Use wealth to help poor, RH backers dare Church

Published by rudy Date posted on May 26, 2011

SUPPORTERS of the reproductive health bill on Wednesday challenged the Catholic Church to release to the poor some P12.9 billion it has locked up in shares of stock in the country’s third largest bank in assets.

The challenge came after a lawmaker allied with the Church against the bill, House Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia, questioned the funding of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population Development, a group of lawmakers that favor population management.

During Wednesday’s plenary debate of the reproductive health bill, principally authored by House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, Garcia suggested that the group, which Lagman heads, was being used by the United States to depopulate the Philippines.

Most of the authors of the reproductive health bill, including House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, are also members of the committee.

“US funding is meant to depopulate the Philippines. It is part of the US imperialism,” Garcia said.

But Lagman said the “human development agenda” that the group supported had been determined with the participation of various countries, including the Philippines.

“The human development agenda is not imperialist,” Lagman said.

Tañada reminded Garcia to stick to the salient points of the bill that seeks to establish a national policy on responsible parenthood, reproductive health and population development.

Reacting to the exchange, Elizabeth Angsioco, national chairwoman of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, said the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila owned P12.9 billion worth of stocks in Bank of the Philippines Islands.

That, she said, was apart from the P2.4 billion in stocks owned by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila (Real Case de Misericordia) and the P1.3 billion owned by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila’s Hospital de San Juan de Dios.

“This is scandalous to say the least,” Angsioco said.

Based on BPI’s list of its top 100 stockholders as of Dec. 31, 2010, at least nine of the 100 were corporations belonging to the Roman Catholic Church.

Those included the fourth largest stockholder in the bank, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, its Real Casa de Misericordia; its Hospital De San Juan De Dios; its Mayordomia dela Catedral; its St. Paul’s Hospital; Carmel of the Divine Infant Jesus of Prague Inc.; Archicofradia De Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno de Recoletos; the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jaro; and Corporacion de Padres Dominicos.

“All this money in one bank! We can only imagine the Catholic Church’s holdings in other businesses besides the fact that they run profitable learning institutions and hospitals,” Angsioco said.

“It is unthinkable that as the [Church] is sitting on billions of pesos, it staunchly opposes the RH bill that can actually help in the provision of life-saving services to women so they have safe pregnancies and childbirths,” she said.

“If it does not want the bill to be enacted, why doesn’t the Church spend its money to save Catholic women from suffering and dying of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications?

“If the [Roman Catholic Church] truly cares for life, why isn’t it at the forefront of fighting infant and neonatal mortality? Why isn’t it taking care of children of parents who are so poor that their children’s education, health and well-being are sacrificed? What is the Roman Catholic Church doing with its billions? Why does it continue to ask for donations from the poor? Isn’t this selfish?’’ –Christine F. Herrera, Manila Standard Today

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