investments for research and development. This is simply misleading. What pharma will not admit is that the costs for R&D are considered to be “sunk costs” which are not really factored in pricing. The fact of the matter is that MNCs price drugs according to market forces or “what the market can bear.” The problem here is that the only markets they consider when they formulate prices are the A & B markets! I guess they think that the A-B crowd are the only people who matter since they are the ones who can afford to buy medicines in the first place, in effect placing often life-saving medicines further beyond the reach of the ordinary Juan and Juana dela Cruz. (Makes me angry, really. I’d buy me some Norvasc, only I couldn’t afford it.) In a country like ours, where only a tiny fraction of the population has decent access to healthcare, this is simply unacceptable. Health should not be a matter of privilege. It should be a matter of right.

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