ICYMI: Our Contraceptives Are Running Out!

And other sh*t Pinays have to deal with, because we are women living in this country.
by F. Valencia
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There are things that we wish had never happened. Unfortunately, reality always trumps wishful thinking. Here are the painful, disturbing, and disappointing things that have been affecting Filipino women. 

1. RH LAW STILL HOSTAGED BY SUPREME COURT TRO

Four years since its enactment, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law (RA 10354) or RH Law is still not in effect. It may be recalled that in 2015, the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines filed a complaint to the Supreme Court (SC) alleging that certain contraceptive implants allowed under the RH Law have "abortifacient side effects."

As such, the SC issued the temporary restraining order (TRO) that prevents the government from procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing, administering, advertising, and promoting implants. The SC ruling also stopped the Food and Drug Administration from granting pending applications for reproductive products, including contraceptives.

In 2016—despite the clamor of RH advocates—the TRO was still being enforced, further delaying the implementation of programs that would have prevented unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.

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2. CONTRACEPTIVES SUPPLY TAKES A SERIOUS HIT

Just this August, the SC came up with a ruling ordering the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "to recertify that the contraceptive products would not lead to abortion."

Commission on Population (PopCom) executive director Juan Perez III noted that since June 2015, the licenses issued by FDA for the contraceptives were expiring one after the other. He pointed out that the time it takes for recertification is another challenge.

Perez pointed out: "It will take five to seven months (so) it will adversely affect our RPRH programs. We might run out of contraceptives in the market."

He added that "only four of the 48 contraceptive products currently available would remain in the market before the end of 2018." This, he said, "could trigger a significant increase in population, maternal deaths, and unwanted pregnancies.

3. TEEN PREGNANCY RATE RISES

The results of a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) study released early in 2016 revealed that teenage pregnancy rates across the world have declined in the past two decades—except in the Philippines.

UNFPA country representative Klaus Beck said pointed out that Filipino girls aged 15 to 19 years old make up 10 percent of the country's population of 100 million—and one out of 10 of them are already mothers.

In a report for Al Jazeera, Sohail Rahman noted: "A few factors adding to the continued increase in birth rates include having multiple sexual partners as well as low condom use. Social attitudes towards family planning in the Philippines are heavily influenced by the Catholic Church."

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4. CONDOM WAR ERUPTS

In a press conference for the World AIDS Day 2016, the Department of Health (DOH) announced that they plan to distribute condoms in schools as part of their strategy to deal with the sharp rise in the number of HIV/AIDS among the youth in the country.

Citing DOH data, a Philippine Daily Inquirer report revealed that "from 1984 to October 2016, a total of 38,114 HIV cases were recorded, with 32,099 tallied from 2011 to 2016."

The report added that "among 15 to 24 years olds, there were 10,279 HIV cases during the period, of which 9,066 were tallied since 2011."

In an interview on Unang Hirit, DOH chief Dr. Paulyn Ubial explained, "The condom distribution will not be openly distributed but it will be a venue to discuss to the young people how to prevent HIV/AIDS."

Ubial added, "This is a strategy that is evidence-based. Marami na pong pagsusuri sa ibang bansa, na even in Catholic schools ginawa po nila itong strategy na ito. And hindi po dumami ang nagse-sex, kung hindi kumonti 'yung teenage pregnancies at kumonti ang nagkakaroon ng sexually-transmitted infection."

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("There has been a lot of research in other countries, that even Catholic schools have usedthis strategy. And it didn't lead to an increase in the number of students having sex, instead teenage pregnancies decreased and there were also lesser young people who got a sexually-transmitted infection.")

Ubial further emphasized that the details of the plan were being fleshed out with the Department of Education (DepEd), "as minors require parental consent under Philippine law to procure prophylactics." She also reiterated that counseling would be provided to students.

However, Fr. Jerome Secillano, the executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) public affairs committee, expressed his objection to the DOH's safe sex campaign. He said referred to it as "a waste of taxpayers' money."

Secillano remarked, "Distributing condoms will only condone sexual activity among students."

Echoing Secillano's sentiments, Eleazardo Kasilag, president of the Federation of Associations of Private Schools and Administrators (FAPSA), said that the DOH's move "implied that most of the new HIV/AIDS cases came from schools" and that it might just "make schoolchildren curious about sex."

"What do you take the school for, a motel? The government cannot give books so they will just give condoms? This is no longer about health but moral values," quipped Kasilag.

5. 'CRAZY YELLOW KIA' DRIVER DOES NOTHING FOR FEMALE DRIVERS' REP

They say all it takes is one bad apple to ruin a whole barrel. Similarly, it takes just one incredibly horrible female driver to reinforce the stereotype about female drivers.

Last November 11, the driver of a yellow Kia Picanto, known to netizens as the "crazy yellow Kia," plowed through people and vehicles at the Rockwell Center in Makati City.

ABS-CBN News revealed: "The driver of the yellow Kia told Makati police she was only flagged down by Rockwell security officials due to illegal parking. She also claimed that she panicked after she was chased and mobbed by Rockwell marshals."

The driver, who was identified as "a 28-year-old woman who resides in San Juan City," later promised to foot the bill for all the damage she caused and the medical expenses of those whom she hurt. Though it was initially reported that no charges would be filed against her, the Makati City government later said that they "intend to file charges against her."

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6. PAO CHIEF CALLS FOR TOUGHER PENALTIES ON WOMEN—BUT NOT MEN!—WHO CHEAT ON SPOUSES

In line with her bid to secure a post as SC associate justice, Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta was interviewed by the members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on November 16.

JBC member Jose Mejia had asked Acosta to cite the laws which she believes are partial to either sex. She replied, "Yung sa issue ng adultery and concubinage, ang aking patakaran pa rin ay dapat mas mahigpit sa babae kaysa sa lalaki dahil ang babae ang ilaw ng tahanan. Kapag nawasak ang tahanan, nagloko ang babae, wala na. Kapag ang lalaki nagloko, ang babae matatag, siya ang ilaw, buhay pa ang tahanan."

("For me, when the issue is about adultery and concubinage, it should be stricter on women more than on men. Because women are the light of the home. If the home is destroyed because the woman cheats, it's over. But if the man cheats, the woman remains strong, and since she is the light of the home, the home survives.")

In fact, women's groups have long pointed out that the said laws are discriminatory to women.

Under Article 333 of the Revised Penal Code, a wife can be convicted of the crime of adultery for a single act of sexual intercourse with a man who is not her husband.

If found guilty, both the married woman and her lover will suffer a prison term for a maximum period of six years.

By contrast, Article 334 dictates that a married man may only be charged for concubinage under the following conditions:

1. He keeps a mistress in the conjugal dwelling.
2. He has sexual intercourse under scandalous circumstances with a woman who is not his wife.
3. He is cohabiting with another woman in any other place.

The penalty for the guilty husband is lower by one degree which is imprisonment for a maximum period of four years and one day only. His mistress, meanwhile, is given a separate penalty of "destierro" or banishment and not imprisonment.

Article 247 also guarantees that a husband who walks in on his wife and her lover having sex and ends up killing one or both of them will hardly suffer any consequences (just banishment). If he injures his wife and/or her lover in some other way, he gets off without any punishment at all. Shouldn't the same privilege be given to wives, too?

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7. FAKE NEWS SITES CAUSE REAL DAMAGE

Despite repeated reminders for people to be more discerning about what they see online, many still fall for the stories churned out by fake news sites.

Interestingly, fake news sites targeting Pinoys mushroomed in 2016.

Among the fake stories that got shared were "Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach arrested at Kuala Lumpur Airport with 10 kg of cocaine" and "Senator Risa Hontiveros passes bill banning exposure of tattoos in churces and universities."

Simple rule: When in doubt, just don't share the article. (Then again—based on the number of fakes stories going viral—millions of people find this rule very complicated.)

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8. PINAYS LURED INTO BECOMING DRUG MULES

Even with the high profile Mary Jane Veloso case serving as a cautionary tale, there are still Pinays who are being lured into becoming drug mules.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) assistant secretary Charles Jose revealed that a 37-year-old Filipino woman had arrived in Hong Kong on July 30 and was arrested for attempting to smuggle cocaine.

The Manila Times reported, "During a spot check on her luggage, security officers found two slabs of suspected cocaine, one weighing about 330 grams and the other 390 grams." The cocaine had an estimated total market value of $750,000.

The Pinay, who was identified as Ann Raian Santos Cruz, claimed that "somebody from Manila" had asked her to bring the bag to Hong Kong. In her preliminary statement submitted to the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong, she said she didn't know what was inside the bag.

Cruz remains detained in Hong Kong.

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9. PINAYS CAUGHT DEALING DRUGS

We're not saying that drug pushers should be excused, we're just saying that some of them are driven to it by dire circumstances.

Take the case of a 68-year-old grandmother named Luzminda Taboylog (alias "Nanay"), who, along with her 23-year-old grandson, was arrested in November for selling dried marijuana.

ABS-CBN News highlighted the painful irony of Tabylog's situation: "Taboylog explained that she was forced to sell marijuana to feed 12 of her grandchildren since the children's parents are in prison for charges related to illegal drugs."

But while Tabylog's bad decision may be attributed to desperation, the motivation of college student Reyna Hayashi, 20, seems unclear.

Hayashi was allegedly peddling 50 blue ecstasy (Blue LV) pills worth P47,500 at Bonifacio Global City in December.

Hayashi and fellow college student Roy Miguel de Borja, also 20, were arrested in a buy-bust operation.

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10. DIVORCE BILL STILL A DREAM

The Philippines is the only place in the world—apart from Vatican City—where divorce is banned. The country gained this dubious distinction in 2011. That year, the small Mediterranean nation of Malta voted in a referendum to legalize divorce.

Thus, in August, the Gabriela Women’s Party refiled the bill seeking to institutionalize divorce in the Philippines for the for the fifth time.

CNN Philippines noted: "House Bill No. 2380 or the Divorce Bill, filed by Representatives Emmi De Jesus and Arlene Brosas, amends Article 26 and Articles 55 to 66 of Executive Order No. 209 or The Family Code of the Philippines to include divorce as a way for spouses to end their marriages."

Gabriela explained that the bill "takes into consideration the rudiments of Filipino culture and the general sentiment of preserving the sanctity of Filipino marriages." As such, the bill emphasizes that divorce can be granted "only when certain conditions are met."

Despite this, various groups have assailed Gabriela for refiling the bill, slamming the group for attempting to "break the law of God." (In case you missed it, the concept of separating Church and State remains a puzzle to some people.)

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11. TWO LADY COPS POSE FOR PHOTO WITH JUST-ARRESTED ACTOR

While it's normal to get excited over having your picture taken with a celebrity, there are instances when it really isn't a good idea.

Such is the case involving two female police officers who posed for a photo with actor Mark Anthony Fernandez shortly after he was arrested for marijuana possession in Angeles City, Pampanga in October.

The photo showing Fernandez—who was nabbed with one kilo of marijuana in his car—and the two lady cops smiling went viral.

Naturally, it was brought to the attention of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Dir. Gen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa remaked, "I don’t like that picture because as law enforcers, ano ba? Na-starstruck ka pa rin sa isang criminal offender, ‘di ba? Hinuli siya 'di ba at ngayon magpa-pa-picture ka pa doon?"

("I don’t like that picture because as law enforcers, what are you thinking? You act starstruck in front of a criminal offender, right? He was arrested and you want to have your picture taken with him?)

He added, "On the other hand, naiintindihan ko rin naman ang aking mga policewomen dahil nakalimutan siguro nila na sila ay pulis. Nangingibabaw sa kanila 'yung kanilang pagka-movie fan siguro."

("On the other hand, I understand that the policewomen probably forgot they were cops. They were more like movie fans.")

Then again, the photo definitely doesn't do anything for the reputation of women as law enforcers.

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12. IMELDA SCHWEIGHART SAYS THE DARNDEST THINGS

Talk about giving beauty queens a bad name.

In October, Miss Philippines-Earth 2016 Imelda Bautista Schweighart was thrust into the center of a social media maelstrom after blurting out that President Rodrigo Duterte was doing "Hitler stuff" in the Philippines.

For some reason, Schweighart happened to bring up the awful subject of Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany who orchestrated the massacre of 6 million Jews during World War II, in a Facebook Live video.

Schweighart had asked Miss Earth Austria 2016 Kimberly Budinsky if Hitler was from her country.

This is how their conversation played out:

Schweighart: So, is Hitler from Austria?
Budinsky: OK, that's a bad question because we normally don't talk about Hitler. But, yeah, he is.
Schweighart: Oh my God! Our President is doing Hitler stuff here in the Philippines!
Budinsky (obviously uncomfortable): That's crazy. Well...that's how it is. Were we... Are we live?
Schweighart: On my Facebook.

Schweighart later posted what she probably hoped would pass for an apology on her Facebook page. She wrote: "I am half-German that is the reason why I talked to a fellow delegate about 'Hitler' so casually [because she is] Austrian. Because all my life I am always teased by fellow Filipinos as 'Hitler' because they are not well informed that Hitler was not German. In fact, Hitler was Austrian. So, when I saw my fellow delegate I made a soft joke about it out of my excitement."

In another interview, Schweighart compared herself to Albert Einstein.

After representing the country in the Miss Earth pageant, whose coronation night was held on October 29 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, Schweighart gave up her title. She was replaced by Loren Artajos.

Schweighart resigned after a video of her criticizing the crowned Miss Earth 2016 Katherine Espin of Ecuador went viral. She mentioned that the online bashing was just too much.

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13. LAWMAKERS GET DISTRACTED BY A SEX VIDEO

President Rodrigo Duterte had claimed that former Justice chief and current Senator Leila De Lima had a romantic relationship with her former driver, Ronnie Dayan.

Duterte likewise claimed that De Lima supposedly designated as her representative in collecting money from the drug lords at the New Bilibid Prison.

De Lima admitted that she had been in a relationship with Dayan a few years, but she denied the allegation that they were involved in the Bilibid drug trade.

However, lawmakers such as House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Rep. Danilo Suarez repeatedly insisted that the sex video that allegedly featured De Lima and Dayan was a crucial piece of evidence.

The sex video was later proven to be fake. (Technically, it was real, but it clearly wasn't De Lima or Dayan in it.)

In November, after Dayan finally surfaced, the House inquiry on the Bilibid drug trade turned into a sexist circus. Several congressmen practically focused on slut-shaming De Lima. They didn't seem so interested in probing the Bilibid drug trade.

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14. SEN. LEILA DE LIMA CITES "FRAILTIES OF A WOMAN"

In November, Senator Leila de Lima came clean about her relationship with her former driver Ronnie Dayan in an exclusive interview with Winnie Monsod on Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie.

De Lima had remarked that she fell for Dayan due to the "frailties of a woman."

Women's rights group Gabriela called out De Lima for her statement, pointing out that "the so-called frailties of women even men or any gender can never be cited as a defense for crimes, be it adultery, abuse of authority by a public official, or drug trafficking."

Other women's rights advocates also noted that De Lima, who had complained about being the subject of sexist attacks, was actually giving fodder to her critics by attributing her decision to be involved with Dayan to the "frailties of a woman."

15. KAT ALANO BRINGS UP A VERY BITTER TRUTH

In October, Senator Leila de Lima spoke against misogyny at a Commission on Human Rights forum and "Women's Life, Dignity, and Democracy" forum at Miriam College. She cited her own experience in dealing with what she called anti-women tactics used against her by her alleged political foes.

Former VJ and model Kat Alano pointed out, however, that De Lima didn't help her with her own ordeal. It may be recalled that Alano revealed that she had been raped by a "public figure" who also faced various complaints from other victims.

In an October 16 Facebook post addressing De Lima, Alano pointed out, "Do not use Filipino women as protection against your own wrongdoings. When I contacted you and beseeched you as a woman and a Filipino to stand up for rape victims everywhere, you turned a blind eye. And now you want the women of the Philippines to stand behind you?"

She added, "I stood for my rights and you took no notice."

Alano then provided a link to the open letter she had addressed to De Lima in the past.

No follow-up reports were made on the issue.

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16. ROSANNA ROCES ADMITS TO BOOKING SEX WORKERS FOR HIGH-PROFILE BILIBID INMATES

In October, during the House inquiry on the alleged drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison, inmate Nonile Arile—an ex-cop who's convicted of kidnapping and murder—claimed that actress Rosanna Roces was the mistress of drug lord and high-profile inmate Vicente "Enteng" Sy.

"Kabit niya ang artista na si Rosanna Roces, alyas Osang (His mistress is actress Rosanna Roces, alias Osang)," he said.

Roces dismissed Arile's allegations through a Facebook post. She wrote, "Paanong magiging mistress, eh babae ang dinadala ko kay Enteng (How can I be a mistress when I bring in women for Enteng)?"

Roces clarified that she only functioned as the "manager" of sex workers whom she brought in for some of the inmates. She revealed, "Kada hatid ko ng babae ay 25k ang binibigay sa akin (Each time I bring in a woman, they give me P25,000)."

Roces went on to point out that if she's really Sy's mistress, then she wouldn't have to work so hard. She also said that she's not involved in the illegal drug trade.

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17. WOMEN TARGETED BY SCAM ARTISTS CLAIMING TO BE HIRED KILLERS

In November, real estate agent Nicole Caluza received a call from a man who introduced himself as "Alex Guererro" with the mobile number 0995-544-5957.

In her interview with InterAksyon, Caluza recalled that prior to getting the man's call, she had been fiddling with her phone's settings and it began to record calls automatically.

Caluza was taken aback when the man proceeded to tell her that someone had hired him and his group to kill her and her family.

The man indicated that Caluza only had to pay him a certain amount of cash so that the so-called hit against her wouldn't push through. The man also instructed her to call him back so that he could give her more details on how she could send the money through a local fund transfer service.

Caluza sought help from the police and later decided to upload the saved audio to warn others of the new scam.

Other women also shared that they had gotten a similar phone calls. There were also those who got text messages using the same spiel. Perhaps, these scammers targeted women because they think it's easier to scare them?

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18. VICE PRESIDENT LENI ROBREDO DEALS WITH INAPPROPRIATE REMARKS

In November, President Rodrigo Duterte was in Tacloban City to speak at the event marking the third year since Typhoon Yolanda struck. For some reason, he ended up telling the audience how he and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez once ogled Vice President Leni Robredo's knees during a Cabinet meeting. Robredo also happened to be onstage as Duterte joked about her.

Duterte was quoted as saying, "You know, Ma’am Leni would always wear skirts which are shorter than usual. At one time, Dominguez asked me come closer because I was far from them. But I told him, 'Come here. Look at (Robredo’s) knees.'"

He added, "Maybe she noticed (that I was looking at her). I wanted to tell her, 'Ma’am, maybe next time you just wear shorts.' But after our third meeting, she was already there at the far end of the table. I lost the view during the Cabinet meeting."

For her part, Robredo simply brushed off Duterte's jokes. She related, "Actually, nasasanay na ako kay Presidente parati akong nagiging pulutan. Gaya ng sabi niya, parang ano iyon...pabirong pagsabi. Ano naman, medyo nasasanay na ako kay Presidente (Actually, I've gotten used to the President using me as the subject of his jokes. Like what he said, he was just joking around. I've gotten sort of used to the President doing that)."

However, she later issued a statement on the matter as many women's groups pointed out that Duterte's joke about ogling her legs was offensive.

Robredo's statement read: "When President Duterte made inappropriate remarks, I deliberately chose to ignore these. There are larger and more urgent issues we confront as a nation that demand our collective attention. But many were bothered and offended by [them]. As we all rightly should. Tasteless remarks and inappropriate advances against women should have no place in our society. We should expect that most of all from our leaders."

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Meanwhile, Duterte's supporters maintain that he is "just joking" (as always) when he makes awkward (for others) quips about women.

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19. LENI GETS EASED OUT...THROUGH TEXT

Vice President Leni Robredo filed her resignation as Housing Secretary from the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, December 5.

Robredo had released statement on her resignation. She explained, "We had hoped this day would not come. I had been warned of a plot to steal the Vice Presidency. I have chosen to ignore this and focus on the job at hand. But the events of recent days indicate that this plot is now being set into motion."

Robredo went on to relate that on December 3, she had received a text message from Cabinet Secretary Leoncio "Jun" Evasco Jr., wherein he reportedly relayed President Rodrigo Duterte's instruction through his executive assistant Bong Go for her "to desist from attending all Cabinet meetings" starting December 5.

Robredo explained, "This is the last straw, because it makes it impossible for me to perform my duties. Hence, I am tendering my resignation from the Cabinet on Monday, December 5, 2016. With this resignation, you can expect that I will continue to support the positive initiatives of this administration and oppose those that are inimical to the people's interest."

She still assured the public: "However, as your duly elected Vice President, I will not allow the Vice Presidency to be stolen."

In other words, there's a whole lot of political tension that most of us can't even begin to understand. (Or maybe we do but we're too afraid to talk about it.)

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20. WOMEN AND GIRLS VIOLATED ONLINE

Amid the political turmoil in the country, women have been increasingly targeted by violent remarks online. Usually, these violent remarks are also sexual in nature.

Aside from rape threats, women have also been attacked with nasty comments about their appearance and their private lives.

Just as Senator Leila de Lima, who is tagged as the nemesis of President Rodrigo Duterte, was threatened with the exposure of a fake sex video, blogger and The Philippine Star columist Mocha Uson—who is a staunch Duterte supporter—was also attacked with references to her days as a performer who focused on sexual provocation. Uson was attacked with variations of the comment, "Maghubad ka na lang (Just take off your clothes)."

Neither De Lima or Uson deserve to be attacked with such comments. Arguably, people can express their protests against De Lima or Uson without resorting to innuendos. However, that is not the case.

In November, in the wake of the controversial burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the young women who protested against the burial were subjected to extremely nasty comments online.

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Obviously-disturbed male commenters gleefully talked about how they would sexually assault the young women.

Thankfully, well-meaning lawyers volunteered their services for free so the women could file charges against the rapist-wannabes. Ultimately, the men who make such horrible comments are exposed as cowards who immediately use the old "My account got hacked" or "It wasn't me" defense.

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