Thousands join anti-RH bill rally

Published by rudy Date posted on March 26, 2011

THOUSANDS of pro-life advocates and members of various religious groups on Friday converged at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila’s Rizal Park (Luneta) to show their opposition to the reproductive health (RH) bill pending in Congress.

Catholic Church leaders and pro-life groups led the prayer rally themed “Filipinos! Unite Under God for Life” held Friday afternoon, with Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales conducting evening Mass.

The cardinal said that the prayer rally aims to deliver the message “that our country will never allow the repressive RH bill to be passed.”

According to the organizers, those who attended the rally came from the parishes and shrines of the Metropolitan See, from all Catholic organizations and sectors, transparochial communities including El Shaddai and Couples for Christ, pro-life groups, catechists, students, youth and the urban poor.

Friday afternoon’s Masses in all Roman Catholic churches and chapels in Manila were cancelled for the prayer rally.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Nereo Odchimar earlier said that there would be simultaneous rallies in other parts of the country to coincide with the Manila rally.

Odchimar added that Friday’s interfaith rally is only the start of many other rallies to be held as the House of Representatives starts its deliberations on the controversial RH bill.

Today, the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization of Catholic men, will hold a “Walk for Life” at the Rajah Sulaiman Park in Malate district, Manila.

Other members of the organization will hold similar activities in other dioceses throughout the country.

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. will join the protesters at the march, which will kick off with a morning Mass at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, also in Manila.

Professors’ support

But more than 200 faculty members from the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila University defied the Catholic Church also on Friday by pledging their support for the controversial RH bill pending in Congress.

The faculty members said that they are putting their expert opinion behind the “vital piece of legislation” and urged lawmakers to immediately pass it.

“Our studied and collective opinion is that House Bill 4244 is a vital piece of legislation. Its passage will mandate policies that will save women’s and men’s lives, improve infant survival, enhance young people’s health and well-being and enable couples and individuals to make responsible decisions in planning their families,” they added in a statement.

“We also endorse this bill as a necessary element to achieve the goals of social equity, poverty reduction and national development. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that these goals can be achieved without resorting to population control,” the statement said.

The group also expressed concerns over reports that teachers “offer incentives, such as bonus points, for students to make anti-RH statements or engage in anti-RH activities.”

“This practice as an abuse on the part of the teacher regardless of whether the teacher is for or against the RH bill,” it said.

A professor from the University of Santo Tomas earlier admitted that he offered bonus points for his students who posted anti-RH comments on the Akbayan party-list’s Facebook page.

Akbayan is one of those enthusiastically pushing for the passage of the controversial piece of legislation.

The academicians also called out the misuse of disproved and outdated studies in an effort to push “merely ideological positions”. One example of such is the claim that contraceptives such as condoms do not protect against sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.

“There have also been those who misrepresented extremist positions as the prevailing consensus of the scientific community. This evidence-based consensus, however, does support the provision of reproductive health services that include contraceptive access and sexuality education. It also supports the services for adolescents and children that [the RH bill] mandates,” the academicians said.

Among the notable signatories were Raul Pangalangan, former dean of the UP College of Law; Marvic Leonen, current UP College of Law dean and head of the government panel in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; Harry Roque, UP College of Law professor; Solita Monsod; Evalyn Ursua, lecturer at the UP College of Law and legal counsel of Subic rape case victim Suzette Nicolas; Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature; Ateneo Professor Meynardo Mendoza, husband of whistle-blower Heidi Mendoza; Arno Sanidad, Professorial Lecturer, UP College of Law; Michael Tan, Professor and Dean, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, UP Diliman; Ma. Serena Diokno, Professor, Department of History, UP Diliman; Dante Canlas, Professor, School of Economics, UP Diliman; Benjamin Diokno, Professor, School of Economics, UP Diliman; and Raul Fabella, Professor, School of Economics, UP Diliman. –ROMMEL C. LONTAYAO REPORTER WITH REPORT FROM MARIA NIKKA U. GARRIGA, Manila Times

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