INC, other religious groups push RH bill passage

Published by rudy Date posted on April 26, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Various religious groups, including the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), joined hands in calling for the swift passage of the controversial Reproductive Health bill in Congress.

The Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, Inc. (IPPRP) said that the RH bill is “truly pro-life, pro-family, pro-poor and pro-national development.”

“We urge our legislators to seriously push for the passage of the long-overdue RH/RP (responsible parenthood) bill toward its immediate implementation,” the group said in a statement yesterday.

Aside from INC, the other IPPRP members include the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, United Church of Christ of the Philippines, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, United Methodist Church, Philippine for Jesus Movement, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches of the Philippines, Seventh Day Adventist, Salvation Army, Catholics for Reproductive Health, and Episcopal Church of the Philippines.

“We are ready to support the bills on reproductive health as long as there would be no immoral elements in them,” INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo said in a letter to Biliran Rep. Rogelio Espina, chairman of the House committee on population and family relations, in October last year.

Speaking at the weekly Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel media forum yesterday, IPPRP chairman Bishop Rodrigo Tano said the Catholic bishops have maintained a negative idea about human sexuality.

He said sex topics are considered taboo by the Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, former health secretary Esperanza Cabral and former Akbayan Rep. Riza Hontiveros expressed confidence that the bill will be passed in the 15th Congress.

“I think it will also have a big chance of passing considering that no less than the President is an advocate,” Lacson said at the same media forum.

President Aquino had said he was willing to be excommunicated if that is what supporting the RH bill would entail.

Lacson said the counterpart bill is set to be introduced in plenary at the Senate.

Cabral, a staunch advocate of the RH bill, said a comprehensive reproductive health policy would help reduce maternal mortality as well as cases of induced abortion in the country.

Cabral said the government could no longer provide subsidies to the poor if the population continues to grow.

Hontiveros, for her part, said that the RH bill is not only about population control but also about women empowerment.

Democratic policy

Meantime, Malacañang yesterday said that the admission made by a ranking Catholic bishop that some priests are in favor of the reproductive health bill is more than enough proof that the government is adopting a democratic policy on the issue of population control.

“Again, what’s nice is that we are encouraging individual thinking in the sense that we really have to make, as individuals, the choice whether to support something or not,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

Her statement was in response to the statement of Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) – Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, that dissent is also observed in the Catholic church hierarchy.

“Well, in the Church, there’s a space for dissent also… Even the 10 commandments, there are many who disobey it, right?” he told reporters in an interview over the weekend, when asked whether the Catholic Church is solid on the RH bill issue.

“From our end, we’ve always been very transparent on what the stand of the President is,” Valte said.

Likewise, Valte said the Aquino government does not have any issue with other religious groups or sects supporting either the RH or the responsible parenthood bill which will provide all data regarding natural and artificial methods.

‘Stop dialogue’

Retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, on the other hand, said yesterday he does not see any reason why the Catholic Church and Malacañang should continue their dialogue on the RH bill.

This after President Aquino recently announced that he supports the passage of the controversial legislation.

In an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas, Vidal said that if the President has already made up his mind, “What is the dialogue for?”

Vidal also pointed out that Aquino has contradicting statements regarding the issue.

Marbel, South Cotabato Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, for his part, said there was no need for the Catholic Church to excommunicate the President but Aquino on his own may decide not to receive communion.

Former CBCP president and Jaro, Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said that he is also saddened because Aquino ruined the trust of the Filipino people.

“I just hope that he would open his eyes and heart to see what would be good for the country,” he said.

Final strategy

The labor sector believes population management is the “final strategy” for easing unemployment.

This was according to Labor Assistant Secretary Ma. Teresa Soriano who noted that the consensus emerged during the planning sessions for the Philippine Development Plan.

“What do you mean by manage? We try to curb the (population) growth in such a way that (it won’t be) as high as before. That’s why the term we used is ‘managed population,’’’ she said. She did not say if the Reproductive Health bill is part of the strategy.

“It’s difficult. It’s controversial because of the opposition of the Church as well as other groups,” she said.

But Labor Undersecretary for Labor Standards and Social Protection Charter Lourdes Trasmonte said they have already been promoting “family planning and responsible parenthood” as mandated by the Labor Code.

“It is in the Labor Code. We are mandated to promote family planning program as part of the Family Welfare Program,” she said.

But she clarified that DOLE does not promote any method of family planning.

“We don’t tell them to have contraceptives but we have to encourage them to manage the population or the number of children they will have because this will also affect the productivity of the workers, especially when there’s so many children, they will always be absent. (It can lead to) absenteeism,” she added.

Trasmonte claimed that parents “should not be burdened so much of so many children because they are also working.”

This as Labor Department is set to turn over to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) a Philippine Labor and Employment Plan (PLEP) 2011-2016 in tomorrow’s 1st National Summit on Labor and Employment.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that PLEP “mirrors the goal of the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 as well as President Aquino’s Social Contract with the Filipino people.”

“A sectoral plan that supports the PDP 2011-2016, the PLEP 2011-2016, is the principal document that communicates the country’s vision for labor and employment. It sets the country’s directions in labor and employment over the next five years,” Baldoz added.

The document contains the labor market situation over the past five years, assessment of issues and challenges facing the labor sector as well as strategic framework for responses, among others. –-Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) with Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan, Sheila Crisostomo

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