View Full Version : The Reproductive Health Bill

08-06-2012, 12:30 AM
UN: RH law vital to development
Agency official notes increasing maternal deaths
Agence France-Presse
12:10 am | Monday, August 6th, 2012

STORMING THE HEAVENS. Catholics estimated by police at around 7,000 to 10,000 brave the daylong bad weather on Saturday to attend the prayer rally at the historic Edsa Shrine spearheaded by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to protest the reproductive health bill, renamed responsible parenthood bill. The rally’s numbers did not add up to the organizers’ expectation of 50,000, no doubt due to the endless rain. ANDREW TADALAN
The United Nations on Sunday warned that failure to pass a controversial reproductive health (RH) bill amid stiff opposition from the Catholic Church could reverse the country’s gains in development goals.

The RH bill would make it mandatory for the government to provide free contraceptives in a country where more than 80 percent of the population is Catholic and which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia.

Ugochi Daniels, country representative from the UN Population Fund, said she remained “cautiously optimistic” that President Benigno Aquino’s allies who dominate the House of Representatives could muster the numbers to pass the bill tomorrow after 14 years of often divisive debate.

“What is important now is to highlight the urgency of the bill,” Daniels said.

Unless the bill is passed, she said maternal deaths in the Philippines would continue to rise with more and more women getting pregnant at a young age without the proper health care and access to key reproductive health information.

Between 2006 and 2010, the maternal mortality rate increased to 221 deaths per 100,000 live births, from 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 2005, according to the government’s 2011 Family Health Survey.

“I think we’ve gone from 11 (maternal deaths) a day to between 14 and 15 a day now. And unfortunately, most of these are poor women,” she said.

The UN Population Fund was “very concerned” about the rising number of deaths, she said, and noted that even in war-torn Afghanistan the trend was decreasing.

She urged Philippine lawmakers to quickly pass the bill and “stop failing our young.”

“This is now the time. We have been waiting for a very long time,” Daniels said.

The UN’s call came as Catholic priests and nuns led thousands in a rally at the Edsa Shrine on Saturday to urge lawmakers to scrap the bill.

Besides free contraception, the bill seeks to give the poor preferential access to family planning services in state hospitals, while lessons on family planning and sex education would become compulsory in schools and for couples applying for a marriage license.

The United Nations has said a lack of education and access to condoms has led to an explosion of HIV infections in the Philippines, which it said is now one of seven countries in the world where cases have risen by 25 percent or more since 2001.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 10:35 AM
By: Amando Doronila

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:52 am | Monday, August 6th, 2012

Not since the turbulent days of the conflict between the Marcos dictatorship and the Catholic Church in the Philippines led by Jaime Cardinal Sin over human and political rights have the state and the Church been as bitterly at odds as they are today.

This time, they are fighting over a proposed policy on population control.

On Saturday, the dispute came to a head with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) leading thousands of Catholics in a prayer rally to protest against President Benigno Aquino’s support for the reproductive health (RH) bill that would curb population growth through contraceptives.

Mr. Aquino’s call for the passage of the bill in his State of the Nation Address to a joint session of Congress on July 23 angered the CBCP, which has led opposition to the proposal and organized Saturday’s protest.

Mr. Aquino urged swift passage of the RH bill, which would provide “universal access and information on natural and modern family planning methods and reduce the number of mothers and babies dying during childbirth.”

That was anathema to the bishops, some of whom took Mr. Aquino’s words as a “declaration of war” against the Church teachings prohibiting the use of contraceptives.

People power

The bishops called the Church’s followers, who comprise 80 percent of the Philippines’ nearly 100 million population, to take to the streets in a “show of force”—a sort of people power uprising like the revolution Mr. Aquino’s late mother (President Corazon Aquino) used to topple the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

To symbolize people power, the prayer rally was held at the Edsa Shrine on the highway where previous mass actions against the government, including some in which Cardinal Sin was the prime mover, took place.

In the current conflict, the Aquino administration appears to have parted ways with the Church by espousing a national policy that would slow down population growth. With a population of more than 93 million, the Philippines is the 14th most populous country in the world.

Although Saturday’s rally did not attract massive turnouts, like those in Edsa I (1986) and Edsa II (which deposed Joseph Estrada in 2001), it managed to draw at least 10,000 protesters in Metro Manila, according to police estimates. Similar numbers were reported in Iloilo City and Cebu City and in other provincial centers.

Trenchant criticism

With the Edsa Shrine rally, the President experienced for the first time since he took office two years ago trenchant criticism of his policy. Without pulling punches, the leading prelates ridiculed him and denounced his priorities.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, in a message read for him by former Ambassador to the Vatican Henrietta de Villa said: “My dear youth, contraception is corruption. The use of government money, taxpayers’ money to give out contraceptive pills is corruption. Contraceptive pills teach us it is all right to have sex with someone provided you are safe from babies. Babies are a nuisance.”

By saying “contraception is corruption,” Villegas, who was a close confidant of the late Cardinal Sin, was telling the nation that Mr. Aquino’s support for the reproductive health bill was undermining his promise to the nation to stamp out corruption.

He said the Church maintained that modern contraceptive methods prevented procreation, “which should be the only function of sex.” Should the bill pass, he said, it would produce an “abortion generation.”

Bill defended

Defending the RH bill on the eve of the rally, the President said that where couples “are in no position to make an informed judgment, the state has the responsibility to provide.”

The bill would use the state-run PhilHealth insurance fund to provide birth control pills, condoms and other contraceptives for free.

It would give the poor preferential access to family planning services in state hospitals while lessons on family planning and sex education would become compulsory in schools and for couples applying for a marriage license.

The bill has been stalled in the House of Representatives for nearly 15 years because of the opposition of the Church. The opposition is grounded on the doctrine pronounced in a 2005 CBCP pastoral letter that elaborated on the Church’s concept of responsible parenthood.

Quoting from the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, the pastoral letter said: “It calls for due regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions in deciding to raise a numerous family. It includes the spouse’s decision, based on grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for a time being or even indeterminate period, a new birth.”

Important step

In calling on Congress to pass the bill, the President justified the measure on economic grounds, an entirely different context from that of the Church.

He said the measure was an important step in dealing with the country’s socioeconomic problems, particularly poverty and underemployment.

The bishops called the rally to show Congress that “most Filipinos oppose the bill that would curb population growth.” Senior members of Congress, however, say the bill would not authorize abortion as a means of curbing population growth.

Head count

The bishops claim that they have lobbied with congressmen not to vote for the bill, and by their head count, more than a hundred members of the House have pledged to vote against it tomorrow.

Whether the opponents of the bill have the numbers to stop the bill’s passage remains to be seen.

With most congressmen facing their first election next year, the bishops have promised to campaign against the reelection of legislators who would vote for the bill. Other congressmen, say, however, that there’s no such thing as a solid Catholic vote.

Next year’s elections will be mostly local races, and the bishops, with their extensive network of parishes, believe the Church has lots of influence in rural areas.

The Church faces big risks in putting its clout on the line on the basis of this assumption.

(In my next column, I will discuss the clash of ideological perspectives in the showdown over the RH bill.)

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 10:37 AM
By: Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:51 am | Monday, August 6th, 2012

A little over a year ago, or on May 22, 2011 to be exact, I wrote an article for the Inquirer titled “My stand on the RH bill.” With the vote on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill approaching, people have asked me whether my stand on the bill has changed. Let me restate the salient points I made then.

First, let me start by saying that I adhere to the teaching of the Church on artificial contraception even if I am aware that the teaching on the subject is not considered infallible doctrine by those who know more theology than I do. I know that some people consider me a heretic and that at the very least I should leave the priesthood. But my superiors still stand by me.

Second (very important for me as a student of the Constitution and of church-state relations), I am very much aware of the fact that we live in a pluralist society where various religious groups have differing beliefs about the morality of artificial contraception, which is very much at the center of the controversy. But freedom of religion means more than just the freedom to believe. It also means the freedom to act or not to act according to what one believes. Hence, the state should not prevent people from practicing responsible parenthood according to their religious belief, nor may churchmen pressure President Aquino, by whatever means, to prevent people from acting according to their religious belief. As the Compendium on the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church says: “Because of its historical and cultural ties to a nation, a religious community (like the Catholic Church) might be given special recognition on the part of the State. Such recognition must in no way create discrimination within the civil or social order for other religious groups”; and “Those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority.”

Third, the obligation to respect freedom of religion is also applicable to the state. Thus, I advocate careful recasting of the provision on mandatory sexual education in public schools without the consent of parents. (I assume that those who send their children to Catholic schools accept the program of Catholic schools on the subject.) My reason for requiring the consent of parents is, in addition to the free exercise of religion, there is the constitutional provision which recognizes the sanctity of the human family and “the natural and primary right of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character.” (Article II, Section 12)

Fourth, the duty to care for sexual and reproductive health of employees should be approached in a balanced way so that both the freedom of religion of employers and the welfare of workers will be attended to. In this regard it may be necessary to reformulate the provisions already found in the Labor Code.

Fifth, I hold that public money may be spent for the promotion of reproductive health in ways that do not violate the Constitution. Thus, for instance, it may be legitimately spent for making available reproductive materials that are not abortifacient. Public money is neither Catholic, nor Protestant, nor Muslim or what have you and may be appropriated by Congress for the public good without violating the Constitution.

Sixth, we should be careful not to distort what the RH bill says. The RH bill does not favor abortion. The bill clearly prohibits abortion as an assault against the right to life.

Seventh, in addition, I hold that abortifacient pills and devices should be banned by the Food and Drug Administration. However, determining which of the pills in the market are abortifacient is something for the judicial process to determine with the aid of science experts. Our Supreme Court has already upheld the banning of at least one device found to be abortifacient.

Eighth, I am dismayed by preachers telling parishioners that support for the RH bill ipso facto is a serious sin or merits excommunication! I find this to be irresponsible.

Ninth, I claim no competence to debate about demographics.

Tenth, I have never held that the RH bill is perfect. But if we have to have an RH law, I intend to contribute to its improvement as much as I can. I hold that the approval of the RH bill today will not end all debate about it. It will only shift the arena for debate from the raucous and noisy rally fields to the more sober judicial arena where reason has a better chance of prevailing.

Finally, there are many valuable points in the bill’s Declaration of Policy and Guiding Principles which are desperately needed especially by poor women who cannot afford the cost of medical service. There are specific provisions which give substance to these good points. They should be saved even if we must litigate later about those which we disagree on. In other words, let us not burn the house just to roast a pig.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 10:39 AM
By: Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:50 am | Monday, August 6th, 2012

The bishops and their allies in Congress have just supplied the best arguments—not for rejecting the Reproductive Health bill but for approving it posthaste.

First by mounting an anti-RH rally consisting in the main of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s bishops and her herself. Yes, her bishops. The same ones who got SUVs from her, or indeed solicited them from her on the occasion of their birthdays. The same ones who found nothing wrong with “Hello Garci” and applauded the congressmen for killing the impeachment bids against her. The same ones who wondered what was so wrong with cheating in elections, “everybody cheats anyway.” The same ones who claimed God spoke through them while they screwed the country, quite apart from those they added to the population by.

Danilo Suarez, House minority leader, justified the bishops’ welcoming Arroyo with open arms thus: “This is an issue that she feels strongly about as a devout Catholic, although she never used her term in the presidency to push things her way.” He justified as well his, and six of his fellow Arroyo loyalists’ defection from the RH bill thus: “Changing your mind is no joke, it is a matter of conscience.”

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the cheekiness of these statements. Arroyo is a devout Catholic? Then that is a reason to become Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist. Arroyo never pushed things her way when she was president? What about pushing her way as president to begin with, after she was made so not by God, vox populi, vox Dei, but by Garci, vox Garci, vox karaoke? Changing your mind is no joke, it is a matter of conscience? Really? You’ve got a conscience? Hell, you’ve got a mind to change?

It reminds us, in case we’ve forgotten already, although we’re assailed by it every time, that the Catholic Church remains primarily, and resolutely, a temporal power, and only secondarily—and cynically—a spiritual one. There are luminous exceptions, like Archbishops Antonio Fortich, Francisco Claver, Julio Labayen who fought oppression and benightedness in the past, and Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle who fights oppression and benightedness today. Tagle, quite incidentally, has himself called for Catholics to join the rally and find discernment in it. He is at least one prince of the Church who acts, and thinks, like a prince. You know that by the fact that he abhors princely trappings and prefers beggarly ones. Unlike his fellows who like to garb themselves in finery to advertise their spurious grandness. Tagle at least I will continue to hold in the highest regard whatever his position on the RH bill.

But they are the exception. They are the rarity. To this day, the Church thrives in circumstances not unlike those Jose Rizal decried, locked in mortal combat with the state for earthly power. Its advantage then (as now) lay in the friars holding on to their positions for life while governor-generals came and went. Woe to a governor-general like Carlos Maria de la Torre who was liberal-minded and wanted to do things such as secularize the parishes held by the friars. Woe to a president like P-Noy who, unlike Arroyo, wants to make the lives of Filipinos better. They are the natural enemies of the prayle, they are the natural enemies of the bishopric.

Second, by the most absurd justifications they cite for their opposition to the RH bill. Suarez explains his turnaround in this way: He saw how other countries were having tremendous problems because of a lack of a labor force. “Our component is the people—they’re our asset. Yet we will control our population? That’s the reason I had second thoughts and withdrew my support for the bill.” And Bishop Ramon Arguelles aired his protest in this way: “Consider the future of your children and grandchildren… look at what’s happening to many countries in the West, they are becoming weak. So I appeal to the congressmen for them to see the reality.”

Can anything be more idiotic? Can anything be more pestilential? What are they saying: The more we breed like rabbits, the more we will become prosperous? The more we teem with street children, child prostitutes, child laborers, for sheer lack of ability even of the most egalitarian government to prevent, the stronger we get?

The bishops’ argument of course is that we should all populate the earth like breeders but leave it to government to feed, clothe and put the light of learning in the bred. How, they do not say. I’ll tell them how. I’ll convert to their view if they agree to give up their princely robes, quite apart from their princely lands and princely cathedrals and princely SUVs and live the way the apostles did, the way Christ bid them do (his kingdom is not of this earth), with only the clothes on their backs and faith in their hearts, to do what they want government to do. I’ll convert to their view if they agree to give up the alms they collect every Sunday to feed, clothe and educate the issue of every unwanted pregnancy, the better to add to society’s desperate efforts to battle homelessness, child prostitution and widespread misery of an order you are hard put to associate with the image and likeness of God.

In the end, that’s what makes the bishops’ opposition to the RH bill cynical and hypocritical. That they should call themselves prolife while seeing only hypothetical life and not real life, while bleeding only for the lot of those who have not been born and indifferent to the plight of those who have, while devoting all their time and energy and passion to something that was not, is not, and never will be to those who are here, who are flesh-and-blood, and who will ever remain in ignorance and hopelessness if their numbers keep multiplying.

That is being for life? That is being on the side of life?

That is prolife?

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 10:41 AM
Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:53 am | Monday, August 6th, 2012

It was unfortunate that the highlight of the much-ballyhooed “show of force” the Catholic bishops organized at the Edsa Shrine last Saturday turned out to be a deliberate lie. “My dear youth,” ran the most emphatic line from the most provocative statement read at the rally called to protest the Reproductive Health bill pending in Congress, “contraception is corruption. The use of government money, taxpayers’ money to give out contraceptive pills is corruption.”

This is a fudging of the facts and of logic so extreme it may be appropriate to call it diabolical. We use the word advisedly, because the statement, attributed to Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the renowned former rector of the Edsa Shrine who now serves the archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan (it was read by a former ambassador to the Vatican), is deeply dishonest, disregards the long tradition of Catholic social teaching—and argues against a legacy of Pope Benedict XVI himself.

The absolutist view of contraception was forever undermined when the Pope in late 2010 signaled a shift in his attitude toward the use of condoms to help stop the AIDS crisis in Africa, seeing it as possibly “the first step of responsibility.” That means that the use of condoms, a popular form of contraception, was not, could not be, intrinsically evil; official Church policy, to be sure, has not yet come around to such clarity of presentation, but it is deceptive of the statement-maker to suggest that the Church view on contraception is absolute and brooks no exception.

But we know why Villegas, or the drafter of the statement read in his name, insisted on the absolutist view; so he could lay the groundwork for claiming that contraception is corruption. We wonder where the Catholic Church hierarchy was when corruption under the Arroyo administration was not merely figurative but real. But is it in fact true to say that the use of taxpayers’ money to “give out contraceptive pills” is corruption? If the purpose is to safeguard the health of poor women at risk of multiple pregnancies, or to give married couples the freedom of choice, or to allow households to create the right conditions for raising human life with dignity, how can giving out contraceptive pills be considered a waste of taxpayers’ money?

Here, then, is the crux of the problem: That unfortunate statement read in Villegas’ name equates the Church hierarchy’s position on reproductive health (the war on contraception) with the good of the national community (the war on corruption). To make this the basis of national policy, however, would be to unduly privilege the Catholic Church—and that is a situation that the post-Vatican II Church itself does not approve of. “[T]hose responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority,” the Compendium on the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church asserts.

Reflecting a divergence in views that is now several generations old, many other Christian denominations accept the use of contraceptives to regulate family life; Philippine government officials, therefore, will be following the Catholic Church’s own guideline “to interpret the common good of their country” if they enact an RH bill that will make room for the views of everyone, “including the minority.”

There are many other arguments in support of the RH bill—now known in consolidated form as House Bill 4244, and due, after 14 long years, for a plenary vote tomorrow—from within the Catholic tradition, such as those from dignity and from stewardship (couples “should strive to beget only those children whom they can raise up in a human way”—the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines). But there are secular arguments as well.

As we have stated more than once before, one particular argument from statistics seems to us to be most compelling. Hundreds of thousands of Filipino women undergo induced abortions every year; tens of thousands die from the procedure, carried out in unsafe circumstances. The RH bill, simply by preventing unwanted pregnancies and increasing maternal health safeguards, will help save the lives of countless innocents.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 10:46 AM
‘Kung walang anak, walang mahirap’

By Kristine L. Alave

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:41 am | Sunday, August 5th, 2012

The above are only two of the quotable quotes that the Catholic leadership said on Saturday to denounce President Benigno Aquino III for supporting the reproductive health bill, saying it undermined his promise to the people to stamp out corruption.

“You heard when candidate, now President Noynoy Aquino said during his campaign, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap (without corruption, there will be no poverty),” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a message read for him by the country’s former ambassador to the Vatican, Henrietta de Villa, to thousands of Catholics at the historic Edsa Shrine who braved the rain and foul weather to protest a proposed law that would provide free contraceptives in a bid to curb population.

“My dear youth, contraception is corruption. The use of government money, taxpayers’ money to give out contraceptive pills is corruption. Contraceptive pills teach us it is all right to have sex with someone provided you are safe from babies. Babies are a nuisance,” said Villegas, whose attack on Mr. Aquino was unprecedented as he is a close friend of the President’s family, a confidante of the late President Cory Aquino whom he called “Tita Cory.”

“The use of taxpayers’ money for contraceptives is corruption,” Villegas told the protesters who were mainly dressed in red. Organizers said this was to symbolize the “martyrdom” of the unborn child.

Anti-RH bill politicians, led by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, attended the prayer-rally. Senators Gregorio Honasan and Tito Sotto arrived to cheers from the crowd.

“We should not politicize the RH bill,” Honasan said. Asked if the Aquino administration tried to convince him and other opponents of the legislation to support it, Honasan said there were no overtures to him. “In fairness to the President, there was no partisan politics,” he said.

Show of force

The influential Catholic Church, which organized the protest, has consistently opposed various attempts to pass a reproductive health measure over the past 10 years.

The Edsa Shrine rally, which counted students, lay people and priests, was a show of force by the Church ahead of the House vote on Tuesday when representatives will decide whether to close debate on the issue and send the bill for amendments, a shortcut that will speed up its adoption.

The Mandaluyong police estimated that 7,000 people attended the mass action. The Eastern Police District said the crowd reached 10,000 in the afternoon.

The present incarnation of the bill seeks to provide universal access and information on natural and modern family methods and would encourage families to have only two children to reduce poverty. Its supporters say the bill, if carried into law, will cut down the number of mothers and babies dying at childbirth.

Abortion generation

The Church maintains that modern contraceptive methods prevent procreation, which should be the only function of sex. Should the bill pass Congress, it will produce an “abortion generation” and encourage infidelity, Villegas said.

The President came out in support of the bill in his State of the Nation Address in Congress late last month. In a statement just before Saturday’s rally, he said that in a situation where couples “are in no position to make an informed judgment, the state has the responsibility to provide.”

The proposed law would use the state-run PhilHealth insurance fund to provide birth control pills, condoms and other contraceptives for free. It would give the poor preferential access to family planning services in state hospitals, while lessons on family planning and sex education would become compulsory in schools and for couples applying for a marriage license.

The House of Representatives, dominated by Aquino supporters, is expected to pass the bill on Tuesday after failing to do so last year. But the Senate must also pass the law and has come out strongly against it.

Church prelates said the Aquino administration seems to regard the RH bill as an easy way out of its economic troubles.

Mr. Aquino should not look at the Philippines’ burgeoning population as a problem, Villegas said. Corruption in the government is the reason for the country’s slide to poverty, he said.

"A culture of contraception looks at babies as reasons for poverty. Birth control, they say, means more food, more classrooms, more houses and better health for mothers. If more babies are the cause of poverty, are we now saying ‘Kung walang anak, walang mahirap (If there are no children, there will be no poverty)?’” Villegas said.

“We can have more classrooms, more food, more jobs if we would be less corrupt,” he said.

The Church hierarchy bristled at suggestions by the bill’s supporters that they are just a group of old men who are out of touch with the plight of women and the poor.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle said the Church has always been on the side of the downtrodden.

“It is not true that the Church has no compassion for the poor. If others see the poor as statistics, the Church sees them as human beings,” he said.

“The poor are not numbers,” Tagle said.

RIP to RH bill candidates

Some Church officials did not shy away from reminding lawmakers that their vote could affect their chances of victory in the next elections.

Bishop Gabriel Reyes, head of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said the Church would be issuing guidelines to voters in the 2013 local elections that will tell them to choose a candidate who are pro-life.

El-Shaddai leader Mike Velarde, in his speech before the Mass, said: “Those who vote for the RH bill. You know what will happen. RIP.”

Streamers and banners hung from the walls of the shrine and from the highway railings. One of the banners read: Yes to Saved Sex, No to Safe Sex. Church officials said the availability of modern contraception methods would encourage premarital sex and erode morals.

In a message to the youth, Villegas reminded them that “contraception makes sex cheap.”

“When we teach you that contraception is corruption, we are not being insensitive to the challenge of modernity … We are just being protective of you because it can destroy you sooner than you think,” he said.

“Artificial contraception could open the door for marital infidelity and a general lowering of standards. We, your elders, plead with you. Don’t follow that path to moral corruption. Dare to be different. Dare to be better,” Villagas said.

Aiming for 50,000

Although the skies had cleared by late afternoon, the first part of the program was marked by rainshowers and fairly strong winds.

Senior Supt. Armando Bolalin, Mandaluyong chief of police who helped secure the rally area, estimated the crowd at 7,000 to 10,000 as of 2:30 p.m.

His deputy chief, Supt. Cris Landicho, also the assistant ground commander of the Mandaluyong City police deployed in the vicinity, had a more conservative estimate of 5,000 people as of the same time.

Bolalin said that had it not rained, the 50,000 crowd that the organizers were aiming for would have been met.

He expressed doubt that participants would even reach half of that figure by the end of the prayer rally, which was scheduled at 7 p.m.

The Palace legislative liaison officer merely shrugged off the presence of Enrile, Sotto and Honasan at Friday’s rally.

“We have the numbers. It’s easier to pass the RH bill in the Senate,” said Manuel Mamba, chief of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, which acts as a go-between between Malacañang and Congress.

With reports from TJ Burgonio and Kristine Felisse Mangunay

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 10:53 AM
“It is not true that the Church has no compassion for the poor. If others see the poor as statistics, the Church sees them as human beings,” he said.

“The poor are not numbers,” Tagle said

Human beings need to eat, drink, be housed, be clothed, be educated.

And yes, my dear Bishop, the poor, much like the lot of us human beings, are numbers. Because without numbers we cannot plan for the benefit of, we cannot care for, we cannot make things better for every man, especially the poor.

When will you get off your ad hominem soap box and see that you are seeing mere phantoms?

There is no abortion provision in the RH Bill you oppose. In fact it emphatically upholds that abortion is a crime.

Slippery slope arguments are just plain ridiculous. Should we ban the manufacture and sale of matches and petrol because these are sometimes used by arsonists? If not, why should we ban the dissemination of information and the providing of facilities that will actually prove useful to those who need it most?

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 10:58 AM
By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star)

Updated August 06, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (79)

MANILA, Philippines

A day ahead of the crucial vote to end plenary debates on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, President Aquino is trying to woo at least 150 members of the 285-man House of Representatives to vote in favor of the controversial measure.

A lawmaker, who is not a member of the ruling Liberal Party but is allied with the administration coalition, revealed the move in a text message sent by a Malacañang official on Friday, inviting them to a luncheon at Malacañang today.

A senior Church leader also confirmed that Aquino is going to meet with “anti-RH” lawmakers today in the effort to convince them to change their position on the proposed measure.

“He is set to meet with lawmakers on Monday around lunch time. P-Noy (Aquino) will try to convince them. I hope they don’t get convinced,” Lipa City Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said.

He said they have received information that Aquino is set to discuss with the lawmakers the Responsible Parenthood (RP) bill, Malacañang’s version of the RH bill.

Another source from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said they received the information through a text message from a “pro-life” lawmaker.

“We received a text message from a pro-life lawmaker that they were being asked to go to Malacañang on Monday, lunch time, because P-Noy will explain his position on responsible parenthood,” the source said.

Arguelles expressed confidence that House members under his diocese in Batangas will not be swayed by the President.

“All of our lawmakers are pro-life. I don’t think they will be dissuaded,” said Arguelles, referring to Batangas Reps. Tomas Apacible (first district), Hermilando Mandanas (second district), Nelson Collantes (third district), and Mark Mendoza (fourth district).

About 150 congressmen have so far reportedly confirmed attendance to the presidential invitation. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, however, was apparently unaware of the invitation to all of Aquino’s allies in Congress.

She said this was just limited to members of the ruling party who will hold a caucus.“The invitation is not for House leaders. The Liberal Party will be having its caucus at 1 p.m.,” Valte said.

“So we do not know the agenda since I am not a member of the Liberal Party. Presumably, they would discuss what concerns the party,” she said.

The House is set to take a crucial vote tomorrow whether to terminate the period of debates on House Bill 4244, or the proposed Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011.

Aquino is expected to explain his stand and logically seek the support of the House leadership, led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., in marshaling the lawmakers into voting in favor of the RH bill, of which Aquino’s RP measure is included.

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas criticized the Catholic Church in its moves in opposing the measure.

While they respect the rights of the Catholic bishops to oppose the measure, Llamas it was unfair for the Church to be spreading lies like contraception is corruption.

“It’s unfair but not unexpected. From the start the anti-RH campaign has been characterized by false claims and misinformation,” Llamas said.

“And while we respect the right of bishops, as ordinary citizens, to express their opinions, when they use their ecclesiastical office to mislead the public and to bully elected representatives, it crosses the line into impropriety,” he added.

Llamas said Malacañang remains confident that the proponents of the RH bill retain sufficient support in the House.

“The President, of course, maintains his firm support for the measure, as he made clear in his SONA (State of the Nation Address),” he said.

Gearing up

Lawmakers, on the other hand, engaged in a word war yesterday in gearing up for the crucial vote on the RH bill.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the bill’s principal author, accused certain members of the clergy and their “lay allies” of allegedly spreading “black propaganda” and resorting to “political intimidation.”

Congressmen opposed to the proposed RH law, on the other hand, claimed the measure would only benefit foreign companies manufacturing condoms and other contraceptives.

Amid the raging war of words, six militant House members announced they are supporting the RH bill and would vote for closing plenary debates on it tomorrow.They are Reps. Teddy Casiño and Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna, Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, Raymond Palatino of Kabataan, and Antonio Tinio of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

Casiño said they are for the passage of the RH bill because the proposed law would help “curb maternal and child mortality and give greater support and funding for reproductive health.”

De Jesus said, “The urgency of the bill is in the fact that a growing number of poor mothers and children are being deprived of health services. As a result, the maternal mortality rate continues to rise and an increase in fetal deaths has been recorded in at least three regions in 2010.”

Lagman urged his colleagues in Congress to “legislate for the general welfare based on verifiable realities, unperturbed by fear of hellfire or reprisals at the polls.”

“While the freedom of expression guarantees the Catholic hierarchy and its lay supporters to express their differing views on any pending legislation, propagating falsehoods and intimidating legislators constitute license not covered by the mantle of free speech. Play of words purveying misinformation, falsities and deceit is not protected by the Constitution and statutes,” he said.

Lagman said Church leaders, in opposing the RH bill, overlook the connection between population and poverty, scientific and medical data on the safety of non-abortive contraceptives, and surveys showing that majority of the people support the proposed law.

“Contrary to the Church’s statement that contraception is corruption, it is the denial to women of access to medically safe, legal and effective contraception which corrupts their inalienable right to health and which could lead to maternal death” Lagman said.

“How can contraceptives harm the impervious soul when they do not even inflict any serious harm on women’s bodies?” he asked.

Bill is anti-abortion

Lagman argued the RH bill does not promote abortion.

“In fact, the bill is anti-abortion not only because it repeatedly provides that abortion is illegal, punishable and not a method of family planning, but it has also been established that regular and correct non-abortive contraception by choice reduces the abortion rate by 85 percent,” he said.

Lagman said the RH bill cannot be labeled as “anti-life” because it is intended to promote “quality life, prevent maternal and infant mortality and enhance the attainment of sustainable human development.”

Lagman added that it was wrong for bishops to claim that reproductive health and sexuality education will result in irresponsible behavior among the young.

“Because the contrary has been established by years of research and study by the United Nations and countries which have institutionalized sexuality education,” he said.

Opponents of the RH bill, on the other hand, urged Congress to use the money that they claimed would benefit condom producers for job generation. “The duty of Congress should be to protect the dignity of human life, not prevent life. So instead of population control, let us advance our greatest resource, our people, by using taxpayers’ money to generate more jobs and livelihood.” Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said.

“Let us not waste taxpayers’ money buying imported contraceptives,” he said.

Nograles said he is not against people resorting to family planning but that the government should let them decide what’s good for them.Cebu Rep. Rachel del Mar said the country’s huge population, instead of being blamed for its economic woes, should be credited for its success in surviving the series of financial firestorms that swept the globe since 1997.

Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres Gomez said the country’s population is already on a decline even without the proposed RH law.“Our population growth rate is at 1.9 percent, based on 2010 census of the National Statistics Office. This is a lot lower that our 2.09 percent population growth rate in 2007,” she said.Gomez said the proposed funding for contraceptives would be “completely unnecessary and a complete waste of government resources.”

In a statement over the weekend, the Human Development and Poverty Reduction (HDPR) Cabinet Cluster – which consists of 20 government agencies dealing with poverty and development – strongly endorsed Aquino’s pro-RH position.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 11:12 AM
GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star)

Updated August 06, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (1)

Philippine Catholic hierarchs deem all contraceptives — including condoms, vasectomy, and tubal ligation — as abortifacients. If confronted with scientific proof to the contrary, they shift argument to the readiness of natural family-planning methods. Rhythm and Billings conform to the female’s monthly ovulation, during which the couple can avoid sex. Yet the wife also naturally feels sexiest during ovulation, and the loving husband obliges. To avoid pregnancy they might resort to sexual manipulations other than coition. There again, the hierarchs admonish that withdrawal, as with masturbation and similar ways of climaxing, are sinful because onanistic.

That’s when the most basic insistence of the hierarchs emerges: the sole function of sex is procreation. Bottom line, pleasurable sex is wrong if not for pregnancy. The only pure alternative is abstinence. Alongside it are other strictures, like chastity and marriage before procreative sex.

Unfortunately, if natural methods are so difficult to observe, then more so is abstinence. The Church intellectual Augustine understood human frailty. Not all men could live like saints. And so he quipped in confession, “Lord, make me chaste — but not yet.”

The impracticality of abstinence has led to the present situation in the 80-percent Catholic Philippines:

• a 100-million population — double what its resources presently can sustain, and still growing at more than two percent yearly;

• a 33-percent poverty rate, with the poorest households weighed down by too many mouths to feed, and too little knowledge and means to plan family size;

• eleven mothers dying each day giving birth, mostly because of one too many, too frequent unplanned pregnancies;

• a malnutrition rate of 26 percent among children below five years old; and

• 79,000 backstreet abortions of unwanted pregnancies in 2000, confirmed in government hospitals only because of serious aftermaths; meaning, the volume can only be higher through the decade, considering the unreported cases.

Again Catholic hierarchs have a way of dismissing such figures. Supposedly those are concocted by sinister western imperialistic groups that want to rein in Philippine population for easier domination. If again confronted with government and private studies, the hierarchs point to other causes. Bureaucratic corruption, tax evasion, and corporate and individual greed, they say, are to blame for the poverty and ignorance all around. The government is striving to curb the maladies. Still, the Catholic hierarchs insist that the solution is in charity — sharing everything with everyone.

Absolute chastity and charity are impossible in this imperfect world. That is why health and women’s groups for two decades have been advocating state support for reproductive rights.

Pending in Congress is a Reproductive Health Bill that would:

(1) ensure health care for mothers, newborns, and toddlers;

(2) teach the public, starting at inquisitive pubescence, about reproductive health, rights, and restraint;

(3) afford couples the freedom to learn and the means to plan families and space pregnancies;

(4) obligate the national and local governments to prioritize the citizens’ reproductive health and welfare; and

(5) slow down the runaway population growth rate.

The present version of the RH Bill would be up for voting at the 286-member House of Representatives on Tuesday. After that, rough sailing is expected at the Senate. The chamber leaders who control the agenda — the Senate President, Majority Leader, and Assistant Majority Leader — are against the proposed law.

Both the House and the Senate must assent for any proposal to be enacted. If the RH Bill passes in the House, the Catholic hierarchs would be banking on the three Senate leaders to shelve any voting in their chamber.

The bill’s proponents are praying that elected leaders would heed the sentiment of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. As stated in survey after survey, up to 85 percent of Filipinos believe that the government actively should participate in population planning. And up to 65 percent say they need help in family planning.

* * *

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 11:14 AM
SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star)

Updated August 06, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (1)

The trouble with muscle flexing is that when it isn’t impressive enough, it can betray weakness and backfire.

The Catholic Church will have to redefine “massive” in describing the turnout for its Saturday rally against the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, attended by a handful of politicians who we presume have never used a condom in their life. Or maybe they have, but they always confessed after every moment of sin.

Since Filipinos are used to the legal definition of corruption, the Church’s use of the word in the moral context at the rally may be confusing for some of its flock. A confusing message is a lost message.

All that this government has to do is dust off stories about SUVs given away as gifts by a government agency for private use, without proper accounting, or behest loans and sweetheart deals, or about molestation of young boys, and people may wonder who’s accusing whom of corruption, whether legal or moral.

In answer to the argument that you can’t kill what has not been conceived – that’s why it’s called contraception, there’s no union to create life – now we’re being told that the mere intent to prevent conception is a corrupt idea. So even the natural method is corrupt?

We still like best the way Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago put it, in public, right on the Senate session hall, when Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile argued that a sperm, on its own, already has life.

Let’s hear it again from Senator Miriam: “If it is the position of Senator Enrile that a sperm has life, of course, if a sperm has life, then that life should be protected. Therefore, in logic, when a person masturbates and releases all those sperms for nothing, he commits murder. Let’s think about that.”

It’s not murder, Senator Miriam, but a sure path to becoming deaf. That’s what we were taught in Catholic school. Maybe this is why some lawmakers use a hearing aid.

* * *

Truly, deception is the surest way to destroy one’s credibility. Even the poor and uneducated can see through the twisting of facts to suit one’s arguments. Especially if there’s another group presenting a clear and accurate picture of the controversy. “Kung walang anak, walang mahirap” …c’mon.

RH opponents should have learned their lessons from boxing superstar and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, whose arguments, which he read on the House floor (and weakened by his wife’s publicly declared use of the pill), were demolished by RH proponents led by Edcel Lagman. At least this time Pacquiao stayed away from the “massive” rally at the EDSA Shrine.

The Church needs a face for its campaign – someone who never let a single sperm go to waste. Pacquiao didn’t cut it. Sen. Gregorio Honasan, pro-life… we should ask the Left what it thinks about that. Enrile did exceptionally well as presiding officer in the impeachment trial; he should quit while he’s ahead.

As for the bishops’ devout supporter, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was too sick to attend the rally, but she was still the subject of nasty text messages over the weekend, together with her links to the bishops. Critics should be reminded that in her final months as president, GMA allowed her health secretary to promote condom use.

The Church, it must be emphasized, remains a major force for good, for eternal hope and boundless charity. It is simply being consistent with its long-held teachings on birth control.

But it must be forthright with its flock, which is increasingly well-informed in this Age of Information. The poor and lacking in formal education also want to make informed choices, to have full control over their lives.

The Church has left out in its advocacy the fact that even Pope Benedict XVI has (grudgingly) acknowledged that using condoms is acceptable, although only to prevent AIDS and save lives. This is still sex that’s not for procreation, and a waste of sperm, so why is it OK in this case but not in others? The flock needs enlightenment.

With all the major scandals rocking the Vatican – sexual, financial, organizational – it should also open itself to the Catholic voices that see reproductive health as a basic human right of women.

Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, is putting reproductive health up front in the health programs to be supported in developing countries by their private foundation, the world’s most richly endowed.

Bill Gates does not believe in God; Melinda is a practicing Roman Catholic. She admitted in a recent interview with Newsweek magazine that she agonized over her decision to push reproductive health, but finally decided that she was being true to another advocacy of the Catholic faith, which is social justice.

The turnout at the rally last Saturday vindicates the pollsters, whose surveys in the past years have consistently shown high public support for reproductive health programs.

It should also further allay politicians’ fears about a threatened Catholic vote in 2013. After the defeat of the Church’s “anointed” Ramon Mitra to the Protestant Fidel Ramos in 1992, and the landslide win of Joseph Estrada despite a Church campaign against him in 1998, politicians shouldn’t even need further persuading, but what can we do… they are politicians.

The Catholic Church is weakened when it is unbending in its views and forces its teachings on others. Remember the Inquisition and the Crusades. Remember those persecuted for insisting that the Earth is round and is not the center of the universe.

The Church has always been at its strongest when it allows its flock to exercise free will based on informed choices. Free will is a bedrock of this glorious faith.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 11:16 AM
A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away)

By Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star)

Updated August 06, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (7)

As I started writing again on the raging RH bill controversy, a popular joke among lawyers immediately came to mind. It is about a top caliber trial lawyer giving pointers to one of his young associates on how to handle the trial of a case. Without batting an eyelash and sounding really serious about his instructions, he told the young lawyer to always remember that: “if the facts are on your side, pound on the facts; if the facts are not on your side but the law is on your side, pound on the law; but if both the facts and the law are not on your side, then pound on the table!”. By analogy, it appears that this is also the technique employed by the sponsors and backers of the RH bill.

The fact is that their proposed law appropriates billions of pesos (14 billion or more) for the purchase of contraceptives like condoms, pills, IUD, patches and injectables so as to make them available for free to all people, young or old, married or single. The fact is that contraceptives have already been proven to lead to the commission of abortion or to directly cause abortion as well as cancer and blood clotting in the veins. Hence the use of these contraceptives violates the Revised Penal Code penalizing abortion (Article 256-259); and is contrary to the constitution mandating the State to equally protect the life of the mother and of the unborn from the moment of conception (Article II [12]).

The fact is that a foreign government (USA) and foreign organizations (UNPFA, IPPF, the Gates Foundation) are actually intruding into our sovereignty by imposing on us and virtually coercing our legislature to pass the RH bill not only to promote abortion but also to control our population allegedly because we are already overpopulated and the country’s food and natural resources are no longer sufficient for all of us. But the other facts also are: that there is no overpopulation but only overconcentration of population in urban areas; that our country’s resources are enough for everybody except that there is an inequitable distribution of wealth; that our population growth may soon stop because it is already declining towards a negative rate if we adopt population control measures; that our booming population is not a disadvantage but a big economic plus based on worldwide studies conducted by well known and reliable economists; that it is indeed during this period of population growth when we enjoy extended economic growth according to our own BSP Governor; and that the RH bill will derail this economic growth according to the Wall Street Journal.

These are the facts and the laws applicable to the proposed RH bill. Obviously, these facts and laws are not on the side of its sponsors and backers. They have not, and indeed cannot, deny these facts and applicable laws, or prove them false and inapplicable to the bill. So they are now pounding on the Catholic Church and those opposing the bill for blocking its passage and its allegedly laudable purposes of promoting the women’s reproductive health, of preventing the increase in maternal deaths and infant mortalities and of alleviating poverty in the land. They are attacking the Church which is merely pointing out that the bill’s laudable ends do not justify contraception and its abortive and cancerous effects as the means employed to achieve those ends. They forget that the end does not justify the means.

And the worse part here is that the bill’s sponsors and backers are resorting to personal attacks to the extent of picturing the clergies of the Church as “Padre Damasos” while at the same time digging up the alleged defects, sins, shortcomings and sexual offenses of a few clergies. They are even charging the Church for violating the principle of separation of Church and State when the Church is merely exercising their religious freedom of protecting its belief in the culture of life as against the culture of death that will surely prevail if the RH bill is enacted into law.

In short, the bill’s sponsors and backers are sidestepping and confusing the real issues which can be properly and easily understood by any ordinary person who has been adequately informed. In this connection, allow me to cite one of the reactions I received regarding this RH bill which I think presents the true issue in plain, clear and simple terms (edited and shortened for lack of space). It came from a young man (dennisju@gmail.com) who claimed to have already “paid a lot of taxes to the government” and was asking that the pro-RH legislators better listen to him because “after all, part of their salary came from me”. He is a financial analyst and this is what he wrote in part:

“The Philippines is a poor country and it wants to spend P3 billion on an ideology pushed by, among others, the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Why should the government buy condoms when the government hospitals can hardly provide antibiotics? I have been to many public hospitals. I have heard so many stories of how the patients would have to wait – at the expense of health deterioration – because there were no medicines available.

Contraceptives may really be necessary to help the poor, but what I cannot accept is that they will spend my money – the hundreds of thousands I paid – to something ideological!

I am a taxpayer. I want my money to go to the poor. I want it to be spent in buying antibiotics, Math textbooks, classrooms, farm-to-market roads, etc. I don’t want a single cent of my money to go to condoms! If Lagman, Cayetano, Santiago and company think they are helping the Philippines by promoting the RH Bill, they should not force me (because, I repeat, part of the tax is my money) to buy condoms so that others can enjoy their vices.

I find it very unfair for me to pay for someone else’s vice. I am not a smoker, and I get pissed off when someone smokes near me. In any case, I can tolerate smoking. But what I cannot tolerate is for the smoker to get my money so he can buy his cigarettes! Do you want to smoke? Then spend your money to buy your cigarette. Don’t get my money”.

A lot of taxpayers are really wondering and quite mystified why some legislators and even PNoy are stubbornly pushing for this bill which is obviously detrimental to our country and people. Is it because of the overwhelming pressure from the foreign groups? Hopefully it is not, because this is no longer a matter of political will but of conscience.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 11:20 AM

August 5, 2012, 6:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — Saying there is no better time than now, the United Nations on Sunday urged Philippine policy-makers to pass the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.

“Current circumstances present this opportunity, and it is in the hands of policy-makers to make it happen,” the UN said in its statement on the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development Act Bill.

The measure has become a highly divisive issue in Congress. On Monday, the House of Representatives will decide whether to vote on the bill or shelve it.

Last Saturday, about 10,000 people attended the Catholic Church-led prayer rally at the EDSA Shrine to oppose the passage of the measure.

The UN statement is seen as big boost to President Benigno S. Aquino III, a staunch advocate of the measure.

Today the President will meet with 150 congressmen in a final effort to convince them to support the RH bill.

According to the UN, reproductive health “is not about population numbers” but “about ensuring a life of health and dignity.”

“Issues around the reproductive health bill have been addressed and clarified for over a decade now,” the UN pointed out. “Time spent discussing these issues repeatedly is measured by the lives of the 15 women we lose to maternal deaths every day.”

The bill seeks to make it mandatory for the government to provide free contraceptives.

Besides free contraception, it would also give the poor preferential access to family planning services in state hospitals, while lessons on family planning and sex education would become compulsory in schools and for couples applying for a marriage license.

The Church is adhering closely to the Vatican teaching which allows only the use of natural family planning methods like the rhythm, withdrawal and abstinence for couples to limit the number of their children.

In line with the same teaching, it bans the use of artificial contraceptives specifically the Pill, condom and intrauterine device which it considers as “sin” because they induce abortion.

The UN warned that the “hopes of future prosperity could turn to dust” if the country is not able to deal with the population growth by giving men and women access to the information and means to freely and responsibly exercise their human right to have just the number of children they want.

If current trends continue, as the country grows richer, the number of people living in poverty will increase, the UN said.

About 20 million Filipinos live in slum conditions.

According to the UN, urban population is growing at a rate of 60 percent, and it is estimated that by 2030, 75 percent of the Philippine population will be living in urban areas.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali M. Gonzales II said Malacanang has invited all 284 House members, along with other concerned groups to the 11:30 a.m. meeting.

“The President wants to share his thoughts on the RH bill. As far as I know, there about 150 congressmen who confirmed their attendance,” Gonzales said over DZBB’s Buena Manong Balita program yesterday.

The House is set to vote on whether to terminate the debates on House Bill (HB) 4244 or the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011, which has been subject to plenary interpellations since May 17 last year.

Gonzales doused speculations that during the meeting, the President will give a marching order to the House leadership. “The President just wants to share his thoughts. It is up to the members if they would accept it. I don’t expect the President will tell us how to vote,” he said.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the bill’s principal authors, said the measure has gained the nod of 140 congressmen during the voting.

House Assistant Majority Leader and Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, Cebu Rep. Rachel del Mar and Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres Gomez joined the Catholic Church in opposing the RH bil.

Whether it is called responsible parenthood or reproductive health bill, Congress ultimately needs to pass a comprehensive health program that would cater to the needs of Filipino women, Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday said.

Cayetano said it is high time Congress passed the controversial measure even though some religious sectors have found some provisions of the bill objectionable.

“I think a majority of the senators agree that there is a need for this bill. Whether you call it a Responsible Parenthood bill or RH bill or by any other name, there are things needed by our people that are found in the bill, from education to the medical attention,” Cayetano said.

Dr. Felipe Medalla, former director of the National and Economic Development Authority (NEDA), said the problem of the bill is that it is sometimes associated with compulsory sex education which the Catholic Church strongly opposes.

“But I would really side more with the President. The RH bill is sometimes associated with compulsory sex education, etc. whereas the President’s point of view on this is more on responsible parenthood actually more aligned with what the bishops are saying. Except that the bishops are saying that the only acceptable method is natural family planning,” Medalla explained to the media at the inaugural conference on globalization, innovation and economic growth of the Angara Centre for Law and Economics.

He said an RH program would definitely be “a very important investment” for the Philippines given that it is a fiscally challenged government which does not have enough money for public health education and in a setting where the government has very little funds for the poorest families.”

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 11:22 AM

August 4, 2012, 8:21pm

FORTY-FOUR years ago, Pope Paul VI prophesied the horrible effects of contraception to marriage, family, the individual, and society. It was a Cassandra prophecy: Fated to be right, but never heeded.

In his encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI warned that a contraceptive mentality would lead to the prevalence of divorce, unmitigated premarital sex, the lowering of moral standards among the youth, the phenomenal increase in the number of children born out of wedlock, and rapid decrease of population in countries advocating contraception. He also prophesied that the pervasive use of contraception would diminish our innate sense of responsibility and commitment. Finally, he predicted that contraception would lead to the legalization of abortion.

The Pope’s prophecy is now a reality in many contraceptive-minded countries. Nearly all couples in these countries believe that their marriage is viable only as long as they have no children. The divorce rate is consistently rising. Abortion is so rampant that the disposal of aborted fetus has become a problem. Also, the number of unwed mothers (by choice) has phenomenally increased. With easy access to birth control pills and gadgets, consequence-less sex is now a fad among the youth because it does not entail any responsibility or commitment.

Sex without procreation gave way to its corollary: procreation without sex. Sexless procreation is in vogue now: test-tube babies, artificial placentas, surrogate mothers, artificial insemination, etc. Ironically, those countries that aggressively limited the possibility of procreation are now desperately inventing means to procreate even without sex.

Drumbeaters for contraception have recently found another potent way of advertising it: by scaring people with the dangers of AIDS, the doomsday scenario of overpopulation, and linking contraception with women’s reproductive health.

We sometimes regard the attempts of the Church to adapt her life to the exigencies of modern times as a way of compromise, a search for a soft, convenient, and comfortable gospel. Thus, when Humanae Vitae was published, people speculated that it would contain modernized, streamlined, less demanding doctrine on birth regulation. Many hoped that perhaps the Church had reconsidered its traditional stand, and would come up with a more lenient position.

To their dismay, the Church defied all predictions and reaffirmed instead her traditional teaching on marriage, sex, and the value of human life.

Undoubtedly, Pope Paul VI did not bring peace to many couples. In fact, he destroyed the peace that they cherished – a peace based on the belief that whatever is legal is also moral, or that the easiest and most convenient solution to a problem is the best solution. Humanae Vitae has proven that the Church does not conform to the majority opinion but to the Word of God, and the Pope must proclaim the truth even when it contradicts the current of the times.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2012, 11:26 AM
Melito Salazar Jr.

MANILA, Philippines —

Doing research in the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the early ‘70s as part of a training program where I was nominated by Dr. Jaime C. Laya and supported by UN Undersecretary Rafael Salas, my projections of the Philippine population by the year 2000 was around 50 million not the 80 million recorded, nor could I even imagine a 100-million population by 2012. My projections were based on a decreasing birth rate due to an active public information campaign carried out by both the government and non-governmental organizations and the availability of a “cafeteria” of population management tools, from natural planning to the use of contraceptives.

It was also based on increasing income levels where, as in other countries, the more the population had adequate income, the fewer children they would beget. Poor parents would want to raise more children in the hope that a sufficient number would survive the hardships and take care of them in their old age. Projections of better medical care and other social services also would assure parents of healthier babies, removing the need for quantity and allowing them to raise quality children who would become assets of the country as adults.

Unfortunately, after the Marcos years, the approach to population planning which was admired if not copied by other developing countries was deliberately toned down and left to the private sector, which did not have the resources government had. President Fidel V. Ramos and Secretary of Health Juan Flavier resurrected the program and it began to take off with also the sustained support later of President Joseph Estrada. The presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo consigned the program to the bottom of priorities as she ardently courted the support of the Catholic Church. It even reached a point where funds designated for the population management program where allegedly ordered diverted to other Department of Health programs. Access of the poor to the “cafeteria” of population planning methods was severely curtailed.

Seeing the need for an institutional approach free from the whims of a president, the Reproductive Health (RH) bill was crafted during the Arroyo administration but was never put to a vote. On August 7, the House will vote on whether to wrap up the debate and move forward with the bill. The Catholic Church convened a prayer rally last Saturday to “express why we believe the reproductive health bill is not the solution to our many problems as individuals and as a country,” declared Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle. On the other hand, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in an ambush interview said, “Perhaps the debate should be wrapped up, and we should make a decision on this so-called responsible parenthood bill once and for all.”

Survey results seem to show that large majority of the Filipino people want the legislation acted upon, favorably. The opposition to the bill, now led by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, will generate greater support not merely through prayers but through exposing to the public the specific provisions of the RH bill that they disagree with. Sometimes, disinformation could be used to make the public wary of the bill as Senator Panfilo Lacson was quoted as saying, “When I hear Mass, I hear their clear disinformation that abortion is allowed under the RH bill.” According to him, abortion will remain illegal and the bill even increases the penalty.

Too long have the Filipino people waited. Let everyone, including the Church leaders and the legislators listen to them rather than impose their views. The Filipino people want to be the ones to make the choice – informed and free.

admiral thrawn
08-06-2012, 02:31 PM
Is there no law in our present statute books that is geared towards population control/management?

Sam Miguel
08-10-2012, 08:13 AM
By: Jose Ma. Montelibano

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:03 am | Friday, August 10th, 2012

I write at the tail end, hopefully, of a very wet no-name rain with a very terrible impact of Metro Manila and several Luzon provinces. It is almost impossible to believe that there was no storm, that this was only another of those southwest monsoon rains. Wow! When I was first told by a high-ranking environmental officer about the meaning of “new normal” last year, I understood the words intellectually but had to experience these last few days to REALLY understand.

What now? Because of the new normal whose range of water volume and impact is yet to be really determined, if at all, what can we do? I was just told that a hotter climate tends to have more evaporation and, thus, the clouds tend to carry more water. And when it is time for the clouds to dump the water, we have more, much more. It now seems that we cannot get away with less rain but only more, unless the world’s temperature drops to levels we were once used to. There is one situation that allows us little or no rain – and that is having a drought that the new normal says will be dryer over a longer period of time. It leads me to believe that having more rains and being more wet is better than having more heat and being more dry. What a choice.

We have to quickly see what the new weather patterns are doing to us, to our towns and cities – highly urbanized areas particularly – because of the higher risk of death and destruction in denser populations. We once thought we would just read about the horrors of landslides far away from the cities, but Ondoy and Sendong targeted the cities and shocked us all with the kind of devastation typhoons can cause urban areas. We learned, but I guess we could not learn that quickly and could not adjust that dramatically. When the rain-with-no-name came last Monday and dumped enough to be eventually competitive with Ondoy, there were warnings enough to the public and government agencies were more prepared. But the sheer volume of water that kept coming, the sheer vulnerability of the metropolis and its millions of residents, simply overwhelmed all preparations and capacities to react.

Truly, there could have been much more deaths had the warnings and preparations were not there. It is but right that we appreciate a newly-discovered readiness that kept most Metro Manilans inside their homes because they were warned. Had they been in the streets like Ondoy, it would have been a virtual nightmare. This experience with no-name rain, however, has taught us lessons we did not really learn before because we just did not deem them that crucial to our own survival. And what are those?

Our poor cannot be allowed to stay in riverbanks that overflow and kill them. Because they are poor and do not have the luxury of choosing safer areas that still allow them to go or find work, then the rest of society, led by government, must give them the means to save themselves. The Philippines as a country and a people must think of poor as priority clients, not nuisances. It is time we prove that we are humane, democratic, faithful Christians or Muslims, and that we are one people, one race, one Filipino. We have to prove it as we are forced to by nature herself. We have to prove it because the time will come when what humanity deserves, to live and to live with dignity, will be demanded by a sector that is too large to disregard and contain if enraged.

It is completely incomprehensible to me that both the Church and State have accepted the state of the poor with shocking resignation. It is as though poverty is God’s plan and defies deconstruction by the government. Yes, when we think of poverty as one whole monster, it can look like Goliath to the eyes of the Israeli army. But poverty is comprised of different parts that can be resolved one by one, not over a century but within one generation. Poverty is landlessness, homelessness and hunger. To dismantle the landless state of every poor Filipino family can take less than 50,000 hectares or the equivalent of three towns divided over 1,700 municipalities and cities. These lands are for home lots, not farms, and home lots can be 50-100 sq. meters each. But each lot means security, means permanence, means every Filipino is NOT born a squatter in his or her homeland.

There are communities with small but sturdy, decent and colorful homes as what Gawad Kalinga builds together with former squatters as part of a community development program that teaches residents bayanihan and love of country. Even if 5 million families are built homes without their paying for them but requires their full participation and sweat equity, the cost is bearable for a society that seeks to transform itself to become truly sensitive to its own people. The cost of 5 million homes is a small investment that in itself pump-primes all barangays, brings new revenues to a number of industries and addresses rebellion in the countryside and secessionist movements in Mindanao.

A backyard greening program planting vegetables is not too difficult to be a centerpiece anti-hunger program of both the Department of Agriculture and the private sector. The Conditional Cash Transfer program (CCT) does not address hunger as almost two years of aggressive application have shown that hunger incidence is not swayed by it. But the CCT proves that there is money to resolve perennial problems if we the people as the “boss” demand that we do not tolerate fellow Filipinos going hungry.

It is natural that being flooded in proportions like what we just experienced can motivate us to take extra steps to avoid the same experience next time. But our personal woes or inconveniences can stay just that – personal – and we forget the greater problems that the millions of poor, even in just Metro Manila, have to go through in live-or-die situations.

I read text messages about how God curses us with floods because of the RH Bill. No, that is too little, too late. We are cursed because we can watch our own suffer and then leave them behind.

Sam Miguel
08-10-2012, 08:17 AM
By Rene Ciria-Cruz


3:11 pm | Monday, August 6th, 2012

MANILA (Catholic News Network)—An influential church faction known as the CBCP, or the Censorious Bishops Collegium of the Philippines, on Tuesday declared full support for the return of ejaculation.

A spokesman for the group, however, warned, “Ejaculation must only be done with rhythm.”

With this declaration, the CBCP, already embroiled in the Reproductive Health bill debate, waded into another controversy.

This time it’s over the new official translation of the Roman Missal, which hews closer the conservative Latin text abandoned in the ‘70s in favor of a modern version.

The new missal translation revives some parts of the pre-Vatican II liturgy, including a fully restored mea culpa ejaculation–defined by the dictionary as an “abrupt, exclamatory utterance”–in the Penitential Prayer of the Confiteor:

“Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” is a direct translation of the Latin phrase “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” of the old Latin text (which also instructed participants to “ejaculate and strike your breast three times.”)

Father Soltero Celibe, a spokesman for CBCP, said the ‘70s revision had discarded the thrice-repeated mea culpa in favor of owning up to one’s sinfulness only once, which was “a form of artificial contra…I mean contrition.”

“People must abandon contrition-lite and genuinely ejaculate again. And do it with rhythm—bam, bam, bam, thank you ma’am. Why is that so wrong? Why are revisionists reading too much into it?”

Many Catholic priests and lay people, especially in Europe and the United States, have criticized the new translation of the missal as a retrogressive step.

“It’s an attempt to nullify the reforming spirit of Vatican II,” protested Gianni Ventitre, a lay leader and resident of Padua, Italy. Vatican II, he explained, made the Mass more accessible to worshipers.

He said that “revving up the social conscience of the church, not reviving old ritual,” is what’s needed today when poverty due to social injustice and overpopulation is so prevalent in many parts of the world.

Celibe disagreed, explaining that beyond being faithful to the Latin text, “it is good to emphasize one’s sinfulness and acknowledge Man’s fallen nature especially in these times.”

Interviewed while sitting in the driver’s seat of his brand-new donated Pajero (“It’s actually secondhand, it turns out”), he explained that the Vatican is returning to the Church’s roots in the face of rampant revisionism.

Celibe said more worshipers today also are steeped in loose morals, engaging in premarital sex, sex for pleasure, kinky sex, sex video sex, imaginary sex, phone sex, Internet sex, sex for hire, and same-sex sex.

“We’re not asking people to be like priests, but worshipers should try to live without sin by ejaculating thoroughly and ejaculating often.”

In addition to actor Mel Gibson’s father, seven congressional supporters of former president Gloria Arroyo, who is out on bail, also opposed retaining the previous version, which downplayed ejaculation.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said if people stop ejaculating naturally “we are in danger of diminishing Heaven’s labor force and increasing migration to Hell.”

Suarez opposes the Reproductive Health bill in Congress on a similar basis. Before addressing the overflow crowd of desperate jobseekers waiting in his office, Suarez expressed fear that promoting artificial contraception could lead to an insufficient Philippine labor force.

Meanwhile, Fr. Tomasito Torquemada, CBCP director of information, sternly announced that a news website reporter will face excommunication for “blasphemy, heresy and spreading satirical interpretations” of church affairs.

“We’re already reserving a bunk in Hell for him, very close to the boilers,” Torquemada warned.

Manila’s newsgathering circles are buzzing with speculation about the identity of the condemned reporter.-CNN

Sam Miguel
08-10-2012, 12:59 PM
A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away)

By Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star)

Updated August 10, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (26)

Now it is getting clearer. Nothing much has change in the way our government is run by those in power. This administration’s claim of being entirely different from the past corrupt administration is all hype. Our president now may really be honest in the sense that he has not supposedly “stolen” a single centavo from the government coffers, but there are still so many similarities between his administration and the past administration.

One such similarity is in the use of the tyranny of numbers to ram thru its desired objectives even if there are still some unsettled issues regarding them. And this was graphically illustrated when PNoy marshaled his minions in the Lower House of Congress to end the debate on the RH bill by treacherously disregarding their own calendar and deciding to stop the debate on the bill one day ahead of the schedule, through the hasty and hazy “viva voce voting. Why are those who shouted “aye” afraid of being individually identified as in favor of the bill?

They are afraid obviously because their tactic is quite unfair much more so because they know very well that after so many years of debate, they have not explained and satisfactorily answered the most important point raised regarding this bill: that it is originally drafted and instigated by the US with the cooperation of the UN through its agency UNFPA and by private foreign entities which are known advocates of abortion particularly the IPPF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; that the phrase “reproductive health” used by these advocates which drafted the original version of the bill really means abortion or will lead to abortion; that these lobbyists purposely used the phrase only to disguise their real purpose especially in counties like the Philippines where abortion is not allowed.

The only explanation of the sponsors of the bill and other members of the Lower House who shouted “aye” is mere denial since according to them the bill expressly provides that abortion is illegal and not allowed. This is apparently a mere subterfuge as the bill likewise provides for universal access to all forms of reproductive health care services, devices and products including contraceptive pills already proven to directly cause abortion or lead to abortion and other fatal disease like cancer and high blood pressure. The “letter” of the bill is manifestly contrary to its “spirit” as it even uses the terms “medically safe” contraceptives when there is no such thing because all contraceptives have already been medically shown to be dangerous to the life and health of the unborn and the mother.

And this is where another similarity between the present and past administration lies. Both use misleading tactics in order to achieve their objectives. In the present case, this administration even borrowed the phrase “responsible parenthood” and adopted it as part of the bill’s title obviously to remove further objections to the bill. In using such phrase however, the present administration has corrupted its true meaning. “Responsible parenthood” is directly incongruous to the main features of the bill advocating contraception and prescribing western type or module of sex education to school children. This is not a mere allegation. It is already proven in countries where contraception is supported by the State and where sex education is given to school children. In those countries, more specifically the USA, 500 million babies have already been killed through abortion because of the use of contraceptives; sexually transmissible diseases, breast cancer and other serious ailments of women have become widespread; minors have become immoral and promiscuous as the number of teenage pregnancies continues to rise; innumerable families have been broken and have become dysfunctional with so many single mothers, fatherless children; and marital infidelities abound eventually leading to divorce. Does our government want all these things to happen here under this Reproductive Health cum Responsible Parenthood bill?

To be sure, “Responsible Parenthood” really originated from the Church and its meaning definitely excludes the use of contraception. But even without dragging the Church into this issue and attacking its stand against contraception, the phrase is also found in our constitution specifically in Section 3 (1) Article XV which provides as follows: “The State shall defend the right of the spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood”.

So, in defining “responsible parenthood” as used here, it must be read in conjunction with the other provisions of the constitution. And these are: Section 12, Article II which provides that: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the government. Section 1, Art XV which provides that “The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development. And Section 2, which provides that: “Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State”.

Responsible parenthood within the contemplation of our constitution therefore (1) protects the life of the mother and of the unborn from conception; (2) protects the marriage as an inviolable social institution; (3) protects the sanctity of the family as a basic autonomous social institution and strengthen its solidarity; and (4) recognizes the natural right and duty of parents in the rearing of their children.

The RH bill with all its consequences as shown above definitely violates the foregoing provisions of the constitution that go into the definition of Responsible parenthood. Using such phrase in the title of the bill is therefore false, misleading and a form of dishonesty.

Sam Miguel
08-14-2012, 11:30 AM
By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star)

Updated August 14, 2012 12:00 AM

Manila, Philippines

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III admitted yesterday that his fight against the proposed Reproductive Health (RH) bill is “very personal to him and is his mission from God.”

Sotto, who has long carried a “macho” image in the Senate, broke down in tears after he delivered the first part of his speech against the RH bill during the so-called turno en contra for the measure.

Last week, Sotto said that he would reveal the significance of Aug. 13 to him and to his fight against the RH bill.

It turned out that exactly 37 years ago yesterday, Vincent Paul, the only son of Sotto, died five months after he was born in 1975.

He noted that the public knew of only four children that he and his wife, actress Helen Gamboa, sired since they got married in 1971.

He recalled that soon after Gamboa gave birth to their eldest daughter Romina in 1973, she was advised by her doctors to take contraceptives so as not to disrupt her schedule in doing movies.

However, the contraceptives did not work and Gamboa became pregnant with their first son.

According to Sotto, the weak heart of his son led to the need for regular blood transfusions, which went on until his death five months later.

Sotto said that his son never left the hospital during the entire five months of his life and he made it a point to visit him every day.

He noted that two of his colleagues, Senators Manuel Lapid and Pia Cayetano, both lost children just like he did.

During his interpellation on the RH bill, Lapid said his wife also used contraceptives but still got pregnant.

Lapid said that his baby was born with a heart defect and that he was convinced the use of contraceptives by his wife led to that condition.

He lost his child nine years later.

In the case of Cayetano, she lost her son Gabriel nine months after he was born due to a rare congenital condition.

“It is sad to hear this from them but the truth is, I even envy them because they got to hold their children,” Sotto said.

“I was not able to hold my son in those five months. I got to hold him when he was dead already,” he added.

Sotto said that he was convinced the use of contraceptives by his wife led to the death of his only son and that is why his campaign against the RH bill is very personal to him.

“At that time I asked God why this happened to me. I badly wanted a son, why did you take him away from me? Thirty-seven years later, the Lord gave me his answer, it is my mission to stop this bill (from being approved),” Sotto said.

He ended up sobbing after his speech and was comforted by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Ramon Revilla.

Cayetano, one of the principal authors and sponsors of the RH bill, was also seen talking to Sotto while the session was suspended.

Sotto and Cayetano have been at odds over the RH bill, with the latter accusing him on a number of occasions of delaying the progress of the measure.

In fact, before Sotto started his presentation, he engaged Cayetano and her co-sponsor Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago in a minor exchange on the procedure for the start of the turno en contra and stated clearly that they should not worry about his presentation being a source of delay again.

He cited several international and local studies, which showed that life begins at fertilization and as such the use of anything that prevents the fertilized ovum from being implanted in the uterus is already considered abortive.

He said many of the contraceptives are even harmful to those who use them because of a number of side effects and even carcinogenic properties.

For the pill, Sotto cited the following listed major adverse effects: breast cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer, premature hypertension and coronary artery disease resulting in heart attacks and strokes, thromboembolism/pulmonary embolism.

Other adverse effects are decreased libido, infertility, leg cramps, gallstone formation, nausea and bloatedness.

In the case of IUDs, he said that side effects include cramps, bleeding between periods, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and tear or hole in the uterus.

“Given all these harmful effects to women, are we going to allow our government to spend billions of money to purchase condoms, pills and IUDs for the sake of what they call reproductive health?” Sotto said.

“This is not the solution to their claim that 11 mothers die every day, if it is true that 11 mothers die every day. If the RH bill is approved, most likely more than 11 mothers will die every day. And I thought the RH bill is for our women,” he added.

Sam Miguel
08-14-2012, 11:30 AM
^^^ More ad hominems from a leading intellectual light...

Sam Miguel
08-15-2012, 12:44 PM
By: Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:35 pm | Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

While the interpellations over the reproductive health bill in the House of Representatives have come to an end, debates will continue for a long time, into the Senate and, more importantly, in homes, schools and churches.

Amid all the noise, we need to ask the local leadership of the Catholic Church to state, categorically, if they support family planning at all. From all indications, they oppose family planning, whether “natural” or “artificial.” And the reasons are not doctrinal, because there are numerous documents, from the Catholic Catechism to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ own declarations on responsible parenthood, that in fact allow family planning, for as long as it is “natural.” (See Eleanor Dionisio’s column last week, “But doesn’t the CBCP support responsible parenthood?”)


What we hear from the bishops and priests is ideological fire and fury directed against all family planning, and it is time to look at how these arguments come from a strange mix of arguments from the Left and the Right.

The Left view is exemplified by Mao Zedong, China’s leader for almost 30 years. In 1958, Mao was said to have proclaimed, “In the past I said we could manage with 800 million. Now I think 1 billion would be no cause for alarm.” When Mao died in 1976, China’s population had hit 946 million. Mao Zedong believed that in a socialist society, with good governance and equitable distribution of wealth, there was no need to worry about population growth.

The Right end of the ideological spectrum, represented by the late economist Julian Simon, also sees no problems with a large population. Unlike Mao though, Simon and his followers believe that large populations are most beneficial for, and in, capitalism. More people mean more consumers, and more workers. Let things be, Simon argues, and capitalism will always find ways to meet the needs of a population, no matter how rapid its growth was. Simon also opposed environmental conservation efforts, again arguing that capitalism would find solutions to environmental problems, preferably without government intervention.

I wonder how Mao and Simon would respond if they saw how their ideas are now being combined and used by Catholic bishops. Mao would probably frown at the bishops talking about economic equality and yet pursuing extravagant lifestyles and cavorting with corrupt politicians. Simon, on the other hand, would be surprised to find that the very same bishops using his arguments against population control are also at the forefront of antimining and environmental causes. An example of how Simon-type economists dismiss environmentalism comes in an article by Joseph Kellard, writing in the magazine Capitalism Today. After praising Simon’s opposition to environmentalism, he proposes that “environmentalist doomsayers are a logical outgrowth of religious apocalyptics, and their believers are just another sect of mystics.”

Both Mao and Simon’s support for unlimited population growth has been heavily disputed. Contrary to Simon’s projections, our environmental problems have grown through the years, exemplified by human-induced climate change. Our bishops fret too about climate change, but seem to forget this is climate change induced by humans and population growth.

As for Mao, barely three years after his death his successors, led by Deng Xiaoping, launched a draconian “one child per family” policy to slow down China’s population growth, one that has led to many abuses.


A few years ago, when the reproductive health bill was still on low boil, a physician friend in the Visayas told me about how she had participated in an antimining rally, marching side by side with her bishop. At one point, the bishop turned to her and invited her to join another rally, this time directed against the “Ligtas Buntis” campaign of the Department of Health, which was a maternal health program but which the Catholic bishops claimed was a front for population control and abortion. My friend smiled politely and of course didn’t show up for the anti-Ligtas Buntis rally, being a firm believer in family planning.

Like my physician friend, I would like to see more consistency from Catholic church leaders. I am against corruption too, and not just in government but also in the private sector. But, as I always tell my students, you have no right to complain about corruption if you can’t get your own act together in school; for example, if you cheat in your exams. By extension, the Catholic Church’s moral authority emanates not from doctrinal declarations but from how it behaves, and in this day and age, we have seen how many of the faithful are appalled by the way child molesters among the clergy were protected, shielded from prosecution. I am anticipating angry letters from other Catholic faithful saying we should just keep quiet about all these scandals and trust our bishops. And to you, I say in advance, you are not being faithful to the Church; you are part of the corruption that is destroying the Church.

Finally, I couldn’t agree more about the need for an equitable distribution of wealth and resources, but again would like to see Catholic leaders walking the talk with their own vast wealth. We need to see a revival of the social action programs that began in the 1970s that worked with the poorest of the poor, not with dole-out medical missions but with capacity-building programs for livelihood, shelter, health care. Yes, Gawad Kalinga is doing some of that, but remember too how they came under attack from conservatives supposedly for moving away from more spiritual concerns.

A growing number of Christians, including Catholics, see faith as being built on social justice and it is this cardinal principle that makes us oppose population control, including the “one child per family” policy of China. But it is social justice, too, that makes us support family planning, in the interest of promoting better health and survival of mothers, children and families.

Since I began my column by referring to the two ideological camps that have provided the mix-and-match arguments for anti-family planning groups, I want to go back and say there are Marxists and “leftists” as well as “capitalists” who accept family planning. There are people on the Left who see no contradiction between fighting for social justice and providing family planning services.

Likewise, there are dyed-in-the-wool capitalists who recognize that a large population does not necessarily translate to more consumers or, as local Opus Dei economists keep arguing, to Filipino workers for export. A more realistic view from capitalists is that a large population and irresponsible parenthood strain our social services, and society itself, tearing families and communities apart.

Sam Miguel
08-15-2012, 12:52 PM
By Gil C. Cabacungan, Kristine L. Alave

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:41 am | Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles has taken a different tack in the Church crusade against the population control bill, sending congressmen gifts of religious trinkets and images of the Blessed Virgin Mary hoping those pushing for the measure would have a change of heart.

“Forgive me if in the past, due to the issues I as a Church servant have to uphold, I might have spoken uncharitably even to and about some of our government leaders,” Arguelles said in a letter that accompanied the gifts.

“Hoping and pleading for your kind understanding for this little attempt to reach you and humbly assuring you of our great respect and great expectations,” he added.

But not so the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). It maintained its defiant stance against the reproductive health (RH) bill.

In a strongly worded statement, the CBCP on Tuesday slammed the Aquino administration’s display of “naked power” and “unbridled resort to foul tactics” in a surprise vote on Tuesday last week to stop debates on the bill. The CBCP likened the move to the blitzkrieg fashion in which the lawmakers impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Lack of quorum

The lack of quorum prevented the House from starting the period of amendments Tuesday. “If there are no people, it means they have no support,” Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez said of the proponents of the measure.

Arguelles had criticized President Aquino’s endorsement of the RH bill as “selective ‘matuwid na daan (straight path)’ program” and his push for Congress to speed up action on the measure as a “bad omen.”

“Aquino declared an open war, a head-on collision against us and against the Catholic Church. So terrible, so blatantly Aquino missed the point,” said the archbishop of Lipa a week before Congress abruptly voted on Aug. 6 to end the debates and proceed to the next battleground—the period of amendments.

Gifts denounced

“Of course not all our lawmakers are Catholics. But I appeal to Muslim legislators to accept this image of the woman they also look up highly in the Holy Book. To others, please, do not be offended but feel free to return the gift to us. This is just a sign of our assurance of prayers that Congress will do what is truly right,” Arguelles said in his letter.

Malabon Rep. Josephine Lacson-Noel on Tuesday said that she and other lawmakers were surprised by Arguelles’ gifts, which were ostensibly meant to sway their stand on the RH bill.

She said all the lawmakers received the gifts, including her husband, An-Waray Rep. Florencio Noel, who is opposed to the RH bill, and those belonging to other religious groups.

Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco said she would display her gift in her office “as a reminder of my resolve to help pass the RH bill so that Filipino women, just like the Virgin Mary, will be given a better chance for a better life.”

Diwa Rep. Emmiline Aglipay, who received a pendant with an engraved image of the Virgin Mary, said her support for the bill was not about personal beliefs but about the obligations of the state.

“I am a Catholic congresswoman not a congresswoman of the Catholic Church,” Aglipay said in a text message.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said: “I’m returning it, like I would return a monetary bribe. What does Arguelles think this is—the Middle Ages, when the Church could buy souls with indulgences?”

The CBCP, which declined to comment on the bill last week to focus on helping the flood victims, blasted the Aquino administration and its allies for abruptly ending the debates on Aug. 6, a day ahead of schedule.

When no one was looking

The CBCP said the move was “remarkable in its stealth and swiftness.”

“It came a full day too soon, just when no one was looking,” it said, referring to the preoccupation with the monsoon flooding.

“We are dismayed by the display of naked power. We lament the unilateral disregard of prior agreement in the pursuit of selfish goals. We detest the unbridled resort to foul tactics.”

The CBCP also called pro-RH bill legislators as “schemers” and described Mr. Aquino as an “intrusive” President. The CBCP said Aquino’s hand was clearly seen in the House, given the haste at which the bill was deliberated.

The prelates said the tactics used by the administration were “reminiscent of the events leading to the impeachment proceedings” against Corona, who was later removed.

Pork as bait

In a forum on Tuesday, CBCP president Jose Palma said there were reports that the administration dangled the pork barrel to lawmakers to gain their support.

He warned the administration against using the pork barrel to get the votes for the bill.

“This is owned by the people,” he said. “It should be given whether you are pro or anti-RH bill.”

Also Tuesday, an 11-page declaration signed by 160 faculty members of Ateneo de Manila University was released to reporters.

It called on lawmakers to “muster the courage and wisdom to vote (for the RH bill), not on the basis of vested interests, but in the service of the Filipino people and especially the poor from whom they derive and to whom they owe their mandate.”

“We believe that the key principles of the RH bill are compatible with core principles of Catholic social teaching, such as the sanctity of human life, dignity of the human person, the preferential option for the poor, integral human development, human rights, and the primacy of conscience,” the paper said.

With reports from Jeannette I. Andrade, Leila B. Salaverria and Christian V. Esguerra

Sam Miguel
08-16-2012, 09:21 AM
By Cathy Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:31 pm | Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—Senate majority leader Tito Sotto alleged on Wednesday that at least four non-government organizations presenting themselves as “pro-women” receive funding from international groups advocating abortion.

In the second salvo of his series against the Reproductive Health bill, Sotto charged that international organizations including the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have programs targeting developing countries that aim to reduce their populations.

In a speech delivered before a fully packed Senate gallery, Sotto named the local NGOs as the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP), Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN), its affiliate LIKHAAN and the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, which actively participated in hearings on the RH bill.

Among those in the gallery was former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral who, just on Tuesday, asked Sotto to produce the death certificate of his infant son whom the senator said was conceived despite the contraceptives his wife took.

Cabral said contraceptives could not be responsible for the “weak heart” suffered by Sotto’s son but the senator insisted otherwise.

Sotto said he would give Cabral a copy of the death certificate.

“I would like to take exception to the statements made by Dr. Cabral and to a certain extent by Congresswoman Garin, in reaction to my disclosure and confession on the death of my first son, Vincent Paul. I find their statements callous and insensitive and it is unfortunate that the reproductive health debate has come to this level. They should have given the sorrow of my family more respect,” he said in his speech.

In his speech, Sotto said the NGOs “want to make it appear that their interest is the health of our women. But my research showed that they have partnered with foreign organizations to acquaint our society with modern and liberal RH schemes.”

The senator charged that FPOP, in particular, received a subsidy of $625,095 “or almost P27.5M” in 2011 from the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

“FPOP’s website displays the organization’s support to the use of abortive facilities. In fact, the FPOP posted on its website an instructional brochure discussing different methods of abortion, depending on the weeks of pregnancy,” Sotto charged.

“Furthermore, FPOP’s website is linked to a website named Women on Waves which provides contacts to abortion clinics worldwide,” he added.

Sotto hammered on IPPF’s global agenda to promote abortion and the dissemination of contraceptives.

RHAN, on the other hand, even “submitted a budget proposal to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) containing a budget allocation for ‘nurturing legislators’ to expedite the passage of the RH Bill,” he said.

Sotto described RHAN’s affiliate, LIKHAAN as among the local groups “actively pushing for the RH bill.

“LIKHAAN openly supports abortion, as it features in its website step-by-step procedure on how to abort a baby. To make matters worse, the instructional material desperately intends to reach the Filipino masses by using Filipino language and putting pictures that clearly illustrate how to abort,” Sotto charged.

“In addition, there is a video featuring Dr. Junice Melgar, head of Likhaan who was quoted as saying, ‘If you are pro-women, you will have contacts to the services that are underground’ and whose other statements refer to abortion service providers,” he added.

“These organizations have such huge budgets so it’s not surprising that they have very active campaigns for the RH bill on radio, TV, print and especially the Internet,” Sotto noted.

“The strong pressure and the massive propaganda materials emanating from various groups cannot simply be put aside. They have been doing everything to impose their hidden agenda through the RH bill,” Sotto said.

He charged the DSWP of excluding unborn children in the definition of “children,” saying the group claimed that “calling the unborn a child is going beyond what the Constitution provides.”

“This organization further claims that only children have human rights, excepting the unborn,” Sotto said.

The senator blasted foreign organizations funding the local NGOs including the USAID, World Health Organization, World Bank and all economic agencies whom he said “were given a directive to gear their policies and programs towards promoting the reduction of the world’s population especially in less developed countries” based on National Security Memorandum 200 issued by Henry Kissinger.

Sotto said Kissinger was “the source of the entire family planning, population and poverty-reduction programs of the US. All loans, grants and aid coming from the US and Western powers must be based on reduction of population through birth control.”

“Since the USAID is the principal instrument for the so-called development programs, there are NGOs and government agencies in the Philippines that have been contacted, supported and funded by it,” he added.

“These foreign organizations underhandedly seek to legalize abortion in countries where it is still a crime. And that I believe is exactly what they’re doing now in our country through this bill. This bill is a foreign-dictated policy, forcing us to adopt population control and abortion, contrary to the values that we uphold,” said the staunch anti-RH senator.

Sotto also questioned the claim of RH backers that 11 Filipino mothers die every day due to childbirth complications.

Sotto said he sent his staff to conduct a nationwide survey of government hospitals to verify this detail.

Instead of confirming this, however, Sotto said the Nueva Viscaya Provincial Hospital recorded only two maternal deaths for the entire 2011; the Pangasinan Provincial Hospital, 4; the Batangas Regional Hospital, 7 out of 2,584 deliveries, or .27 percent, last year. Meanwhile, the Cavite Naval Hospital recorded no maternal deaths for 2011 at all.

“If the National Statistics Coordinating Board cannot confirm their claim of 11 maternal deaths daily, where did the Department of Health get this? Is it possible that foreign organizations fed it this figure to use it to pressure lawmakers like us?” Sotto asked.

“I think it was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s hated propagandist, who said that a lie repeated several times would eventually be accepted as fact by the people,” he recalled.

“This is exactly what is happening now since several documents have pointed out that the so-called 11 maternal deaths a day in the Philippines is a canard and yet RH proponents continued to hoist it as gospel truth. I challenge the RH bill supporters to give me the names of faces of the 11 mothers who died in one particular day if they want me to believe in their claim,” Sotto dared.

The senator said an employee of the Senate secretariat who visited Uganda recently reported that the same claim of 11 maternal deaths daily was also being bandied in that country by NGOs.

The proponents of the bill also did not escape Sotto’s tirade as he observed that they “admitted that they sought the assistance of various non-government organizations specifically to learn about the effects of certain procedures or nuances of terminologies used in the bill. This in effect gave these organizations the opportunity to incorporate their distorted beliefs and principles in the bill.”

Sam Miguel
08-16-2012, 09:36 AM
By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:19 am | Thursday, August 16th, 2012

At the behest of President Benigno Aquino, proponents announced Wednesday proposed 10 changes in the reproductive health (RH) bill to make it more acceptable, including deletion of any reference to family size and the classification of contraceptives as essential medicines.

The entire section of the consolidated bill which recommended an ideal family size to Filipinos was deleted, in deference to the wishes of the President, said Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, who was to introduce the alterations at the start on Tuesday of the period of amendments in the plenary.

The proposed changes—reached weeks before the Palace meeting with congressmen last week—suggest that the bill is not a population control measure and amend provisions that tie responsible parenthood and family planning components to antipoverty programs, according to its authors.

However, opponents of the measure, for the second straight day yesterday, managed to block discussions on the changes by delivering privilege speeches.

Lagman, principal author of the RH bill, said that the deletion of the section on family size was made to allay apprehensions that the measure was intended to impose a two-child policy.

He said that the deleted provision was never meant to be compulsory in the first place.

The authors of the RH bill also agreed to scrap the section classifying family planning supplies, including contraceptives, as essential medicines, according to Lagman.

This would be replaced by a new provision directing the Food and Drug Administration to determine the safety and efficacy of supplies for modern family planning methods prior to their procurement and distribution.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said some of the proposed amendments dealt with softening language to remove contentious phrases to appease critics, led by the powerful Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

He stressed this did not necessarily mean that the intent of the RH bill would be diluted.

On August 6, hours after a meeting with the President, a majority of the congressmen in a voice vote ended debates on the bill to bring it to the period of amendments.

The swiftness of the Congress action was denounced by the CBCP as a display of “naked power” reminiscent of the impeachment in December of then Chief Justice Renato Corona. The bishops however insisted they have the numbers to squelch the measure

Foreign agencies denounced

In the Senate Wednesday, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto in the second part of his turno en contra speech on the floor denounced foreign agencies, including the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations and the World Bank, for promoting population control.

Last week, the country representative of the UN Population Fund said that the passage of the RH bill was essential to the Philippines reaching its millennium development goals of reducing poverty.

The Senate leadership has been accused of siding with the Catholic Church in blocking passage of the bill in the upper chamber. The period of interpellation has been closed, but was reopened after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he still had questions on the measure which he was unable to ask because of his preoccupation as presiding judge in the recent impeachment trial of Corona.

Another proposed amendment in the House version of the RH bill seeks to change the age at which mandatory reproductive health and sex education would start, according to its authors. Under the new version, sex education would begin in the sixth grade instead of the fifth.

The teaching of values formation would take into account religious affiliation. The subjects to be included in sex education would include proper and responsible sexual values and behavior, delayed entry into sexual relations, abstinence before marriage, avoidance of multiple sexual partners, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

Parents would also be given the option not to allow minor children to attend reproductive health and sexuality education classes to respect religious convictions and beliefs.

The proponents also agreed to delete the section on employers’ responsibilities on RH services for their employees.

Other proposals include:

■Funding of mobile health-care services for districts by the national government, instead of the pork barrel of politicians.

■Rephrasing prohibited acts and refusal to perform legal and medically safe RH procedures on the ground of lack of marital or parental consent and clarifying actions expected of a conscientious objector to certain family planning practices, and prohibiting pharmaceutical companies from colluding with government officials or contributing to partisan political activities.

■Revoking the license of pharmaceutical companies or its agents, and fining them for violating the law.

■Emphasizing that the state would fund the promotion of modern natural methods of family planning consistent with the needs of acceptors.

Guaranteeing religious freedom and the option of hospitals owned by religious groups in the provision of a full range of modern family planning methods. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra, Jocelyn R. Uy and Cathy C. Yamsuan

Sam Miguel
08-16-2012, 09:37 AM
By Jocelyn R. Uy

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:10 am | Thursday, August 16th, 2012

The stunning manner lawmakers ended debates last week on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, which was denounced by Catholic bishops as a display by the Aquino administration of “naked power,” did not mean the Church campaign against the measure was doomed.

Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, on Wednesday insisted that the Church has the numbers in the House of Representatives to reject the bill when it comes to a final vote.

Reyes told reporters on Tuesday that not all of the lawmakers who voted on August 6 to end interpellation on the bill and bring it to the next stage, the period of amendments, meant they favored it.

He said he had received assurances from the congressmen even before the voting last week that they still sided with the Church.

“Those who voted to end the debates last week did not mean that they are already pro-RH,” Reyes said.

140 congressmen vs RH

He noted that the bishops’ count of 140 congressmen opposing the measure was also corroborated by a survey among lawmakers themselves. Prior to the meeting in Malacañang last week, a separate survey showed that 145 lawmakers were against the bill, he said.

“More or less, it coincided with our survey of 140… but that was before the meeting in Malacañang so the number might have changed,” the prelate said.

He also added that since the bill was already up for amendments, the Church would also push for the removal of “objectionable” provisions in the bill.

“We would want these provisions—first, the sex education without values and the need for employers to provide contraceptives to their employees—out of the RH bill,” Reyes said.

The provisions, especially the pills, were against “the faith” and “religious freedom,” he said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the bishops’ conference slammed the viva voce vote in the House on August 6 to terminate debates.

“We are dismayed by the display of naked power. We lament the unilateral disregard of prior agreement in the pursuit of selfish goals,” the bishops said, ostensibly referring to the lawmakers’ decision to move the vote a day ahead of schedule after a meeting with President Aquino. “We detest the unbridled resort to foul tactics.”

Sam Miguel
08-16-2012, 10:02 AM

By Domini M. Torrevillas

(The Philippine Star) Updated August 16, 2012 12:00 AM

For more than 10 years, concerned citizens have been lobbying for the passage of a reproductive health bill, but have been frustrated by stern opposition from the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The passage of the latest bill titled, “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development and for Other Purposes,” now lies in the hands of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

But again, the church, along with anti-RH lay proponents, have been spreading misinformation about the bill (like saying it is for abortion and encouraging promiscuity among others), and warning pro-RH Catholic legislators of losing in the 2013 elections if they vote for the bill’s passage.

The misinformation being peddled by the clergy has compelled a group of RH supporters to place an ad in newspapers calling on the lawmakers to listen not to what the bishops say, but to the millions of Filipinos who want such a bill passed. “Sino ang BOSS ninyo?” (Who is your boss), the ad asks. “Ang taong bayan ang Boss ninyo, HINDI ang mga Obispo!” (The people are your boss, not the bishops.)

The ad cites empirical evidence that backs the critical need for the RH bill. Surveys show the following:

• Filipino mothers die each day due to pregnancy, and childbirth-related complications have increased from 11 in 2006 to 15 in 2011 (National Statistics  Office, Family Health Survey 2006 and 2012).

• About 25 million Filipinos live in absolute poverty, many of them couples having more children than they want and can provide for.

• Half of all pregnancies (about 1.9 million) are unplanned or unintended. (University of the Philippines Population Institute/Likhaan 2009)

• Teen pregnancies have risen from 14 percent to 19 percent during 2006 -2011 (Family Health survey 2011).

• Eighty percent of Filipinos say that Family Planning is a personal choice and that no one should interfere with it (Social Weather Station, 2011).

• Seventy percent of Filipinos are in favor of Reproductive Health/Family Planning (SWS surveys).

Signatories of the message stress that while government works “to improve our economy and the lives of our people, poverty continues to rise. There are 25 million Filipinos living in absolute poverty according to official data, but this reality is made worse by the fact that most of the poor have more than they want and can provide for. They have more children than intended due to lack of accurate information on and services for family planning. Their children are deprived of opportunities to live decent and fulfilling lives. And many poor mothers die giving life.”

“Providing basic education and health care, housing and food, as well as creating jobs for the poor are the Government’s responsibilities, not the Catholic Church hierarchy’s who do not have the knowledge, capacity or even willingness to assume such responsibilities and burdens,” the signatories say.

“Are the empty threats from leaders of the Catholic Church more important than the threat of rising cases of HIV and AIDS, which has reached an alarming rate of one HIV infection every four hours?” ask the signatories.

“We believe that the more than 10 years of repetitive debates among members of the Senate and the House of Representatives are more than enough time to arrive at a decisive vote on the bill.”

The signatories have come together to make their “collective voice heard on the critical importance of the RH bill for the well-being of women, children, families, and the country’s long-term development. Most of us are Catholics who believe that reproductive health is a basic right and, hence, strongly support the passage of the RH bill.”

Filipinos, regardless of socioeconomic status and religion, have the right and the opportunity to live healthy, dignified and fulfilling lives, say the signatories, well-respected business executives, academicians and health professionals. “But this aspiration will not be attained if mothers and children are unable to access the full range of reproductive health services and information as intended by Senate Bill 2865 and House Bill 4244 providing a government policy framework for responsible parenthood, reproductive health, and population development.”

The signatories, well-respected businessmen, academicians and health professionals are Dr. Alberto Romualdez, Luz Frances Chua, Fidel V. Ramos, Cesar E.A. Virata, Oscar Lopez, Benjamin de Leon, Bishop Rodrigo Tano, Dr. Edelina dela Paz, Dr. Eden Divinagracia, Dr. Junice Melgar, Elizabeth Ansioco, Atty. Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan, Gessen Rocas, Rosario Tanada, Alvin Dakis, Gibby Gorres, Dr. Esperanza Cabral, Dr. Ernesto M. Pernia, Dr. Jaime Z. Galvez-Tan, Roberto A.O. Nebrida, Romeo Dongeto, Cyndy Tan Jarabata, Red Tani, Rodelio Ablir, HOMENET Philippines, UP Economists, UP Institute of Human Rights, ReproCen, Alliance of Young Nurses Leaders & Advocates, International, Inc.,  Alliance of Young Health Advocates, Student Nurses Alliance of the Philippines,  Reproductive Health Advocacy Network, and RHAN.

* * *

08-24-2012, 09:17 AM
By Kristine L. Alave

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:25 am | Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

It’s not exactly an inquisition but 159 members of the Ateneo de Manila University faculty may face investigation for heresy, and sacked—not excommunicated—if found guilty.

Bishop Leandro Medroso, in an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas Monday, called for an investigation of the Ateneo faculty members who signed a statement declaring support for the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill being pushed by the Aquino administration in Congress.

Medroso, the permanent council member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Canon Law, said the university should make sure that the teachers who endorsed House Bill No. 4244 were not teaching concepts against Church laws.

“That has to be investigated. The first principle of Canon law about this matter is that we don’t allow teaching that which is against the official teachings of the Church. Now, if there is somebody who is giving instructions against the teachings of the Church, then they have to investigate immediately,” Medroso said.

Those found guilty of teaching students concepts contrary to Church teachings could be fired, he said. Church officials have previously raised the possibility of excommunication for Catholics espousing population control.

Ateneo officials were not available for comment Monday, a holiday.

Recently, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, the current CBCP president, warned Catholic schools and teachers to toe the line or end up in hot water.

“They should be consistent and true to the nature of their calling, which is to enlighten and teach the Catholic doctrine. They should realize how important their vocation and their mission is, which is of course to impart the Catholic teaching,” Palma said.

The CBCP acknowledges that there are some differences in the beliefs of teachers and Church teachings on topics like reproductive health. The group said that while it respected academic freedom in colleges and universities, Catholic institutions should adhere to Church laws.

In issuing the statement of support, Ateneo’s faculty members said the RH bill would provide much-needed maternal and infant health care to all Filipinos regardless of religious beliefs.

“The reality is, despite the Philippines being predominantly Catholic, the majority of Filipinos want the full range of family planning services, including ‘artificial’ contraception,” they said.

“Our reflected and collective appraisal of the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill is that it is a vital piece of legislation that needs to be passed urgently,” the paper said.

The Guidon, Ateneo’s student newspaper, said it was not the first time that its professors had released a statement endorsing the bill, which has been pending for more than a decade. The first statement was issued in 2008, with 66 signatories.

The Guidon said another statement followed in 2011, signed by more than 200 faculty members from Ateneo and the University of the Philippines. With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan

08-24-2012, 09:19 AM
By: Raul C. Pangalangan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:10 pm | Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

* * *

The bishops have thrown the gauntlet at the Ateneo de Manila professors who have signed a statement in support of reproductive rights. The bishops direct their challenge to schools, warning that they can “strip a school of its affiliation with the Church” if they “teach anything contrary to the official teaching of the Church.”

The Ateneo president replied that the university does not support the passage of the Reproductive Health bill and that it differs with the 192 faculty signatories of the pro-RH statement. Ateneo’s carefully worded statement concluded by “ask[ing] all those who are engaged in the Christian formation of our students to ensure that the Catholic position on this matter continues to be taught in our classes, as we have always done.”

The website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines mentions one example of a school that had been recently penalized—the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru—because some of its policies were “not compatible with the discipline and morals of the Church.” Perhaps it should have also mentioned that the Georgetown University law school has a fellowship that funds students who intern with the litigation office of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and whose faculty and students have served as prochoice advocates.

I have long warned about the dark side of academic freedom. We generally try to insulate our universities from outside pressure coming from the government agencies. But that merely shows one side of the equation—that is, “institutional academic freedom” enjoyed by all schools of higher learning.

In the situation before us, the bishops pose no threat to the institutional freedom of Ateneo. The bishops are not part of the state, and the worst they can threaten is to withhold a school’s bona fides as a Catholic institution. That threat works only with schools for whom that certification matters. (Contrast that to this: Imagine that the CBCP makes that same threat to the University of the Philippines.) In other words, both the threat and the response are internal to a religion, left to its own believers to work out among themselves.

The real problem is when the school, acting on that religious belief, curtails the other aspect of academic freedom—namely, the individual freedom of its faculty members to speak on matters within their area of expertise and authority. If any disciplinary action is taken against faculty members who speak their minds and the school tries to immunize that decision from outside review, then we have a clash between the institutional academic freedom of the school (saying it is entitled to define its own institutional mission) and the individual academic freedom of its faculty (who are entitled to the mantle of constitutional protection when they speak as scholars).

A Facebook post, apparently from someone within the Loyola campus, said that the stance of Ateneo shows that it is more a Catholic and less a true university. Therein lies the irony here. The Constitution protects academic freedom only for schools of “higher learning.” One earns that protection only by acting like a true university. Let us support the brave 192 signatories.

* * *

08-24-2012, 09:21 AM
By: Raul C. Pangalangan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:49 pm | Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Given the heated arguments, maybe the title should end with a question mark. Is it possible to be sober, rational and truthful about reproductive health (RH), and still be a good Catholic? I, for one, certainly wouldn’t give up trying. My father was prefect of the Sodality in his student days at Ateneo (and member as well of the Legion of Mary), and he would expect nothing less from his eldest son who chose to study at a pagan school in Diliman peopled by godless communists.

We must confine the debate to what the philosopher John Rawls called “public reason.” Rawls doesn’t call on people to cast away their “comprehensive doctrines of truth or right”—like religion—but only that in political discourse in a public forum, they should advance those beliefs in terms that are accessible to everyone.

In relation to RH, we should exclude arguments based on a specific religion, such as those made by that congressman who proclaimed on the floor of Congress that when the 1987 Constitution says “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God…,” it refers “only to the Catholic God.” So what does that make of the millions of Muslim Filipinos? Since they are part of the “sovereign Filipino people,” we make them invoke our God instead of theirs? Good heavens.

Given the religiously charged debate on reproductive health, public reason demands that we argue only on terms acceptable to people of all faiths. When Catholic anti-RH crusaders invoke the Bible, that works only with their fellow believers, but not to nonbelievers. How would Catholics feel if Muslims invoked Koranic verses against them?

Admittedly, on some questions—“When does life begin?”—we can’t avoid religion. Science says the moment of “implantation,” the Catholic Church, “fertilization.” So for this debate, let us focus on the one birth-control method that prevents fertilization altogether, namely, condoms. In other words, if the bishops still object even when there is no fertilized egg at all, then it means they’re not really being candid with us. The anti-RH debate is merely a smokescreen for a different agenda.

It is time to end the congressional debate on the RH bill. It has dragged on for too long. The first RH bills were filed in the 11th Congress (1998-2001) and the 12th (2001-04), and both times the bills died at the first committee level. By the 13th Congress (2004-07), four bills were filed in the Senate and one consolidated bill in the House of Representatives, of which only the House bill got as far as the second committee level. More recently, in the 14th Congress (2007-10), the Senate and the House each had their own RH bills, and both bills this time survived the two committee levels and got as far as the second reading, where they got marooned in procedural limbo. It is only now in the 15th Congress that the bills have advanced to plenary debate, and thus the come-hell-or-high-water desperation of the anti-RH lobby.

In those debates, it is my hope that we can avoid deliberate misinformation: one, that the RH bill legalizes abortion (it plainly does not); and two, that it prescribes “artificial” methods of contraception (indeed, it offers married couples the full range of options).

Two, we musn’t ignore the facts. Figures show that each year in the Philippines, 473,000 unintended pregnancies end in abortion, 79,000 women are hospitalized due to abortion-related complications, and 800 women die due to such complications because they are often refused treatment and humiliated in hospitals.

In the words of Junice Melgar, M.D., of Likhaan (whom Sen. Tito Sotto singled out by name on the Senate floor): “Effective family planning minimizes unplanned pregnancies—the starting point of most women’s decision to undergo an abortion. Humane post-abortion care reduces repeat abortions through counseling and immediate access to contraception. Sexuality education by trained schoolteachers cuts down teenagers’ risky sexual behaviors.”

Three, the anti-RH crusaders must stop portraying pro-RH activists as bad Catholics.

If politics makes strange bedfellows, some (not all) anti-RH politicians make the creepiest bedfellows for the Roman Catholic clergy. They include characters whose extramarital lives do not conform to Catholic teaching, whose vices cannot by any stretch of the imagination earn heavenly indulgences, or whose inane utterances affront the rationality and eloquence of the Church’s great thinkers.

In contrast, many of the pro-RH advocates have been drawn to the RH cause precisely because they have taken to heart the Church’s teaching on the “preferential option for the poor.” They value life. They recognize the simple fact that less unwanted pregnancies will also mean fewer abortions. Here I borrow a quote I saw on Facebook: “[N]o woman has ever ambitioned to have an abortion. But abortion remains a fact of life, and a fact of death, for many women.”

RH advocates know that to oppose contraceptives is knowingly to abet abortions. They recognize that the loftiest sermons about chastity are empty and hollow to nubile girls who live under the flyovers of Edsa, in one-room hovels where unrelated males and females sleep in common areas, without toilets or showers, or in wooden kariton where they are vulnerable 24/7 to sexual predators. They know that the best way to strengthen the Filipino family is to empower fathers and mothers to plan their families responsibly.

Social justice is in the Philippine Constitution but it is equally a part of Catholic teaching. Reproductive health has been debated as an issue of free choice—rightly so—but it is time we recognized it also as a duty of the state to ensure the equal right of all Filipinos, especially the poor, to take charge of their lives.

08-24-2012, 09:28 AM
Bernardo M. Villegas

August 23, 2012, 7:45pm

EVEN before the "limits to growth" hypothesis broke out in the 1970s, as an economist I had always rejected any attempt to resuscitate the completely discredited theory that Thomas Malthus first proffered more than two centuries ago. My training at Harvard under Nobel Prize winners like Simon Kuznets inoculated me once and for all against the Malthusian germ. Over the last half century, the Malthusian theory has been disproved time and time again. Population growth does not lead to mass starvation given the unlimited propensity of the human mind to increase the productivity of the earth's resources. What limits human resources is the propensity of the human will to evil. But that's another thing.

No matter how convinced I am about my economic theory concerning population and poverty, however, I try to have the intellectual humility to admit that I could be wrong since economics is a very inexact science. Of course, the population controllers could also be wrong. That is why I want to turn in this instance to a science--theology--in which freedom from human error is possible. I am absolutely sure that the RH Bill can do much damage to Philippine society because it promotes artificial contraceptives which are intrinsically evil. I have the infallible authority of the Popes who pronounced many times that "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil (Humanae Vitae, 14). Under this declaration, contraceptive pills, condoms, IUDs, tubal ligation, vasectomy and other forms of artificial contraception are intrinsically evil from the moral point of view.

Before a few Catholic priests or lay people can object that this pronouncement of the Popes is not infallible because it was not made ex cathedra, let me remind them of the teachings of the Second Vatical Council (the fiftieth anniversary of whose opening we will celebrate on October 11, 2012). As any one can read in the document "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" (Lumen Gentium) promulgated on November 21, 1964, "Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful

for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated (Lumen Gentium, 25). In short, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Supreme Pontiff is infallible every time he teaches on matters of dogma or morals, even if he does not teach ex cathedra. His ordinary teaching authority is enough to oblige Catholics to adhere to his teachings.

I have news for Catholics – whether priests or lay people – who maintain that they can still be good Catholics while rejecting the teaching about the intrinsic moral evil of artificial contraceptives. You may not be excommunicated (considered today as too extreme a solution to doctrinal error). But you are violating the obligation to "submit to your bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals." You are willfully refusing to adhere to a teaching on morals (not economics or politics) with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. In short, you can consider yourself a Catholic of good standing only by a wide stretch of your imagination. If you have influence on others because of your position or social standing, you are doing a great damage to the souls of others.

I am very glad that Catholic bishops in the Philippines have been very vocal about the infallible doctrine concerning the intrinsic evil of artificial contraceptives. As Lumen Gentium further states (Ibid.), "Although the bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter's successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teaching concerning matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely."

With those who do not share my Catholic faith, I can only continue to dialogue in a friendly way about the harmful effects on the economy and on society as whole of a contraceptive culture or mentality. I don't expect them to accept lock, stock, and barrel my arguments based on the human sciences. I expect, however, my brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith to seriously consider the points I have raised here about the infallibility of the Pope (and the bishops united to the Pope) in everything that has to do with dogma and morals. The proper use of sex is one hundred percent a moral issue. For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.

08-24-2012, 09:46 AM
Kapag may tagas ang gripo o tubo sa bahay, hindi ba pinapatay muna natin ang tubig sa puno bago natin komponihin ang sira? Oo nga naman, how the hell are you supposed to say, replace a faucet, if you do not first turn the water off at the supply valve.

We do the same thing when we need to fix an electrical problem in the house, pinapatay muna natin ang koryente sa main.

So why the hell is it we can't seem to agree that to fix this thing called the Philippine economy, one of the solutions has to be stopping or minimizing as much as possible the addition to our already prodigious population?

I've had this running discussion on and off for weeks with a good buddy and fellow Gameface member.

Ang tanong ko parati, 100 million na tayong mga Pinoy and still adding on. Is there some kind of point at which, given all of our present realities, the Church will finally admit that maybe that whole natural family planning thing may not be working after all?

Because to me, if natural family planning is the Church's only proffered plan, haven't we been trying this plan since at least the 1970's? Apparently it hasn't worked, because I still see a lot of people who have too many children. And yes, there is such a thing as having too many children.

Nung kasagsagan ni habagat may ibinalita na lalaki na nabaon ng landslide ang bahay niya, ilan sa mga anak niya nasawi. When interviewed I remember he said he had eight kids. Eight kids. Yet he was earning only minimum wage. Is this not a case of a man with too many children?

Under the Kamuning flyover, right across the QCPD building, there is at least two distinct carts each with a couple living out of them. One couple has a new baby. One couple has a new baby, with a one-year old baby in tow. I don't know about the rest of you, but I think those couples have too many children.

Wala kasi silang sapat na kaalaman, sasabihin nung tropa ko. To which I say, like those guys don't have better things to do like say find food from rubbish bins, so that they can go to the local parish and ask about natural family planning. Yeah, lemme know how that works.

We need to give friggin' condoms away, ligating and vasectomizing those who want such. It isn't like we're going to make this mandatory, although personally I think we should.

But of course, what do I know. Holy Mother Church only took a couple hundred years to come around on that whole Galileo brouhaha...

08-27-2012, 07:21 AM
Sinulat ni Mr.Villegas, "Population growth does not lead to mass starvation given the unlimited propensity of the human mind to increase the productivity of the earth's resources. What limits human resources is the propensity of the human will to evil. But that's another thing."

Well, sang-ayon ako sa unang bahagi. Di ako sang-ayon sa ikalawa. At yung huli... that's the thing!

Walang tututol, the human mind can and will harness the resources around him. Eh paano ang business motivation ng paghaharness ng resources na yan?

Palay is sold by farmers to traders at the range of 10-12 pesos per kilo. The regular milled rice we eat cost 30pesos, well milled at 35.

Anong nangyare sa 20 to 23 pesos sa pagitan ng farmer at retailer?

Isang bahagi lang yan ng sanga-sanga ngunit magkakaugnay na usapin.

Ako ay sang-ayon sa RH Bill dahil bibigyan nito ng option ang mag-asawa na pumili ng paraan kung paano nila iko-control ang pagbubuntis ni misis.

Walang tututukan ng baril para gumamit ng anong mang method.

Ano masama kung bigyan ng option ang mag-asawa?

Masama ba na pamahalaan mismo ang tutustos sa mga artificial methods?

Balik tayo sa usaping palay... gaano kalaki ang sudsidy ng mga magsasaka natin? At gaano kalawak ang pagbibigay ng subsidy? Ilan ang umiiyak mula sa hanay ng tutol sa RH Bill sa kalunos-lunos na kalagayan ng mga magsasaka natin?

Isipin niyo, yun mga negosyo sa mga export processing zones, milyon-milyon ang binibigay na incentive sa mga negosyo dyan para maitayo at manatili.

Yang 3 linya ng MRT at LRT, subsidized and mga pamasahe dyan, bakit di yan tirahin tulad ng subsidy na ipapatupad ng RH Bill sa pagbibigay ng mga pills at condom.

Tapos etong isang programa na mas makikinabang ang mas maraming mahirap ay salot daw sa lipunan?

Di makukulong ang sino mang magpasyang di gagamit ang ano mang artficial method.

Ang presyo ng condom ngayon ay higit pa sa isang kilo ng bigas! Ang pills ay humihigit sa kalahating araw na sweldo ng isang minimum wage earner.

Uunahin pa ba bumili ng condom o pills ?

Pero pag nandyan tinigasan si mister o nangalabit si misis...

08-28-2012, 06:10 PM
Do the sponsors of the RH Bill have any projected numbers on Population Growth rates if and when the RH Bill is successfully passed into law, assuming that it is properly implemented throughout the country?

Sam Miguel
08-29-2012, 08:26 AM
By Luis H. Francia

3:12 pm | Monday, August 27th, 2012

NEW YORK—The proposed House Bill 4244, popularly known as the RH Bill, has languished for more than a decade since it was first introduced in 1999. You would think that because of the clear and evident need for sane, government-sponsored family planning and signs of widespread public support for such programs, the bill would by now have become law.

But then most of the public servants who clog up the halls of Congress are not so much interested in being of service to the public—their raison d’etre, after all—as in holding on to power. So there the bill sits, in Congress’s womb, so to speak, a sensible bill waiting to be born but which the institutional Catholic Church patriarchy would love to see aborted. And when these honorable men speak, our solons tremble. To say that the church is backward and medieval is to state the obvious; like in any medieval kingdom, the good bishops, stalwart knights of the realm, are ready to lower the axe on anyone who dares to think independently, who questions the kingdom’s orthodoxy. For to do so is in the end to question their power, the hold that they continue to wield on a supposedly secular state.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines says fervently that it is pro-life, as though the RH bill and its supporters were not. In fact, the CBCP is pro-misery, pro-ignorance, anti-poor, and consistently cross the sacrosanct divide between church and state. Why should single men supposedly without biological families to feed, clothe, and educate, be able to tell lay people how large or small their families should be? And where does it state in the bill that the public is obligated under legal penalties to practice contraception? This isn’t China, with its repressive one-child policy. And when did contraception become abortion? To keep pushing this canard is both disgraceful and hypocritical, and one questions the intelligence, and if not their intelligence, then certainly the morality, of those who insist that the two are one and the same.

Recently, a group of Ateneo de Manila University professors, numbering 192 and from disciplines as varied as the medical sciences, philosophy, and economics, came out with a well-reasoned and forceful statement, urging Congress to pass the RH bill. These professors make it clear that they speak neither for the university, the Society of Jesus, nor for the rest of their colleagues.

They rightly describe the bill: “The RH bill is an equity measure that aims to reduce differential access to reproductive health and family planning services and information. It is the poor—and in particular poor women and their children—who stand to benefit the most from the passage of this bill. And should not the poor be the focal concern of any social institution, be it religion, education, or the government?”

Unfortunately, the poor and the meek have never been the main concern of either government or the Church. This is a Philippine Church that reveals itself to be ossified, looking not to ecumenism or freedom of conscience, or even the current pope’s pronouncement on condoms being acceptable, but to the days when so-called heretics could be and often were burned at the stake. If I had a time travel machine, I would gladly provide these honorable men with passage to the days of the Inquisition, to insure their happiness.

Naturally the CBCP wasn’t pleased with this insurrection within what they presumed to be very much their turf. It accused the professors of heresy, and demanded that the Ateneo administration investigate—though what exactly there was to investigate these honorable men didn’t quite specify. (To her credit Senator Miriam Santiago, not someone I usually praise, has defended the professors, citing both academic freedom and relevant theological points.)

And what has been the official response of Ateneo de Manila University? Its president, Fr. Jett Villarin, makes it clear: “Together with our leaders in the Catholic Church, the Ateneo de Manila University does not support the passage of House Bill 4244. As many of these leaders have pointed out, the present form of the proposed bill contains provisions that could be construed to threaten constitutional rights as well as to weaken commonly shared human and spiritual values.”

With regard to the 192 faculty members who endorse the RH bill, he had this to say: “Though the University must differ from their position for the reasons stated above, I appreciate their social compassion and intellectual efforts and urge them to continue in their discernment of the common good.”

This pronouncement, as Inquirer columnist Randy David wisely points out, sounded “more like the head of a corporate body than as the leader of an intellectual community.” Such a superficial and weak-kneed assessment from the Ateneo comes as no surprise. Has it for instance ever condemned the Church-backed execution of their most illustrious alumnus José Rizal? When did it ever challenge the authority of church leaders? What stance did it take during the dictatorial regime of the Marcoses? By Fr. Villarin’s meekness are we meant to believe these honorable men are infallible? And precisely how the bill undermines constitutional rights he never spells out, for the simple reason that it doesn’t. As the manifesto issued by the professors makes abundantly clear, the bill reinforces the right provided by the Constitution of 1987, that the public have access to affordable and comprehensive health services, including family planning. It is perverse then to believe that legislation that helps the underprivileged somehow threatens “human and spiritual values.”

Nor are the professors alone. According to the university’s campus newspaper, The Guidon, “individuals from Ateneo de Naga University, Ateneo de Davao University, Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan University and Ateneo de Zamboanga University” also added their signatures to the endorsement, bringing the total to 1,439 signatures.

I am an alumnus of this university, and one thing that the Jesuits kept hammering into our heads was that each one of us be a man for others. And indeed there have been many who followed that maxim even at the cost of their lives—Rizal, Emmanuel Lacaba, Ninoy Aquino, Evelio Javier, Edgar Jopson, to name a few—and countless individuals, living and dead, some well-known, most anonymous, whose lives I daresay are more honorable than those of our honorable men of the cloth.

The proposed RH bill is one that makes it possible for this government to be a government for others. Why are the Jesuits backing away from this, a good fight?

Sam Miguel
08-29-2012, 08:29 AM
By: Walden Bello

9:14 pm | Monday, August 27th, 2012

With Congress resuming deliberations after the nation was united in response to the unending rains of early August and brought together in mourning the untimely departure of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, the battle over the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill will again move to center stage.

Let me try to answer the most frequently asked questions on where Congress is at on the bill.

What is the status of the bill?

House Bill 4244, better known as the Responsible Parenthood or Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, is now being discussed in plenary, and we are in the period of amendments in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It was reported out of the Committee on Population of the House as early as January 2011, but the anti-RH forces forced a very long period of interpellation. This ended only when President Aquino, at a special luncheon in Malacanang on August 6, pleaded with members of the House to vote to end the period of interpellation. With the House agreeing to the presidential request and voting viva voce to end the period of interpellation, we advanced to the period of amendments. The Senate has done likewise. But the process has again been delayed by anti-RH forces, like Senator Tito Sotto and Rep. Roilo Golez of Parañaque, who have been filibustering in an effort to prevent the amendment process from moving forward.

What is the strategy of the anti-RH group?

The anti-RH lobby knows that at the moment the pro-RH forces are likely to be in the majority. So their strategy is to prolong the parliamentary process and bring it as close as possible to the national elections in May 2013. There are two reasons behind this strategy. The first is that they hope some of the pro-RH forces will waver and decide against voting for the bill for fear that the Catholic Church hierarchy will tell their Catholic constituents to vote against them. The bishops are stoking the fear of legislators that though there may not be a significant “Catholic vote,” even if as low as three per cent of the electorate listen to their bishop, this can make the difference in close elections, which is often the case in congressional races. The other reason is that once we get to early October, it will be very difficult to muster quorums to take up legislation since most members of the House will be busy with their electoral campaigns.

What is the Church hierarchy up to?

The Catholic Church hierarchy is vehemently against the bill, and this is the reason the bill was bottled up in congressional committees for 14 years. It is only in the current 15th Congress that the bill has been able to reach the plenary. Despite the ecclesiastical campaign against family planning, surveys have shown that the population, more than 80 per cent of which is Catholic, is overwhelmingly in favor of family planning, including artificial contraception, and against efforts by the Church to interfere with couples’ personal decisions on family planning.

With things coming to a climax, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has stepped up its campaign of lies against the bill. For instance, it is attacking the bill as a measure that would lead to abortion. However, the bill is explicitly against abortion, and, if passed, would actually contribute decisively in reducing the estimated 450,000 abortions that now occur annually by giving people seeking to limit their family size access to contraceptives that would prevent unwanted pregnancies. The hierarchy is also asserting that RH would lead to immoral behavior, and that use of condoms would spread HIV-AIDs. These are just three of the many falsehoods and distortions the bishops have spread against the bill.

In addition to actively coaching the anti-RH legislators, the bishops have been mounting demonstrations “of the faithful,” though these have fallen flat in terms of numbers. They have even taken to lobbying Congress directly. Recently, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa City distributed statues of the Virgin Mary to pro-RH legislators, a move that many congressmen interpreted either as a threat or a bribe. My office returned the statue to Arguelles, as we would a monetary bribe.

How will the pro-RH forces cope with delaying tactics?

The pro-RH forces are not without weapons. We are halting the consideration of all other legislative matters, including privileged speeches, unless the bill moves forward to a vote. We will place the onus for the legislative stalemate on the anti-democratic dilatory moves of the anti-RH minority. Some of us are considering even suspending the consideration of the national budget, but only as a last resort, if the anti-RH lobby does not see the light.

What are the chances of the bill passing?

I estimate that we have about 140 sure votes and another 15-20 leaning our way. There are 285 House members, and of this, I think that the solidly anti-RH forces probably number no more than120. So we are battling for some 30-35 undecided or wavering forces. A majority of senators are for the bill. So it’s not the numbers we fear. It’s the delaying tactics, the move to prevent a vote from being taken at all. In my view, however, procedural derailment will not succeed, and we will be able to bring the bill to a vote before the end of September. I am confident that vote will be one that will uphold responsible parenthood, reproductive rights, reason, science, and the national interest,

Sam Miguel
08-29-2012, 08:36 AM
I for one would like to get a definitive number from the Church, i.e. "the Catholic Church in the Philippines says our country with its rpesent resources can still support up to 200 million souls over the next five to ten years. In order to do our share, the Church will order all Catholic schools across the country to cut their tuition and other fees by 50% to give more opportunitites to the less well off in our flock to have the advantages of a good Catholic education, which they will then use to bolster our country's development and thus meet the requirements of housing, feeding, watering, clothing and educating the 200 million souls our country will have by 2017."

If they cannot or will not do that, and all they will do is tell the government to get its act together for the sake of the people, the Church better shut the hell up right now, because that kind of approach is simply not going to cut it.

Sam Miguel
08-30-2012, 09:16 AM
By: Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:45 am | Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Responding to the question I raised in this column the other day—whether Ateneo de Manila University can call itself Catholic and, at the same time, invoke academic freedom—a reader sent me an Internet link to the webpage of Neumann University (http://www.neumann.edu/mission/identity/franciscantradition.asp). This school in Pennsylvania describes itself as “a Catholic university in the Franciscan tradition.”

In describing its mission and purpose as a Catholic university, Neumann draws from Pope John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church). Written in 1990, the document states: “Every Catholic university, as a university, is an academic community which, in a rigorous and critical fashion, assists in the protection and advancement of human dignity and of a cultural heritage through research, teaching and various services offered to the local, national and international communities. It possesses that institutional autonomy necessary to perform its functions effectively and guarantees its members academic freedom, so long as the rights of the individual person and of the community are preserved within the confines of the truth and the common good.”

This highly nuanced statement reflects an attentiveness to the complex issues and opportunities posed by the pursuit of Catholic ideals in an institution that requires institutional autonomy in order to perform its work effectively. There is nothing in the above quote that would not apply in equal measure to a secular university.

The document then proceeds to spell out the “essential characteristics” that set a Catholic university apart from other institutions of higher learning. These are: “1. A Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such; 2. A continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research; 3. Fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church; and 4. An institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life.”

I have read all the statements issued by Ateneo professors on the Reproductive Health bill. First, I did not get the impression that they were speaking for the whole faculty or the entire institution. But, more important, they can very well argue that their views on the RH bill and their decision to express these in public were prompted by the same ideals advocated in Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

The one sentence that could be used to challenge their action is the third: “Fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church.” But, though this sentence may appear clear in the abstract, its meanings in concrete situations are not easily defined. It is true that, in some instances, the leaders of the Church may find it necessary to declare the official position of the hierarchy on a specific issue. But dissent from this, particularly on matters pertaining to public policy, need not always be construed as a challenge to the Church’s teaching authority. Instead of assuming a disciplinary stance, the bishops might usually ask for clarification of statements issued by members of the Church.

The very high complexity that institutions confront in the modern world constrains them from acting like monolithic organizations preoccupied with regulation. This is true not just in the realm of religion but in all the other subsystems of society. No single organization today can encompass the immense complexity of the various domains of social life—not the government for the political system, not the market for the economy, not the school for education.

Perhaps no other pope in the history of the Church understood the unique challenges of the modern world more than Benedict XVI himself. In almost all his encyclicals, he was at pains to define the Church’s basic mission amid social complexity. In modern society where political life is organized under a civil constitution, the Church, says Benedict, can participate only indirectly in the quest for a just social order, leaving this task to the laity. “To form consciences, to be the advocate of justice and truth, to educate in individual and political virtues: that is the fundamental vocation of the Church in this area.”

As I wrote in a previous column, universities worth their name will always defend their autonomy if pressed against the wall. The Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, a famous bastion of liberation theology, recently found itself at the receiving end of the Vatican’s disciplinary action, and it has fought back with vigor. The university was asked to rewrite its statutes to keep them in accord with Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the basic constitution governing Catholic schools. It ignored this request, despite a visit by Vatican officials. In response, the Vatican told the university to stop using “Pontifical” and “Catholic” in its name. The rector himself turned this down. Last July 23, the Vatican ordered the school to turn over all its assets to the archdiocese of Lima. It’s almost certain this will reach the courts and disrupt the work of the university.

Ateneo is not a pontifical university. The recent actions of some members of its faculty for which the school is being called to task pale in comparison to the open defiance shown by the governing body of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Speaking for the school itself, the Jesuits have already said they do not agree with their faculty. Fair enough. Let’s hope the matter ends there.

08-31-2012, 10:29 AM
I'd like to have the Church pay taxes.

Put your money where your mouth is. You want to help in the national development, PAY TAXES.

Give up this feudal privilege of being exempt from taxes, render unto Caesar, and live by example.

Andami gustong mangyari ng Simbahan natin para lang hindi matuloy ang kahit anong batas ng RH, ayaw naman mag-ambag ng tunay na ambag sa pamamagitan ng pagbayad ng buwis.

Can you imagine how much the government will earn on real estate taxes alone given the vast Church-owned properties in our country? Kalabas-labas niyan baka nga maging biggest real estate tax payer ang Simbahan. If they do that, then by all means get in the face of government all you want for no good reason, you've earned it.

Sam Miguel
09-04-2012, 09:05 AM
By Juan L. Mercado

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:21 pm | Monday, September 3rd, 2012

“He looks like (a) severe Renaissance pope: tall, elegant and bony, with grey hair combed smoothly back, a beak of a nose and piercing blue eyes,” the Economist wrote in April 1998. “(Carlo Maria Martini) might have stepped out of a canvas by Raphael. But looks can mislead.”

The cardinal archbishop of Milan died Aug. 31. He was 85. Thousands filed past the coffin of a priest considered in the 2005 conclave as a “papabile” or future Pope.

Martini’s death leaves the College of Cardinals with 206 members. Of these, only 118 are under 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave. The only Filipino cardinal, Ricardo Vidal of Cebu, is almost 81. The next two red hats could go to Manila’s Archbishop Luis Tagle and Cebu’s Jose Palma, observers bet.

To his last breath, Martini, the biblical scholar and author who reluctantly agreed to be ordained cardinal, remained a “shaker and stirrer.” “The Catholic Church is 200 years behind the times,” Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera quotes Martini from his last interview before his death. “Our culture has grown old,” Martini noted. “Our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up. Our religious rites and vestments are pompous.”

The cardinal believed that the Church should adopt a more generous attitude towards divorced persons. Otherwise, it will lose the allegiance of future generations. The issue is not whether divorced couples can receive communion, but how the Church can help complex family situations.

In 2008, Martini criticized the prohibition of birth control, saying the stance had driven many faithful away, BBC recalls. In 2006, he argued condoms could “in some situations, be a lesser evil”—which Benedict XVI echoed last year. To conquer the tiredness of the Church, a “radical transformation, beginning with the Pope and his bishops” is urgent. “The child sex scandals oblige us to undertake a journey of transformation.”

“Did a Piece of Wood Change Church History?” is an insightful story on Martini. This was published in this week’s issue of America.

Thomas Fitzpatrick, S.J, drove Martini to the Jerusalem airport and said: “Carlo, I know you do not want to be Pope. I am your religious superior. As Jesuits, we are supposed to obey superiors. If you are elected, please accept. We both laughed.”

“I’ve seen the TV coverage,” Fitzpatrick told Martini when he returned. “I know you don’t have to use a cane. But you used it to demonstrate how sick you are. Am I correct?”

“Yes,” Martini said.

“After that, in the Jesuit house in Jerusalem,” Fitzpatrick narrated, “I’d point to the cardinal’s cane and say: ‘Here is the piece of wood that changed the direction of the Catholic Church.’”

Half a world away, Martini would have recognized similarities in the conflicts that rock Church bureaucrats and the faithful here in the controversy over House Bill 4244 or the “Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development” bill.

The 192 faculty members of Ateneo de Manila University, who declared support for HB 4244, should be investigated, Episcopal Commission on Canon Law Bishop Leandro Medroso asserted in an interview over Radio Veritas. They could be fired for teaching students concepts contrary to Church teachings; excommunication is possible, he said. And in a full-page Inquirer ad, Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Villaruz Reyes singled out constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas for criticism.

Why? Like Cardinal Martini, this Filipino Jesuit did nothing more than reiterate the Catholic teaching on the issue in his Inquirer column, among other fora. Here are some Bernas excerpts:

“Public defense of gospel values, however, especially when carried into the arena of public policy formulation, whether through the advocacy of lay leaders or the moral suasion by pastors, is not without limit,” the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines taught.

“Pastors have the liberty to participate in policy debate and formulation. (But) that liberty must not be exercised to the detriment of the religious freedom of non-communicants, or even of dissenting communicants…. This is not just a matter of prudence; it is a matter of justice.”

“There may be some Catholic believers who, in all honesty, do not see truth the way the Church’s magisterium discerns, interprets and teaches it. (Here) the Church must clearly and firmly teach what it believes is the truth and require its members to form their consciences accordingly.

“Yet the Church must also, with all charity and justice, hold on to its doctrine on religious freedom—that the human person is bound to follow his or her conscience faithfully, and must not be forced to act contrary to it.

“When a bishop tells a pro-RH bill candidate that his diocese will campaign against him or her… the bishop no longer seeks to persuade about the reasonableness of the Church’s position. (He) is appealing to the legislator’s instinct of self-preservation. Such a tactic is counter-productive to the formation of a kind of politics based on principles. It reinforces a way of practicing politics that values expediency rather than service, justice and the common good.

“The threat against candidates would be meaningful if there were such a thing as a Catholic vote. In its ‘Catechism on Church and Politics for the 1998 elections,’ CBCP itself denied the existence of a Catholic vote: There is generally no such thing as a ‘Catholic vote’ or ‘the Bishops’ candidates.’ This is simply a myth. It still is today.”

Indeed, the old church of the diktat has yet to complete its transition to the church of religious freedom.

Sam Miguel
09-05-2012, 08:21 AM
By Cathy Yamsuan, Leila Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:26 am | Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson believes a majority of senators, at least 14 by his count, will vote in favor of the reproductive health (RH) bill.

Lacson did not say if he was one of the 14 but he is known to have authored one of the versions of the bill that was incorporated into the one that Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor-Santiago submitted a year ago.

“Unless some (senators) change their minds, 14 it is,” he declared Tuesday.

This could be why anti-RH Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Majority Leader Vicente Sotto are doing everything they can “so the measure would not reach the period of amendments,” Lacson said.

Enrile and Sotto earlier warned that proposed amendments to the RH bill could prolong discussions on the measure because many of the senators wanted to introduce individual amendments to the bill.

Enrile even warned that the discussions could last until the very end of the 15th Congress in early June after the May 2013 elections.

Lacson said he came up with the number 14 based on his conversations with the other senators.

Aside from the 14 pro-RH senators, others who may still be making up their minds could still be convinced to support it once the so-called “snowball effect” takes place, he said.

Lacson said he had seen this happen during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“Once it appeared that (Corona) would be convicted, it became more comfortable for the rest to cast a vote for conviction,” Lacson said.

Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate women and family relations committee, said the efforts of the anti-RH senators to delay the vote on the bill had become so obvious that they bordered on the embarrassing.

She said that if her colleagues could work until late at night to guarantee the approval of the annual budget, they could be motivated to pass the RH bill and not invoke lack of time as an excuse.

“What time do we go home? We get to go home at 6 p.m. Every day I say I am ready to continue the deliberations on the RH bill. Why all of a sudden there’s no time?” she said.

Cayetano said she and Santiago were willing to accept amendments to the measure and allayed fears that changes to the version that may be approved by the Senate would be altered at the bicam.

“Let’s not be dramatic about it. It is a bill that is important. Obviously, we will accept amendments… Let’s just do it. Enough of the drama, let’s just go through the process,” she said.

Cayetano’s warning

Cayetano said she would reject all attempts to junk the RH bill at this point, warning that she will move to put it to a vote if pushed.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona stressed during a Senate budget hearing Tuesday that the RH bill was one of the pieces of “critical legislation” needed for the country to achieve its United Nations Medium-Term Development Goals (MDG).

“We need to pass the RH bill. To reach our MDG targets, critical legislation must be passed to address the barriers (to development),” Ona said.

In an effort to put an end to dilatory tactics, name calling and other contentious aspects of the RH bill proceedings, leaders of the House of Representatives have proposed the creation of an informal technical working group to come up with a more acceptable version of the measure as well as a timetable so that it could finally put to a vote.

The proposed members of the “informal” technical working group (TWG) are the House, the Senate, the executive brand, “reasonable” Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines officials and the measure’s authors.

Antipoverty measure

It is proposed that the TWG discuss the latest major amendment to the bill, which is to limit the providing of contraceptives to the poorest of the poor, thereby making the bill an antipoverty measure, said House Deputy Majority Leader Janette Garin.

It will also discuss how the amendments would be introduced and when the bill would be put to a vote, so that it would not be mired in delays.

Garin said the TWG should be a forum where frank and direct talks could be held so that the differences could be discussed and threshed out. It would also be a kind of “shortcut” to avoid heated exchanges and dilatory speeches in plenary, she said.

The formation of the group would allow lawmakers to move away from the parliamentary warfare that has marked the bill’s proceedings.

With the TWG, she hopes the reproductive health bill could be put to a final vote before the year ends. She could not as of yet name the individual members of the group.

An opponent of the bill, Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez, said he was amenable to the idea of a TWG, but since he was known as a hard-line opponent of the measure, he would desist from participating in the talks. Other hard liners, including the authors of the measure, should not be part of the group as well, Golez added.

Only the moderates should be involved, he said, as this would ensure a good, mutually acceptable compromise bill.

“Hardliners by experience find it extremely difficult to compromise,” he said.

The proposal to limit the providing of contraceptives to the poorest of the poor stemmed from the objection of local Catholic Church officials and other opponents to the wholesale promotion and provision of contraceptives, said Garin.

Sam Miguel
09-06-2012, 08:36 AM
By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:42 am | Thursday, September 6th, 2012

The controversial population control bill moved on in the Senate Wednesday, although its main opponent said it wasn’t needed in a country where people were not multiplying like rabbits but rather had stopped dying like flies.

Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III ended the fourth and last stage of his turno en contra speech against the reproductive health (RH) bill with a reminder that there were enough laws and programs for maternal health and almost P8 billion set aside in the national budget for population control.

There’s even no reason to control the number of births in the country, Sotto said, who sounded more like an academic citing sources in an obvious move to deflect any charges of plagiarism that followed his first speech.

After insinuating that the Senate leadership was delaying consideration of the bill, the author of the proposed measure, Senator Pia Cayetano, got her wish for the chamber to start with the period of amendments following a similar move in the House of Representatives last month to end debates and introduce proposed alterations.

13 amendments

The floor later allowed Cayetano to introduce 13 committee amendments to the RH bill. Each of the amendments, including the change in the title of the bill, was unanimously adopted by the Senate for scrutiny.

The phrase population and development was deleted from the title that now reads, “An Act Providing for National Policy on Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood.”

“Our numbers didn’t double because we suddenly started breeding like rabbits. They doubled because we stopped dying like flies,” Sotto said, quoting author Steven Mosher’s book “Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits.”

Sotto said the fertility rate of an average of six children for every mother in 1960 had decreased to just 2.6 in 2002.

In contrast, he said, life expectancy rose from 46 in 1950 to 1955 to 65 in 2000 to 2005.

“The rise in life expectancy was most dramatic in countries that aren’t quite developed. The lives of people in these areas rose from 41 to 63.5 years,” Sotto said.

No shortage of laws

Sotto listed 23 laws and government programs to promote the health of mothers, including the Magna Carta for Women and the National Strategy towards Reducing Unmet Need for Modern Family Planning as a Means to Achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals on Maternal Health.

“We can see that there is no absence of laws on reproductive health in the country. We have many laws that are more inclusive, stronger and more detailed compared to the RH bill,” he said.

“In other words, the problem here isn’t the absence of laws but the need for correct and effective implementation of the laws that we have. This is not the duty of Congress but of the executive branch of our government.”

Sotto also mentioned nine items in the national budget already devoted to reproductive health worth P7.8 billion.

“Even without the RH bill, the government is already spending almost P8 billion to address the problems the RH bill seeks to solve,” Sotto said.


The drama came when Senator Pia Cayetano questioned Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s interpellation of Sotto, suggesting a charade in progress noting that the two of them were opposed to the measure.

“I know for a fact that the majority leader and the Senate leader are both anti-RH so I would like to ask what is the objective of the two of them debating,” Cayetano told Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who was presiding at that time.

Sotto lashed back at Cayetano, saying it was “unethical to impute any motive” on the interpellation.

Cayetano countered that she wasn’t imputing any motive on anyone but only wanted to know what the purpose was of Enrile’s interpellation when he and Sotto were both against the RH bill.

Enrile irritated

She also mentioned persistent reports in the media indicating that the Senate discussions on the RH bill would already be moved to the next Congress in 2013. She said she was already prepared to answer questions and to present amendments to the bill.

Initially calm, Enrile’s irritation showed when he addressed the issue of the Senate leadership allegedly delaying the passage of the RH bill—an administration measure.

“I’ve been in the Senate for a long long time already. And I’ve never been asked to say the purpose of my interpellation,” Enrile said. “I never used any dilatory tactic… against the passage of any bill. Every question I ask here has relevance to the question at hand.”

Enrile said he knew that Cayetano was eager to pass the proposed population law, “but I have my own notion of what the national interest is.”

“Nobody has a monopoly of wisdom about the national interest,” he said. “I resent any implication that I’m here to derail or obstruct the passage of this bill… Nobody can dictate on me whoever you are.”

Sam Miguel
09-07-2012, 09:12 AM
Senate deletes provisions on abortion, contraceptives

By Norman Bordadora, , Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:06 am | Friday, September 7th, 2012

Sen. Pia Cayetano on Wednesday night moved for the deletion of an entire subsection in the Senate RH bill that Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said could be used to effectively legalize abortion in the country. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The Senate has removed controversial provisions that purportedly promote abortion and the use of birth control devices in a bid to break a deadlock in its version of the reproductive health (RH) bill.

Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada on Thursday said the upper chamber was evenly split 10-10 on the measure a day after contentious issues were addressed, with three senators still undecided. He disagreed with Senator Panfilo Lacson that 14 senators supported the bill in its current form.

“I will have to read it all over again, including the amendments,” Estrada said. “A lot of senators are still going to amend the provisions of the bill.”

Senator Pia Cayetano on Wednesday night moved for the deletion of an entire subsection in the Senate RH bill that Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said could be used to effectively legalize abortion in the country.

Cayetano also moved to amend the provision including certain family planning supplies and drugs in the government’s essential list of medicines.

Both committee amendments that Cayetano introduced on the floor “to put the issue to rest and allay fears that the RH bill will promote abortion” were adopted unanimously.


One amendment deleted the provision that said, “While this Act does not amend the penal law on abortion, the government shall ensure that all women needing care for postabortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, nonjudgmental and compassionate manner.”

A new subsection was inserted saying that “abortion is a criminal act in accordance with existing laws,” said Cayetano, principal author of the bill which went into the period of amendments on Wednesday night after Sotto’s series of speeches blasting the proposed measure.

“Filipinos are known to espouse a culture of kindness and empathy. We uphold the tradition of reaching out and extending genuine care and concern for our countrymen in need, more so for women who are pregnant and in need of special care,” Cayetano said.

The other amendment said that the Philippine National Drug Formulary System should be observed in including or excluding birth control supplies in the essential list of medicines “in accordance with existing practice.”

In his turno en contra speech, Sotto said providing care for women needing postabortion complications could pave the way for unscrupulous doctors and midwives to conduct abortions in the open.

In the House of Representatives, lawmakers said they would attempt to discuss with representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) their objections to its version of the RH bill, which is also in the period of amendments.

No party position

House leaders said that President Benigno Aquino was watching developments on the measure and could intervene again, as he did last month to end debates after 12 years and move the measure to its second stage.

In his State of the Nation Address in July, the President pushed for the immediate passage of the measure regarded as an essential component of his economic development program.

Cavite Representative Joseph Abaya said the ruling Liberal Party had not talked about a common position on the issue, and even the President was being prudent.

“This is not like the impeachment,” said the party’s secretary general, referring to the swift vote in December in the lower house that led to the ouster of then Chief Justice Renato Corona. “There are certain other non-political issues involved so he has been very careful,” Abaya said in a press briefing.

Abaya also said both sides were hopeful that a proposed working group, which would possibly include Catholic bishops and opponents and supporters of the bill, would produce results.

With positive results, an intervention from the President may be unnecessary, he added.

Aquino as arbiter

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said it was difficult for the President to issue marching orders because opposition to the bill also concerned religious belief.

While Congress wants to maintain its independence, an issue that has split the House right down the middle is difficult to resolve and may need the President as an “arbiter,” Gonzales said.

“We will always be extending our hands of compromise,” Gonzales said when asked about the reported rejection by the bishops of the proposed technical working group.

Lawmakers intend to take advantage of the two-week break after budget deliberations and before the House resumes sessions to discuss issues in the panel.

They would present a compromise version of the bill, in which the distribution of contraceptives would be limited to the poorest of the poor, who could not afford these.

“It will give us the opportunity to hear the side of the bishops. After all, if it would be okay with them, maybe they would be able to convince House members who are stricter than the bishops to agree to the bill,” Gonzales said.

Sam Miguel
09-11-2012, 01:03 PM
Arnold Cafe

The Vatican has been in fierce opposition to the use of all contraception including condom, it is for this reason why the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is against the Reproductive Health bill (RH bill).

However, this time Pope Benedict has ended the Catholic church absolute ban on the use of condoms after the Pope realized that its usage can reduce the risk of infection from AIDS.

He stressed that abstinence was the best policy in fighting the disease but in some circumstances it was better for a condom to be used if it protected human life.

The announcement is in a book to be published by the Vatican this week based on the first face-to-face interview given by a Pope.

While the Pope restated the Catholic Church’s staunch objections to contraception because it believes that it interferes with the creation of life, he argued that using a condom to preserve life and avoid death could be a responsible act, even outside marriage.

So it’s now clear that the Pope’s foremost consideration is to preserve life and avoid death even it’s off from the sanctity of wedlock .

The provisions of the RH bill that is now under deliberation in Congress is just perfect in women’s lives protection as well as their babies due to unwanted pregnancy that eventually could lead to abortion because natural contraception methods fail.

In this case the use of artificial contraception just to preserve life is morally justifiable and the best option reliable.

Pope Benedict’s historic flip-flapping meant that he recognizes logical approach to the problem that his stand on the issue is not that absolute, after all he is just like any other human being, hence, not infallible.

Last year the Pope’s statement has caused controversy by suggesting that condom use could actually worsen the problem of AIDS in Africa. But now he is saying something that totally devoids his previous statement and accordingly makes a 180 degree turnaround on the issue.

The recent ruling by the Pope on contraception has dramatically weakened the CBCP’s position when the Pope opts for preservation of life rather than just the creation of life which is why the Catholic church is against in any form of contraception.

In a face to face interview with the Pope he admits he was stunned by the sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church and raises the possibility of the circumstances under which he would consider resigning.

The Pope gives his most personal account of the distress caused to him by the clerical sex abuse scandal, with particular reference to Germany and Ireland.

The 83-year-old Pontiff says in passages published exclusively in The Sunday Telegraph today that he is aware his ‘forces are diminishing’.

Sam Miguel
09-24-2012, 11:59 AM
By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:42 am | Monday, September 24th, 2012

I have been getting a fair share of comments on my columns and blog posts about the Reproductive Health bill issue. As one would expect, not everyone is willing to raise me to sainthood. Some would even consign me to the darker regions. It is interesting to note, however, that the comments are almost all anonymous, whatever that means.

At any rate, what I found touching, if that is the right word, is the comment which said: “I admire your objective take on the issue and I agree with you on most points, but please, Father, Catholics read your articles and some are confused.”

In all fairness, I should say something to those who might be getting confused.

I suppose some get confused because they wonder if I am still a priest or even a Catholic loyal to Mother Church. I can assure them I am. Otherwise, my superiors, who know me well, would be going after me with flagellation cords. More importantly, what might also confuse some is when I analyze issues from the point of view of constitutional law.

For me, that is inevitable. Aside from having been preaching as a priest since 1965, I have also been teaching constitutional law since 1966. Necessarily, therefore, both Catholic teaching and constitutional law have become part of me. I hold that one can agree perfectly with the official teaching of the Church and live it even if one cannot enshrine that same teaching as part of constitutional law. It is necessary to maintain the distinction between religion and constitutional law even when adhering to both.

This duality of adherence is possible because religion and constitutional law operate in two different spheres. Religion deals chiefly with the relation between man and God and between man and man, while constitutional law, especially the Bill of Rights, deals with the relation between man and the state.

Let me illustrate this through the teaching on contraception. The teaching of the Church on contraception is found in various documents. But Church teaching is not accepted by a vast number of people. Persons who adhere to Humanae Vitae, etc. and act in the sphere of the relation of man to God are expected to plan their family according to the principles of the Church teaching. But these same persons should not be faulted if in the sphere of constitutional law they do not oppose a state plan that is not in accordance with Humanae Vitae, etc. Religious liberty in the constitutional plane does not simply mean freedom to choose what to believe but also freedom to act or not to act according to one’s belief.

This is the same with the teaching on natural law. Confusion can also be avoided by making a distinction between the area of philosophy and that of constitutional law.

Indeed, many philosophers who have dealt with natural law agree about its basic structure. While there may be agreement among them about the primary precepts, they often differ in the secondary conclusions that they draw. But, while the issue of whose secondary conclusion is right or wrong is central to philosophical or religious discourse, it is not the issue in constitutional discourse. In constitutional discourse, the issue is what the state may do with the various philosophical secondary precepts. It is similar to the issue of religion. The state does not judge which religion is right or wrong. Just as the state may not prefer one religion over another or over others, so also the state may not prefer one secondary natural law principle over others. Thus, the state cannot be bound to prefer the secondary natural law conclusion that contraception is against human nature. It simply can give everyone a smorgasbord of non-abortifacient contraceptive choices but leave each one to decide what is good for them or not.

This brings us to the use by the state of public money for the support of family planning services. Support for family planning is definitely a public use and public purpose. How this is to be done is addressed to the wisdom of the state. Again, if we must enter into the area of constitutional jurisprudence, necessity is not required to justify public expenditure. All that is required is reasonable probability of benefit.

The argument has sometimes been used that the use of tax money to support the goals of the RH bill will violate the religious belief of those against the RH bill. Since paying taxes is obligatory, so the argument goes, opponents of the RH bill will have been forced to pay for something against their conscience. It will be hard to find support for that argument in the constitutional jurisprudence. If we push this argument to its logical conclusion, the state can be paralyzed. How will the state verify which money in the treasury was paid by Catholics, or by Protestants, or by Muslims? And which money can the state use for what purpose? The fact is that tax money, once it enters into the public treasury, has no religious face. It is simply money at the disposal of the state for public use.

There are also more comments based on the secular sciences. But there are others who are in a better position to deal with them than I am.

Finally, to end on a lighter note, the comments on my pieces can also be amusing. One such is this one: “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” I thought I was trying to lift the burden. But who was it who said that even the devil can quote Scripture?

09-25-2012, 01:19 PM
By John Nery

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:35 pm | Monday, September 17th, 2012

After 45 De La Salle University professors issued a statement in support of the Reproductive Health bill early this month, a distinguished alumnus of La Salle (and Harvard) wrote a powerful rejoinder. I cannot agree with all the points raised by Bernardo M. Villegas (or BMV, as we all referred to him at the Center for Research and Communication where I worked two decades ago), but I thought his response was both muscular and gracious, emphatic and respectful, at the same time.

“I would like to engage in a friendly dialogue with my fellow La Sallites,” he wrote. He first sought, and found, common ground with the professors: “Let me start, however, with the truths contained in their declaration on which we agree”—listing a handful of such truths (as it happens, mostly premises the professors used to reach their pro-RH conclusions).

And then: “What I find faulty in their reasoning is the unscientific statement that Philippine poverty can be attributed to the large size of the population in general …” In fact, the professors were not as categorical, pointing to the “current population level” as “only one—albeit important—factor [in] the worsening quality of life of Filipinos.”

He ended with the now-familiar argument against so-called cafeteria Catholics: “The teaching on the intrinsic evil of artificial contraception binds the consciences of all Catholics who want to remain faithful to all teachings of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church on all matters touching on morals and dogma. A Catholic in good standing cannot be nitpicking and claim that he will adhere only to those teachings on morals that have been declared ex cathedra.”

* * *

I must confess that the argument from nitpicking strikes me as a two-edged sword: It is equally applicable to those Catholics who, say, do not adhere to the Church’s social doctrine—a growing body of teachings that bears witness to the Church’s belief in the dignity of human life not only at the moment of conception but ever afterwards. (In other words, and as I have read elsewhere, the true Catholic position is pro-life, not merely pro-birth.) The insult “cafeteria Catholic,” therefore, can be aimed also at those Catholics who fight for the rights of the unborn but shrug their shoulders when they see street children scavenging for food among the garbage bins. The poor you shall always have with you—didn’t Christ himself say that?

* * *

I thought BMV’s response which, if I understand the sequence right, started on Facebook and then ran in his Bulletin column, was bracingly different in tone and attitude from the exchanges that usually follow any new development in the RH bill issue. It was neither intemperate nor condescending; and unlike the advertisement ran by Bishop Gabriel Reyes or the essay by Fr. Charles Belmonte addressed to the “Dissenter,” it does its addressees the courtesy of calling them out by name.

Above all, the response seems to promise a readiness to dialogue. But is dialogue between and among divided Catholics on the issue of reproductive health and responsible parenthood still possible?

Count me among the hopeful, but I also realize that some might insist that the necessary framework for dialogue presupposes the existence, and the acknowledgment, of error. If the Church or its representatives approach a national issue from the perspective of infallibility—to quote from Vatican II: “The body of the faithful as a whole … cannot err in matters of belief”—how can any real dialogue take place?

I am among those who believe that in fact the Church evolves its position on many things, including some doctrinal ones, because of two limitations (I refer to Pope Paul VI’s 1973 “Declaration in Defense of the Catholic Doctrine of the Church Against Certain Errors of the Present Day”): imperfect human understanding of the “hidden mysteries of God,” and the historical condition “that affects the expression of Revelation.”

According to the Church’s own understanding of “historical condition,” the “meaning of the pronouncements of faith depends partly upon the expressive power of the language used at a certain point in time and in particular circumstances.” It also depends partly on whether “some dogmatic truth is first expressed incompletely (but not falsely), and at a later date, when considered in a broader context of faith or human knowledge, it receives a fuller and more perfect expression.”

Even more to the point, the declaration then states: “In addition, when the Church makes new pronouncements she intends to confirm or clarify what is in some way contained in Sacred Scripture or in previous expressions of Tradition; but at the same time she usually has the intention of solving certain questions or removing certain errors.”

That is worth repeating: In the unceasing act of perfecting expression, the Church’s intent is to remove certain errors.

Will the Church’s current view of artificial contraception as intrinsically evil be revealed, under the aspect of eternity, to be an unfortunate error?

* * *

The Church does make mistakes. Its teaching on its relationship with the Jews, and on the Jewish people’s role in the economy of salvation, for instance, has evolved drastically over time. The tragic background of a thousand-plus years of erroneous tradition gives the Vatican II document “Nostra Aetate” its haunting, peculiar power. “Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.”

* * *

Sam Miguel
10-19-2012, 09:06 AM
House new RH bill targets foes’ concerns

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:26 am | Friday, October 19th, 2012

A watered-down version of the reproductive health bill has been introduced to the plenary of the House of Representatives to address the concerns raised by opponents of the controversial measure.

The changes include giving priority to the poor in the provision of birth control methods and banning contraceptives that prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum, as this is considered abortion by some sectors.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the new version was a “definite step forward” for the bill, which has met strong opposition in and out of Congress.

“It’s a bill that answers a lot of the objections to the original bill,” Belmonte said Thursday.

Some of the opponents will find the new version more acceptable “with a little more tinkering,” although there are those who still find it hard to accept such a measure, he said.


Authors of the bill intend to substitute the watered-down bill to the original one so that the compromise measure would be the basis of proposed individual amendments later, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II told reporters on Wednesday night.

Gonzales said copies of the “proposed working draft” of the new bill were being distributed to lawmakers so that they could peruse it during Congress’ two-week break that started Thursday, and make a more informed decision about their stand on the bill.

The proposed Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development Act is one of the “very important” bills that the House has to act on when it returns from its two-week recess, Belmonte told lawmakers before the House adjourned on Wednesday.

One of the main authors of the bill, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, said the new features of the bill were intended to address the objections, reservations and concerns of its critics. These were in addition to the other changes that the authors announced earlier.

Suggestions accommodated

“The foregoing new and old acceptable amendments do not dilute or destroy the essence of the original bill even as they accommodate the suggestions and concerns of well-meaning [opponents],” Lagman said in a statement.

The new version says the state would prioritize the needs of poor households when it comes to providing reproductive healthcare services and devices.

The impoverished men and women to be provided services must be identified through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction and other government methods of identifying marginalization. They must also be voluntary beneficiaries of reproductive healthcare, services and supplies for free.

The new bill also says that the state should guarantee public access to relevant information and education on medically safe, legal, ethical, affordable, effective and quality reproductive health-care services, methods, devices and supplies.

These methods and supplies must not prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum, as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the draft bill said.

Prohibited devices

Gonzales explained that the prohibition against devices that would prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum stemmed from concerns raised by opponents who said that contraceptives that destroy fertilized ovum were considered abortifacients.

Other contraceptives not considered abortifacients are those that prevent ovulation and those that prevent fertilization.

The new draft bill also recognizes parents’ religious beliefs when it comes to exercising their reproductive health rights.

Responsible parenthood

The compromise measure defines responsible parenthood as the will, ability and commitment of parents to adequately respond to the needs and aspirations of the family and children by responsibly and freely exercising their reproductive health rights consistent with their religious conviction.

The draft bill also requires the state to promote openness to life and adds that parents should only have children that they could raise in a “truly humane way.”

Population targets dropped

Another new provision requires state funding to promote modern and natural methods of family planning consistent with the needs of acceptors.

There would also be no demographic and population targets. The mitigation, promotion or stabilization of the population growth rate would just be incidental to the advancement of reproductive health and sustainable human development.


The new draft bill also states that when it comes to family planning information and services, making women of reproductive age fully aware of their respective fertility cycles shall be the priority.

Reproductive health and sexuality education shall also be done with due deference to cultural, religious and ethical norms of various communities.

Sectarian schools would be given flexibility in teaching reproductive health and sexuality education, within the provisions and parameters of the section on age-appropriate mandatory reproductive health and sexuality education.

The FDA would also be required to update the Philippine National Drug Formulary with respect to modern family planning products and supplies in accordance with standard medical practice.

Sam Miguel
10-23-2012, 08:57 AM
No to RH Bill

By Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas


2:01 am | Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

In the unlikely event that the RH Bill will be finally be put to a vote in the House of Representatives before the current session is over, every member of Congress should vote a resounding NO TO THE RH BILL. A law based on the assumption of the desirability of birth or population control is pure economic nonsense when all the kudos and praises being heaped on the Philippine economy by international organizations—both governmental and private—are citing the advantages of a growing and young population. A recent report from Bloomberg (one of the leading business news agencies) was just headlined “Philippines Leads in Demographic Dividend of Supply of Young Workers.” The very bullish article about the Philippines—just echoing many others that have come out since the beginning of the current year—pointed out that the so-called demographic dividend from a rising supply of young workers is one reason Japan’s second-largest shipbuilder expanded in the Philippines, where workers are on average half the age of its Japanese employees. Chua Hak Bin, an economist in Singapore at Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch division agrees: “The Philippines is a ‘standout’ among countries set to benefit from a bigger labor pool, with its rate of economic expansion likely to rise as much as 1.5 percentage points higher during the next decade.”

Passing the RH Bill would literally be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Already China and Thailand—still with relatively large populations—are suffering from labor shortages because of the rapid aging of their populations over the last decade or so. Such a negative demographic trend can be traced to very aggressive birth control programs that were based on artificial contraceptives and, in the case of China, on coercion and abortion. China and Thailand may be the first important countries in the history of humanity to grow old before becoming rich. They clearly illustrate the folly of a population management program that always leads to the unintended effect of cutting fertility rates to abnormally low levels which have very deleterious effects on the national economy.

The Philippines does not need any population management program because its fertility rate is already rapidly falling. Within a generation, the fertility rate of the Philippines will be at below-replacement level of 2.1 babies per fertile woman. Today, thanks to a large population, the Philippines is one of the few countries whose GDP still growing at 6 per cent or more because its businesses can sell to a lucrative domestic market even as exports suffer a dramatic slowdown. In contrast, territories with small populations like Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong will suffer from very slow or no economic growth this year because of their heavy dependence on exports.

If Congress passes the RH Bill, they will plant the seed of a contraceptive mentality among married couples, as has happened in all the Northeast Asian countries who are now suffering from a severe “demographic winter.” We must find some ways of eradicating poverty, building more classrooms, and reducing maternal and child mortalities without nurturing a very counterproductive contraceptive culture in Philippine society.

Besides economic science, there are other sciences that can demonstrate that the RH Bill, if passed, will do more harm than good. Certain types of contraceptive pills (not all) can kill babies. Because medical science has demonstrated that human life begins at fertilization, certain “abortifacient” pills kill human life because they act on the human embryo after fertilization. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology pronounced that the IUD (intrauterine device) brings about the destruction of the early embryo (187: 1699 -1708). Furthermore, the International Agency for Research on Cancer reported in 2007 that the contraceptive pill causes cancer, giving it the highest level of carcinogenicity, the same as cigarettes and asbestos. According to a publication of the American Heart Association (33: 1202 – 1208), pills also cause stroke, and significantly increase the risk of heart attacks.

In the social sciences, there are findings that the contraceptive lifestyle destroys the very foundation of society, the family. According to Nobel prize winner George Akerlof, who combines the study of economics and psychology, contraceptives tend to degrade marriage and lead to more extramarital sex, more fatherless children, more single mothers and more psychologically troubled adolescents. His findings are purely empirical in nature and have no moral undertones. Also, contrary to the claims of the proponents of the RH Bill, condoms promote the spread of AIDS. Harvard Director of AIDS Prevention, Edward C. Green, once wrote that according to the best evidence available, condoms give a false sense of security and prompt people to be more reckless in assuming sexual risks, thus worsening the spread of the sexually transmitted diseases. Thailand, which has the highest incidence of AIDS-HIV in East Asia, could be cited as a testimony to this.

As the ongoing global crisis unfolds, there are more and more arguments that can be mustered against the proponents of the RH Bill. These up-to-date findings deserve to be aired in the floor debates. There is an estimate that some 80 members of the House of Representatives have not made up their minds about the pros and cons of the RH Bill. They still need to be enlightened. If the majority of the House, however, should decide otherwise, i.e., that it is time to put to vote this contentious and very controversial bill that is unnecessarily dividing the country during a crucial moment of our national life, then let everyone who is really thinking of the common good of Philippine society vote NO TO THE RH BILL.

Sam Miguel
10-23-2012, 08:58 AM
Watered-down RH bill OK, say some backers

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:47 am | Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

A “watered-down” reproductive health (RH) bill would be acceptable to some of its supporters as long as it achieves its purpose of swaying opponents and ambivalent lawmakers into backing the controversial measure, according to a representative.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat on Monday said RH bill proponents had agreed on the amendments in the hope that they would lead to the passage of the controversial measure.

“It’s fine by me, but only if it’s going to get a significant number of anti-RH lawmakers to support the bill. Otherwise, if the math stays the same, we just compromised for nothing,” he said.

Baguilat explained that despite the softening of the bill’s language, the core and intent of the measure remained.

“Admittedly, the language has been styled and some provisions diluted as a concession to its oppositors. But it’s still a population policy that mandates, among other things, state procurement and distribution of contraceptives to those who don’t have access to them,” he said.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, cosponsor of the contentious bill, said it was time to put it to a vote after the senators had argued all the issues surrounding the bill.

“It (has) become very transparent that other people just want to delay the bill for the sake of delay,” she said in a radio interview the other day.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said her group was amenable to the amendments that simply “elaborate and particularize existing provisions.”

The amendments also reinforce Gabriela’s position that the RH bill must ensure that poor women should have priority access to health services, and it must not be a population control measure, Ilagan said.

The latest version of the bill, which was intended to replace the original version, prioritizes the distribution of contraceptives to the poorest of the poor, who have no access or cannot afford these devices that would help them plan their family size.

It also prohibits contraceptives which prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum in the uterus, which are deemed abortifacients.

House leaders earlier said the new version of the bill was crafted in response to the opposition raised against the original measure, which sought to provide universal information and access to family planning methods. With a report from Cathy Yamsuan

Sam Miguel
10-30-2012, 10:12 AM
PPP in health

By Rina Jimenez-David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:57 pm | Monday, October 29th, 2012

Some 1,000 government health workers walked out of their stations last Thursday to protest what they feared and denounced as a plan to “privatize” government hospitals.

The workers said the move towards privatization, beginning with the National Orthopedic Center and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, would work to the disadvantage of poor patients. One leader claimed that the move could deprive poor Filipinos of health services because they could no longer afford “the higher costs of services.”

As it happens, the protests took place a few days after the launching of “PPP (Private-Public Partnership) in Health Manila 2012,” a gathering at the Asian Development Bank of local and foreign authorities on health policy, health professionals, local chief executives, leaders of the health sector, and academicians and researchers.

Held for the first time in Asia, “PPP in Health Manila” sought to explore various strategies to ensure more efficient and at the same time more far-reaching health services for the public by harnessing the strengths of both public and private health sectors.

In the keynote speech, read for President Aquino by Health Secretary Enrique Ona, the President said that in the past two years, the government had been exploring ways “to maximize the health system and improve the health of the people.” At the press conference following the launch, Ona said the “PPP in Health” was in line with the “current thrust of the Aquino government which recognizes the essential role of the private sector.”

* * *

THE public health system, said Ona, has proven over the years to be woefully inadequate, and that to provide health coverage to every Filipino, the private sector needs to be drawn in to participate in providing services, sharing updated knowledge, and modeling best practices in health delivery. “Regardless of how much government would give (as share of the budget) to the health sector,” Ona noted, “there will never be enough funds for healthcare (for everyone).”

Background material lays out the premises: “At the backdrop is a precarious health situation where there are still an alarming 60 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births in Asia—almost double that of Latin America and the Caribbean. Governments journey through such complexities that require them to tackle changing disease patterns, raise the service quality, and ensure equitable access to healthcare to (their) population.”

The same material says the program introduces “private sector funds and expertise in areas that are normally the responsibility of the government.”

* * *

AS FOR the bogey of an anticipated hike in health costs, Ona said the key to making the PPP in health a success is “a robust and vibrant health insurance system,” expressing optimism that “soon all (Filipinos) will be covered by PhilHealth,” putting even complicated procedures within reach of ordinary Filipinos.

The goal of the PPP in health, added the secretary, is a health system that is “affordable, accessible and (of) high-quality.”

For now, the PPP in health is still under study, although the health secretary says he indeed intends to start with a new Orthopedic Center which will stand on government-owned land, staffed with a government workforce, but will be equipped with machinery and equipment financed through a partnership with the private sector.

Still, acknowledges Geoffrey Hamilton of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), it’s still early days for PPP in health. Saying that they are still compiling “international best practices in PPP,” he bemoans the lack of “objective evaluation, or any evaluation at all,” to judge the success of any partnership.

Thus, the Philippines, with support from the Australian government, ADB and UNECE, will host the “International PPP Specialist Center for Health” to document the lessons learned from the country’s venture into this field.

* * *

HERE’S a scary story, and it has nothing to do with Halloween.

It’s also a story about how social status cannot protect a woman from harassment, even if she is the daughter of a congressional representative, and even if she is a former government official.

Carissa Cruz Evangelista, a former undersecretary of the Department of Trade, has filed a complaint with the Bureau of Immigration regarding her brush with a brusque and threatening neighbor in her Makati condominium.

As she tells it in her affidavit-complaint submitted to the Bureau of Immigration, Evangelista, the daughter of Pangasinan Rep. Gina de Venecia, was called by security guards to the parking area of her Makati condominium because a neighbor was loudly complaining about the way her vehicle was parked.

When she reached the place, attests Evangelista, she found that indeed she had parked her SUV over the dividing line of her parking slot. She spotted her neighbor, Muhammad Ali Nasser al Shehri, a Saudi national, and approached him, apologizing for the inconvenience she had caused.

Instead of responding cordially, she recounts, Nasser began shouting and ranting at her, at one point even threatening to slash her tires. Alarmed at the ruckus Nasser was raising, two security guards tried to restrain him but he started yelling at them for their “temerity.” As the guards tried to find an alternative parking space for him, Nasser continued to shout at Evangelista, glaring at her all the while and declaring: “I am a man!”

In her affidavit, Evangelista averred that she suffered “fright, trauma, mental anguish, and anxieties from the experience.” She is filing charges of grave threats against Nasser, which, I wonder, if found to be tenable, are enough to have this Saudi national and harasser of women deported.

Sam Miguel
10-30-2012, 10:15 AM
^^^ For godsakes Mrs Evangelista, stop being an idiot and just tell mommy and daddy's goons to kidnap the bastard raghead, torture him for two weeks then shoot him in th stomach and watch him die slowly as bacon is being stuffed down his throat.

10-30-2012, 04:00 PM
^ To be a little on-topic, why don't they stuff his reproductive organ down his throat instead? And to complete his emasculation, let them stick one of the guards' batuta up his @ss and have it videotaped and uploaded to youtube

Sam Miguel
10-31-2012, 09:22 AM
^^^ LIKE!

11-19-2012, 09:05 AM
A political lesson

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:15 pm | Sunday, November 18th, 2012

The interminable debate on the reproductive health (RH) bill instructs us, yet again, in the basic lesson of elite politics: Everything is addition. The legislative corollary to this axiom follows naturally. Those who have the numbers call for a vote. Those who don’t, such as the minority in the Senate and in the House who oppose the much-amended, now-diluted RH bill, seek to delay the moment of truth.

Because of the way the men who control both chambers of Congress have conducted themselves on the RH bill issue, the women who stand to gain the most from its passage and the families who depend on them have to contend not only with the idiosyncrasies of the biological clock, but with the tyranny of the legislative calendar as well.

This is the context in which last week’s fateful exchange of words on the floor of the Senate, between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and principal RH bill sponsor Sen. Pia Cayetano, is best understood.

Last Tuesday, Cayetano made what she called a “reasonable request,” asking the Senate to allot 30 minutes of the session to RH bill business. Out of the eight senators who had originally said they wanted to introduce amendments to the bill, only two remained: Enrile and Sen. Ralph Recto. The 30 minutes, she said, would allow both senators to introduce their amendments.

In a previous caucus, Enrile had told Cayetano he had already prepared his amendments—the same Enrile who has spoken proudly more than once of his policy of caucusing with senators as preparation for actual sessions.

Last Tuesday, however, after Cayetano asked an unprepared Enrile when he would be ready with his amendments, the veteran legislator riding the coattails of a popular impeachment trial snapped: “I do not know, Madame Senator, when I’m ready.”

In a news conference she conducted two days after the exchange, Cayetano correctly pointed out the breach in the customary courtesy that legislators extend to one another. “Kung sabihin mo sa aking mag antay ako hanggang maputi na ang uwak, iba naman yang usapan (If you tell me that I should wait until crows turn white, that’s another matter altogether).” But she knew the real reason for Enrile’s outburst. “We all know that every day that I patiently wait is one more day that this bill will be delayed. And I know, as they know, and they know whom I am talking about, their objective is not to bring this to a vote.”

And there you have it. Caucuses and democratic principles be damned, but because Enrile and his majority leader, Sen. Tito Sotto, do not want the RH bill to pass, they will do all they can to prevent a vote. Why? Because they will lose.

On the RH bill, President Aquino seems to have gone AWOL. The last, best hope for enactment of the bill is a complicated maneuver: passage in the House and strong and concerted public support, which will both serve to put pressure on the Senate. Otherwise, the women who need the bill’s protection the most will have to wait until Enrile finds himself ready.

A grammar lesson

I do not know, Madame Senator, when I’m ready.”

It is interesting to note the obvious grammatical error in Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s retort to Sen. Pia Cayetano. Surely he meant to say “when I will be ready”—and that was exactly how some stories reported the line, replacing the error, thus: “when I [will be] ready,” using an editor’s privilege of a bracketed intervention.

But Enrile is an accomplished English speaker—his training as a lawyer, his time in Harvard, his six decades in the upper (English-speaking) reaches of Philippine politics have all contributed to his easy command of English. He wouldn’t have made such a basic mistake, unless he made a telling slip.

Perhaps he meant to say “I do not know if I’m ready,” but realized at the last second that that would make him sound unprofessional, something out of character for a man who is dedicated to the gospel of thorough preparation. Or perhaps he meant, “I do not know when I will ever be ready”—his real sentiment, as his positioning on the issue suggests. Who knows? But there is a lesson for all of us here. Perhaps the two thoughts short-circuited each other, and Enrile ended up with a line that really should read: “I don’t know if I want to be ready.”

Sam Miguel
11-20-2012, 07:57 AM
Sotto: God put me here to fight RH Bill

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at 11/19/2012 2:28 PM | Updated as of 11/20/2012 1:47 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Tito Sotto is standing firm on his position to fight the reproductive health bill as long as his proposed amendments are not incorporated into the measure.

Sotto believes that God put him in a position to fight the RH bill despite the criticisms he has received including accusations that he has committed plagiarism.

“Basta ako naniniwala sa pananaw ng Panginoong Diyos [na] tama ang ginagawa ko. They can always put me down. Sanay na ako na binabato, minumura, inaapi. Ako’y isang hamak na musikero lang. Hindi ako kasing-dunong nila. Pero ilalaban ko kung ano ang tama,” he said during the Kapihan sa Diamong Hotel forum.

“Naniniwala po ako na hindi ako mapupunta dito kung hindi ginusto ng Panginoong Diyos na ipaglaban ko itong adbokasiya na ito. Kaya ipagpapatuloy ko po ito. Isang hamak na musikero. You may mock me, you may insult me, you can do anything, you can say anything, but that will not change my position against those who are against life, who are pro-abortion, who are pro-immorality for teenagers, who are pro-abortifacients… I will never [back] down. I will never give up.”

Sotto also blasted the bloggers who have accused him of plagiarizing a speech of the late US Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

“Kung ang tingin niyo sa akin ako’y graduate ng Iskul Bukol, o graduate ako ng Harvard, still kilala n’yo. The point is kilala n’yo ang pamilya ko, kilala n’yo saan ako galing, kilala n’yo where I am coming from, kilala n’yo ang mga kapatid ko, mga anak ko. Ito pong mga naninira sa akin, hindi n’yo kilala. Nakatago lahat sa computer. Kaya ho, sino ang paniniwalaan n’yo? Ako’y maliwanag na lumalahad sa inyo at alam ninyo kung ano ang ipinaglalaban ko,” he said.

Sotto said pro-RH groups have not rebutted his points on the bill’s alleged promotion of abortifacients and the foreign funding that pro-RH groups receive.

He said he was instead accused of plagiarism, which he repeatedly denied.

He also lamented that while most of the news reports on his statements are accurate, not all his statements make it to media.

Ethics complaint won't prosper

Meantime, Sotto is confident that the ethics complaints against him will not prosper and will not be voted upon.

He believes members of the committee may decide on the merits on the complaint on the basis of the Senate journal that contains his speeches.

“I am very confident that it will not reach into that. Kasi siguradong doon lang sa pagpi-prisinta at pagsagot mo, they can already decide there, once and for all. Madali ‘yun,” Sotto said, urging complainants to read the Senate’s rules on what can be taken up in the ethics committee.

Sam Miguel
11-20-2012, 08:00 AM
New tack vs RH bill: Slew of amendments

By Marvin Sy

(The Philippine Star) | Updated November 20, 2012 - 2:07am

MANILA, Philippines - The Reproductive Health (RH) bill was finally taken up again in the Senate, even taking precedence over the so-called sin tax bill, during yesterday’s plenary session.

But just when the proponents of the bill were expecting to end the period of amendments, their opponents were in no mood to do so, instead introducing a long list of modifications, with more to come.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who had been criticized by RH bill co-authors and sponsors Sen. Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor-Santiago for stalling, introduced six of 17 proposed amendments, four of which were accepted.

Sen. Ralph Recto, meanwhile, introduced nine amendments, seven of which were accepted.

Enrile, stung by criticism that he was delaying the RH bill, insisted that his proposed amendments should be taken up before the sin tax measure.

Since last week, the sin tax bill has taken the front seat in the Senate as a priority measure of the administration and practically dominated all of the plenary sessions.

However, Cayetano pushed for the proposed amendments to the RH bill to be taken up alongside the sin tax bill so that the period of amendments could already be closed and the bill approved on second reading.

In a privilege speech at the start of yesterday’s session, Enrile denounced allegations that he and the other opponents of the bill have been employing delaying tactics to thwart final voting on the bill.

“No one in this chamber should be unduly rushed into accepting hook, line and sinker every data or assumption presented to us. We should not impute at all ill motives against those who are opposed to your personal position and issues such as this one, which has far reaching implications on the future of this country and her people,” Enrile said.

Enrile said that he was honestly not ready last Monday to introduce his proposed amendments but after studying the bill again, he was finally prepared to introduce them yesterday.

“It seemed that my honest statement was received with skepticism, or worse, of holding the bill hostage. I was perceived as delaying the final disposition of the measure by the Senate,” Enrile said.

“To put an end to it all, all these baseless accusations, especially coming from two of my lady colleagues, I’m ready to present my amendments if this chamber will allow me, allow the RH bill to be taken first before any pending measure in this house of the Senate,” he added.

As expected, acting ways and means committee chairman Sen. Franklin Drilon objected to this because of his intention to conclude the discussions on the sin tax bill yesterday.

This led to the holding of a vote by the members of the Senate, the majority of whom favored the motion of Enrile to take up the RH bill before the sin tax bill.

Definition of conception

Before he introduced his proposed amendments, Enrile said that he would only need 20 minutes to finish his list.

But because of intense debates that ensued, particularly on Enrile’s insistence on defining conception or when life begins, the 20 minutes stretched to more than an hour.

Under Enrile’s proposed definition, conception “refers to the successful penetration of an ovum by a spermatozoa in the fallopian tube, otherwise known as fertilization, when a new life begins, to form in the mother’s womb.”

Both Santiago and Cayetano strongly objected to the definition given by Enrile, which they argued has not been settled by any of the experts in the scientific field.

“This is a categorical statement that conception takes place at fertilization. I believe it will not serve the interest of clarity, it won’t support scientific evidence,” Santiago said, adding that the definition of Enrile has long been the position of pro-life advocates.

“There will be many complications if we state categorically that life begins at fertilization. Why do our worthy opponents want a statement on the beginning of life included in our RH bill? It might be interpreted to mean that they are laying the groundwork for filing a case against a law, which they believe promotes the use of contraceptives, which they argue are actually abortifacients,” she added.

Santiago said that the Constitution did not give any definition of conception because doing so would be “tantamount to legislating an uncertain and contended position.”

Cayetano, for her part, argued that the legislators cannot take the place of experts and “become scientific gods” by defining something that is contentious.

SC resolution

Enrile said that he also consulted experts in coming up with his proposed definition and that if any question would arise about this, it would have to be settled by the Supreme Court.

“If there is any controversy and if it is true that the theory of one of the sponsors is correct that the State cannot intrude in this domain, then whose opinion will matter and become definitive except the Supreme Court,” Enrile said.

“Let the Supreme Court, at that point, as the final arbiter of legal conflicts in our land, determine when conception begins. But we must, as legislators, in defining the terms of this law, must make it clear in defining when conception starts,” he added.

Enrile was outvoted on this amendment with only nine favoring his proposed amendment and 11 voting against it.

Because of the amount of time taken up by just a third of his proposed amendments, it was agreed that the rest would be taken up at another time.

Recto, for his part, objected to the provision mandating local government units to provide reproductive health services, which was supported with a vote of 13-7 in his favor.

Apart from Enrile and Recto, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III is also scheduled to introduce amendments to the bill.

Sotto, who is also opposed to the RH bill, said he would introduce his amendments after all of the other amendments have been completed.

Sam Miguel
11-20-2012, 08:19 AM
Win some, lose some in Senate’s RH bill

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:44 am | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Win some, lose some. That was the outcome Monday during the period of amendments in the Senate for the reproductive health (RH) bill.

By a vote of 13-9, the chamber accepted the amendment proposed by Sen. Ralph Recto not to compel local government units (LGUs) to provide RH services.

The chamber (nine for and seven against) also accepted Recto’s proposal to exempt private institutions from providing mandatory RH services.

But Recto lost his proposal (seven for and 10 against) to raise the age covered by adolescence: from 10-19 years old to 13- 20 years old.

“It is not about winning rounds. It is about creating good laws,” said Recto.

He said LGUs, especially cash-strapped towns, were already burdened with many responsibilities, to provide mandatory health services.

The amended provision reads, “The provision of reproductive healthcare and information must be the primary responsibility of the national government consistent with its obligation to respect, protect and promote the right to health.”

Before the amendment, it was the joint responsibility of the national and the local government to provide RH services.

“How much will this cost the LGU, with all these mandates? If we can’t answer the question of how much, it will be very hard to have a new mandate,” Recto said.

In response, Sen. Pia Cayetano, sponsor of the RH bill, said it was the primary responsibility of local governments to provide health services.

Coming to the defense of the measure, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said: “You cannot send to jail any local official if he can’t carry out his mandate because the government is not giving him money. I think the fear is misplaced.”

Earlier, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile surprised his peers when he revived his move to introduce amendments to the RH bill (a week after asking for more time to review his proposed changes) as most of the senators had steeled themselves for debates on the proposal to hike taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic drinks.

Only three senators—Vicente Sotto III, Teofisto Guingona III and Franklin Drilon—voted to stick with the scheduled debates on the sin tax bill, paving the way for Enrile to introduce six of his 17 proposed amendments to the RH measure.

Drilon, acting chair of the Senate ways and means committee, was forced to defer his plan to approve the sin tax bill before the start of deliberations on the 2013 budget today. The higher taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic products would cover a chunk of next year’s expenses.

Enrile assured his peers that he was not out to delay the passage of the sin tax bill (he comes from the tobacco-producing province of Cagayan) but to prove that he did not want to be accused of delaying the RH bill.

“I would like to make it on record I have no intention to delay the discussions on the sin tax bill … I assure you that it will take me only 20 minutes to present my amendments,” he said.


It took more than two hours for Enrile to present six of his amendments of which only three were carried.

The Enrile amendments that were approved were the deletion of the International Conference on Population and Development as one of the international organizations that the government must comply with; adoption of a provision guaranteeing equal rights of children and the unborn; and defining abortifacients as “any drug or device that induces abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother’s womb.”

Enrile lost a crucial amendment (nine for and 11 against) which sought to adopt the constitutional definition of conception.


Santiago warned that “a sweeping statement” on when life began could affect women in difficult pregnancies.

She said that anti-RH lawmakers were gearing up to contest the measure in the Supreme Court with this amendment on life and conception.

The RH debate adjourned three hours after it started at 2 p.m., with the senators proceeding to hold a caucus for the resumption of the sin tax debate Monday night.

Sam Miguel
11-23-2012, 11:22 AM
Noy not giving up on RH bill passage

By Aurea Calica and Jess Diaz

(The Philippine Star) | Updated November 23, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is not giving up on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill despite its dimming chances of being put to a vote in Congress due to lack of quorum.

Secretary Manuel Mamba of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office said yesterday that President Aquino was “adamant” at seeing the measure passed but would like to build a consensus among the lawmakers.

“We don’t want to put it there if it will not pass,” Mamba told radio station dzRB. “We are avoiding defeat.”

Mamba said they would like to give those presenting amendments time to present the changes they wanted, as long as these were reasonable, especially in ensuring child and maternal care.

After all the amendments have been introduced, Mamba said the lawmakers could “vote on it with chances of winning.”

In a press briefing at Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said discussions on the measure were ongoing and it would be better for the administration to wait rather than answer the challenge of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago for the President to certify the bill as urgent.

“There are discussions in the House right now. We don’t know what these discussions will be; we have not met with the House leadership yet. We will see,” Lacierda said.

“As they say, ‘it’s not over until the fat lady sings.’ So let’s wait,” he said.

Lacierda also said he spoke with Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II who denied having stated that the bill “is already dead in the (House).”

Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco alleged on Twitter that Congress had been misleading RH bill advocates into believing that the controversial measure would be taken up before plenary sessions close this month.

Cojuangco said in several social media posts that Gonzales had revealed to her “the truth” that the RH bill would have no chance in the present Congress.

“We want a responsible parenthood bill passed into law. We made that very clear,” Lacierda said.

Cojuangco also claimed that Gonzales, who was in charge of the plenary agenda, tried to deceive RH bill authors, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, that the bill would be tackled once the 2013 budget is approved.

“I can’t live with myself if I just become one of the many that will just accept things as they are. If this means that I should not be a member of the (House), it’s okay with me. I would rather not be a representative than be there and be part of a big lie,” Cojuangco tweeted.

The RH bill has not moved in the House of Representatives since Aug. 6, when congressmen voted to close floor debates and start the period of amendments.

At the Senate, the RH bill was taken up during Monday’s session but the proposed measure’s opponents presented a long list of modifications, blocking the proponents’ intention to end the period of amendments and pass the bill on second reading.

“I don’t know what she had for breakfast today. In fairness to all the Catholic priests, monsignors, and bishops in Mandaluyong, they never tried to influence me,” Gonzales told reporters on Wednesday in reaction to Cojuangco’s tweets.

He advised Cojuangco to “keep her mouth shut” for the sake of the pro-RH camp. Cojuangco immediately struck back on Twitter in response to Gonzales.

“(Majority leader), what I had for breakfast? I had a realization that maybe you just don’t want to take up the RH bill. We all know you get what you want. You are the man,” Cojuangco tweeted back.

Gonzales told reporters that the dwindling attendance in the House “is an indication of where the measure is going.”

“If they are not showing up now, what more in January? It will be more difficult to have them go back to Manila. Those who want this bill passed should be here. We need people to be here,” he said.

The House failed to muster a quorum the whole week last week as well as last Tuesday and Wednesday. It had enough attendance only last Monday.

“If the voting only involves me and the Speaker, the RH bill (would have) been passed long ago. We are 287 here. We need 146 for a quorum. So I wish all those who are for it should show up,” Gonzales said.

He stressed he and Belmonte strongly support the bill.

“We have been doing our share. The most we can do is to appeal to them. They are adults. We don’t need to threaten each other here. That is not a part of the rules. What we can do is to appeal to their sense of duty and responsibility,” the majority leader said.

“RH has been included in the agenda, in the unfinished business. If they know a better parliamentary way in dealing with this, I dare them to do it, anytime,” he said.

Asked if it would take another intervention from President Aquino to get the bill moving again, Gonzales said, “We can’t always call Malacañang for this.”

Last Aug. 6, Aquino had a luncheon caucus with congressmen at the Palace, where he appealed to them to close floor debates on the measure and go into the period for introducing amendments.

Hours later, the House heeded the presidential appeal and overwhelmingly voted to terminate debates. Since then, it hasn’t been able to introduce any amendment to the proposed RH law.

On Wednesday, Cojuangco expressed her dismay at what she called “dribbling” on the bill.

She started by tweeting her observation that lately there were no priests and nuns observing House proceedings.

“Do they know something I don’t? Could it because majority floor leader’s district is home to Archbishop’s palace?” she asked.

She revealed that she met with Gonzales last week and “asked him to tell me the truth (about the RH bill).”

“I started by saying I’m tired of fighting to death. I go to every single interview and do what I can to get this bill passed. So I pleaded with him to tell me the truth,” she said.

She quoted the majority leader as telling her: “If ever, baka 16th Congress na lang. We can just repackage it.”

“I was flabbergasted and said so. Now I am at peace. I feel like I made a public confession and it has set me free. I will still do my best to fight for the RH bill,” she tweeted.

Cojuangco once blamed President Aquino for the fate that is apparently awaiting the RH bill.

She told a television interview that if Aquino had pushed as hard for the passage of the measure as he did for the impeachment of ousted chief justice Renato Corona, the bill would have been enacted long ago.

She is related to the President by marriage. She is the wife of former Rep. Mark Cojuangco, Aquino’s cousin.

Sam Miguel
11-26-2012, 08:52 AM
No RH vote? Politicians fear ire of local priests

By TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:34 am | Monday, November 26th, 2012

This Palace official suspects one reason for the lack of quorum in the House of Representatives during deliberations on the reproductive health (RH) bill: Reelectionist lawmakers fear provoking their parish priests.

In the countryside, there is such a thing as a “Catholic vote,” and pro-RH lawmakers would rather absent themselves from the sessions than become the object of attacks from the pulpit in the run-up to the May 2013 elections, according to Secretary Manuel Mamba.

Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, on Sunday said lawmakers were “fearful” of provoking their parish priests by appearing in the deliberations, much more by voting for the controversial measure.

“If you’re a politician, you stay out of trouble. They (the clergy) are not even the enemy. Why provoke them? By voting for the measure, you’re provoking the Catholic hierarchy,” Mamba said in a phone interview.

“The elections are near. You don’t want to create enemies. In local politics, there is a Catholic vote, especially in areas where the clergy are very influential on their flock. If the clergy are popular, they have the pulpit. They can do it every Sunday,” he added.

So, for some pro-RH lawmakers with their eyes on the midterm elections, the option is “to absent themselves” from the deliberations, said Mamba, whose office acts as middleman between Malacañang and Congress in the choice of the legislative agenda.

Lack of quorum

Mamba said President Aquino was aware of such dynamics in local politics. Being a former lawmaker himself in Cagayan province, Mamba said he “fully understood” where the lawmakers were coming from.

“It would have been much easier if it were put to a vote not too close to the elections,” he said.

The campaign for the midterm elections begins in mid-February.

The Church fiercely opposes the measure. After bold predictions by House leaders that the bill would be approved, plenary debates on the measure have bogged down for lack of quorum.

Lawmakers either skip sessions or leave after the roll call. Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said most of the absentees were supporters of the measure.

Abortion, promiscuity

The RH bill would provide couples with information on family planning approaches, including modern contraception methods that the Church opposes. It would also widen reproductive health education in schools and government health centers.

Church officials oppose the measure, saying it might promote abortion as well as promiscuity. They consider some birth control pills as abortifacient.

The health department supports the bill, saying it would reduce maternal and child deaths in the Philippines.

The President has not issued a fresh call for his allies in the House to bring the measure to a vote.

Time to vote

“The President has said his piece,” Mamba said, referring to Mr. Aquino’s Aug. 6 caucus with the lawmakers. “He has given orders for the lawmakers to be present, have a quorum and vote on it. He will not impose whatever position they will have. What’s important is they vote on it.”

After the caucus, the lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to terminate debates. But with the lack of quorum, no amendment has been introduced.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the lawmakers had yet to discuss with the President the matter of certifying the measure as urgent. Otherwise, Malacañang was leaving its approval up to the lawmakers, she said.

In the 283-member House, the pro-RH proponents have a slight edge over the anti-RH lawyers. Some congressional sources say it’s possible more anti-RH lawmakers than pro-RH proponents would show up if a vote is forced now.

‘Ripe for a vote’

“Our problem in the House is membership. Our problem in the Senate is the leadership,” Mamba said.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III are opposed to a counterpart measure in the chamber. Unlike in the House, the bill has better chances of getting approved in the Senate, with more senators backing it, according to Mamba.

“I think the RH bill is ripe for a vote in the Senate,” Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on dzBB radio. “The issues have become tedious since I sponsored my own version as a congressman. All of us are ready, win or lose.”

Marcos said Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Pia Cayetano, the main authors of the Senate bill calling for a national policy on reproductive health and population, had agreed it was time to put it to a vote whatever the outcome.

“I will support the bill,” Marcos said.

But he said the 2013 elections would play a factor in the outcome of the vote.

“I’ve heard that some of the authors [in the House] have withdrawn their support because of the election. That’s the reality in our politics. If you are candidates, it’s really difficult to oppose the Church,” Marcos said. With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan and Inquirer Research

11-26-2012, 02:11 PM
CBCP warns pro-RH bets of Catholic vote

By Helen Flores

(The Philippine Star) | Updated November 26, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged yesterday the faithful to use the “Catholic vote” to choose pro-life candidates in the May 2013 senatorial and local elections.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, former vice chairman of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said it is high time that Filipinos exercise their religious beliefs in rejecting candidates who are not following the Church’s teachings.

“If there is a candidate who does not follow Church teachings, we should reject this candidate. We must use the Catholic vote and show them what the real Catholic is. There are fake Catholics here, they are the ones ruling in our country,” the prelate said in Filipino.

Proponents of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill, including Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, believe there is no such thing as a “Catholic vote.”

“We can only stop ethnic cleansing, contraceptive mentality, immorality, increasing number of broken families, and promiscuity if we vote for candidates who love life,” Arguelles said.

Arguelles also said the “ethnic cleansing” being promoted by some officials can be countered via a Catholic vote.

“They are doing ethnic cleansing that’s why they are pushing (RH) bill in our country. They want to eliminate us,” the prelate said.

The RH bill, which promotes both the artificial and natural methods of family planning, is still pending in both houses of Congress.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are in their respective periods of amendment for the controversial RH bill. The CBCP earlier said it will endorse candidates who are pro-life.

In an interview with dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the State does not meddle in those kinds of things and they are not in a position to comment.

The Catholic Church has maintained a hardline stance to oppose the RH bill.

Last September, CPCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life chairman Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes said that the Church remains firm in its stand that all the provisions in both Senate Bill 2865 and HB 4244 or the Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood Development bill are against natural moral law.

“We already gave the amendments to the congressman who are agreeing to the position of the Church. The amendments that we are going to give should not include provisions of the Senate bill and the Congress bill that are against natural moral law,” he said.

The Church, Reyes said, will not go into any compromise regarding the provisions.

Reyes said the country should not listen to what the United Nations dictates – which is to legalize abortion and control the country’s population.

A house divided

Arguelles also revealed that opposition to the controversial RH Health bill is the reason why several lawmakers have been skipping plenary sessions in the past days.

“They don’t want to vote against life. They don’t want the RH bill to be rammed down their and our throats, especially by foreign powers out to eliminate our nation and our race,” he said, adding that foreign powers and the rich people want to impose the RH bill to eliminate the poor and the weak.

“They pretend to think of the poor but they are against the poor,” Arguelles said.

“Let us open our eyes. The Philippines does not need this law. The enemies of our country do,” the prelate said.

Arguelles that said instead of allocating funds for RH Bill, the Philippine government should increase investment in the education sector and provide more jobs to Filipinos.

The RH bill has stalled at the House plenary for almost four months after the lower chamber decided to end debates on the proposed measure last August. The Senate has already begun introducing amendments to its version of the RH bill.

The Lower House, however, has failed to tackle amendments due to privilege speeches by lawmakers opposing the measure, and due to the lack of quorum.

Last week, the lower chamber adjourned for three straight days due to lack of quorum.

11-26-2012, 02:13 PM
RH supporters in House to force vote on measure

By Jess Diaz

(The Philippine Star) | Updated November 26, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Supporters of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in the House of Representatives are expected to force a vote this week to get the measure out of the doldrums.

That is, if enough of them respond to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman’s impassioned appeal for “a small measure of sacrifice” on behalf of millions of potential beneficiaries of the bill and show up in the sessions.

Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II has promised that he would call the proposed RH bill for amendments if the House musters a quorum.

“We will make sure that the amendment period will come about, but that will depend on how serious the pro-RH lawmakers are. They should attend sessions, from beginning to end,” he said.

He said the attendance has to be “an overwhelming number enough to win in case of a nominal voting.”

Anticipating a showdown this week between the pro-RH and anti-RH blocs, Lagman has pleaded for attendance among supporters of the bill, of which he is principal author.

“May I earnestly reiterate my appeal for all of us, RH bill authors and advocates, to be present during the last 12 session days before the Christmas break and maintain a quorum up to adjournment,” he said in a letter to them.

“In our 13-year crusade for the enactment of a reproductive health law, it is only now in the 15th Congress that we have reached the threshold of passing the RH bill,” he told RH supporters.

“Let us collectively seize the moment and deliver without further delay the bill which is pregnant with fulfillment for maternal and infant health, reproductive self-determination as a human right, and sustainable human development,” he said.

According to Lagman’s count, RH supporters make up majority of the 283-member House.

Two weeks ago, Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, clearly the most passionate among RH advocates in the House, vowed to start a war with critics of the bill.

“If it war they want, war they will get,” she said.

Indeed, she started a word war last week on Twitter, but with Gonzales and not the anti-RH group. Ironically, the two of them are RH advocates.

She blamed the majority leader for “dribbling” the measure, an accusation Gonzales denied.

“Basketball is a sport that I never learned. If the voting only involves me and the Speaker, the RH bill has been passed long ago. We are 287 here. We need 146 for a quorum. So I wish all those who are for it would show up,” he said.

Like him, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. is supporting the controversial measure.

“We have been doing our share. The most we can do is to appeal to them. They are adults. We don’t need to threaten each other here. That is not a part of the rules. What we can do is to appeal to their sense of duty and responsibility,” the majority leader said.

“RH has been included in the agenda, in the unfinished business. If they know a better parliamentary way in dealing with this, I dare them to do it, anytime,” he said.

Cojuangco has not only blamed House leaders but President Aquino as well for his allies’ failure to support and approve the RH bill.

She once told a television interview that if Aquino pushed hard enough for the passage of the bill as he did for the impeachment of ousted chief justice Renato Corona, the proposed RH law would have been enacted long ago.

She is related to the President by marriage. She is the wife of former Rep. Mark Cojuangco, Aquino’s cousin.

On the other hand, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the RH bill is already ripe for voting at the Senate since senators have discussed all issues about the controversial measure.

“The RH bill is ripe for vote. We have debated long enough. We’re ready to vote,” Marcos said in a radio interview yesterday.

Marcos however, admitted he is unsure of how he and the rest of the 23 senators are voting on the measure. “Some are still not indicating how they will vote,” he said.

“There is no assurance that it would get enough votes but I think, we are ready to vote on this bill,” he added.

Marcos expressed apprehension on how the controversial measure will fare at the House since many of its authors there have opted to withdraw support from the measure.

He said it was understandable because of the elections next year where the Catholic influence could play a role.

“What I’ve learned was that some of the authors have already withdrawn their support because of the election. That’s the reality in our politics. If you’re a candidate, it would be really difficult to oppose the Church,” he said.

Marcos is supporting the measure, which is principally being supported by Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor Santiago. – Christina Mendez.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2012, 10:39 AM
Lawmakers to work on substitute RH bill

By Leila B. Salaverria, TJ Burgonio and Gil Cabacungan Jr.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:43 am | Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

After months of delay and a lack of quorum, the House of Representatives on Monday managed to come up with a substitute bill meant to address the controversial provisions of the reproductive health (RH) bill.

The changes include giving priority to the poor in the provision of birth control methods, and banning contraceptives that prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum, as this is considered abortion by some sectors.

In an interview, Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales said the reproductive health bill still had other periods to hurdle, as opponents of the measure could still propose more individual amendments.

Albay Rep. and RH bill main proponent Edcel Lagman, meanwhile, assured lawmakers there was no need to worry about the so-called Catholic vote on the RH bill, citing several Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia surveys that showed that majority of Catholics were actually in favor of the controversial measure.

“RH advocates should not fear a negative Catholic vote because the alleged backlash has no empirical basis,” Lagman said in a statement, amid reports that Church leaders had called on voters to reject candidates who support the bill.

Lagman, however, said that “the Catholic vote is for the enactment of the RH bill,” and cited a Pulse Asia October 2008 survey and SWS surveys on family planning in 2008, 2009 and 2010 to back his claim.

Political myth

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago also described the alleged command vote of the Catholic Church as nothing but a “political myth” and rebuked Church leaders for their “borderline violation of the constitutional principle of separation of Church and state.”

“In the past, the Catholic church campaigned against Sen. Juan Flavier because as health secretary, he freely distributed condoms. But Flavier won the elections. Thus, the so-called Catholic vote is a political myth,” Santiago said in a statement.

Santiago also pointed out that only the Catholic Church opposed the RH bill among major churches in the Philippines, including the Iglesia ni Cristo, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, and the Assembly of Darul-Iftah of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

But Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a vocal opponent of the RH bill, disputed Lagman’s claims, and said that the difficulty of ensuring attendance among pro-RH lawmakers was one sign of waning support for the measure that he described as “unconstitutional, coercive, morally incorrect, assaults the Catholic religion, medically unsafe and was led by an international lobby.”

Among the more controversial provisions of the RH bill are its provisions to provide information on, and access to, all methods of contraception among the country’s poorest sectors, and sex education among adolescents through the country’s public school system.

According to Lagman, a 2008 SWS survey showed that 71 percent of Catholics favored the reproductive health bill. Among weekly church-going Catholics, the support was higher, at 73 percent, he added.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2012, 04:19 PM
EDITORIAL - Based on its merits

(The Philippine Star)

| Updated November 27, 2012 - 12:00am

Every time the Catholic Church threatens to sic the Catholic vote on a candidate, the candidate wins. Joseph Estrada won the presidency by a landslide. Juan Flavier, who aggressively promoted condom use when he was Fidel Ramos’ health secretary, landed near the top in the Senate race despite a strong campaign against him by the Catholic Church. Ramos himself became the country’s first Protestant president, defeating the choice of the Catholic Church, Ramon Mitra Jr.

There are Catholic groups that are actively endorsing the Reproductive Health bill, so lawmakers should not be swayed by the Church’s latest call to arms against the measure. Lawmakers should assess the RH bill based on its merits rather than the dictates of a religion that has had to publicly apologize to women for its long history of gender discrimination.

Reproductive health is a right that every woman should enjoy, and not just those who have the money and education to make informed choices about their own bodies. It is curious that the strongest opponents of the bill in the Senate are men. The RH bill is for the millions of impoverished women who lack even basic information about planning the size of their families. Lack of access to such information has forced hundreds of thousands of women over the years to resort to abortion – something, it must be emphasized, that is not endorsed in the RH bill.

When they run out of sound arguments, those opposing the measure resort to disinformation and plagiarized prose to stall the passage of the bill. Despite the constitutional provision on the separation of church and state, personal religious beliefs are openly invoked by certain lawmakers in deliberating on the measure. Those who consider the realities of life for millions of impoverished women are the ones who will get voters on their side.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2012, 04:21 PM
‘Catholic vote is for RH’

By Jess Diaz

(The Philippine Star)

| Updated November 27, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - If there is a solid Catholic vote, it is not for derailing the Reproductive Health (RH) bill but for its approval by Congress, the measure’s principal author in the House said yesterday.

“The Catholic vote is for the enactment of the RH bill. This is consistently validated and documented in all nationwide surveys for many years now,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said.

He was responding to the statement of Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles urging Catholics not to vote for pro-RH candidates in the May 2013 elections.

“RH advocates should not fear a negative Catholic vote because the alleged backlash has no empirical basis,” Lagman said. “Fear is bankrupt of reason and should not be allowed to deter legislation and policy making.”

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, meanwhile, yesterday warned the Catholic clergy against issuing more threats against the proponents of the RH bill in Congress, which she said could constitute a violation of the Constitution.

In a statement, Santiago said that the Constitution clearly provides for separation of church and state and the threats being issued by the clergy against the RH bill proponents constitute “borderline violation” of this provision.

“The separation principle includes what is called the establishment clause, as well as the free exercise clause. The general guide is that the government should observe neutrality,” Santiago said.

Santiago lamented that only the Catholic church, among all of the major churches in the Philippines, is against the RH bill.

She claimed that the following churches are pro-RH: the Iglesia ni Cristo, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, and the Assembly of Darul-Iftah of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In any case, Santiago reiterated that she does not believe in the existence of a Catholic vote.

“In the past, the Catholic church campaigned against Sen. Juan Flavier because as health secretary, he freely distributed condoms. But Flavier won the elections. Thus, the so-called Catholic vote is a political myth,” Santiago said.

Santiago is co-author and sponsor of the RH bill in the Senate alongside Sen. Pia Cayetano.

The two women senators have been pushing for a vote to be taken on the RH bill already.

Not binding

For his part, Arguelles yesterday said the argument on the separation of church and state is only binding to the state and not the church.

“The law on the separation of church and state is a law that is addressed to the state and not to the church. That is a state law. In the separation of church and state, the state should not favor any particular religion or denomination. This does not mean that the church cannot comment or speak on moral issues... The Reproductive Health bill is a moral issue,” Arguelles said.

It also does not mean that local church leaders and laity are no longer Filipino citizens, he said.

When asked if there were other bishops who support his sentiments, he admitted that he is not certain.

“But what I am sure of is that there is a few who believe in this (Catholic vote) and that it should be implemented. I just don’t know if there would be others who would openly say they are in favor of this.”

Arguelles said Catholics “should never sacrifice their faith. So if there is a politician who wants to vote against our Catholic faith, it is our sublime duty not to vote for them.”

The faithful should even take a step further and not campaign for candidates who support the RH bill “because their policy is not good for the country,” he said.

Lawmakers changing minds

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, one of the most vocal critics of the RH bill, believes the measure is losing support not because his colleagues are afraid of the Catholic vote “but because many moderate pro-RH congressmen are changing their mind.”

“They now realize that it violates the Constitution, is coercive in nature, is morally incorrect, it assaults the Catholic religion, is medically unsafe, and is an unsound policy for a developing economy,” he said.

“The bill will likewise waste billions of pesos for condoms and contraceptives, funds that could be used for educational and health facilities,” he said.

Lagman said surveys conducted by Social Weather Stations show that 71 percent of Catholics favor the enactment of the RH bill.

“The percentage of those in favor of the bill is even higher among weekly church-going Catholics at 73 percent, which means that the pulpit as a platform for anti-RH homilies is a failure,” he said.

He said among registered voters surveyed, 38 percent would vote for candidates supporting the proposed RH law, while only a small six percent would not vote for them.

“In predominantly Catholic communities like Cebu, Manila and Parañaque, respondents in various surveys are overwhelmingly pro-RH. A huge number of Cebuanos at 76 percent support the passage of the RH bill; in Parañaque, 84 percent of the respondents are in favor of the bill; and in Manila, a whopping 86 percent of those surveyed support the enactment of the bill into law,” he stressed.

He added that in the Catholic province of Bohol, a majority of respondents (53 percent) are in favor of the RH bill, compared to only 17 percent against it, based on a survey conducted by Holy Name University, a leading Bohol Catholic university.

Quoting Pulse Asia, Lagman said 93 percent of Filipinos consider it important to have the ability to plan their families and 82 percent believe government should inform couples about all methods of family planning.

“Faculty members of leading Catholic universities like Ateneo and De La Salle support the passage of the RH bill. Priests at the local parishes do not articulate with the same ferocity anti-RH tirades of some bishops because they are more aware of the ill-effects of the population problem on their parishioners,” he said.

“The parish priest and the political leader are natural and logical partners in addressing the population problem because they witness on the ground grinding poverty, maternal and infant mortality and the inadequacy of pre-natal and post-natal care and facilities, all of which are addressed by the RH bill,” he said.

Threat unfair

The executive branch, meanwhile, asked Congress yesterday to put an end to the RH issue as it branded as unfair the threat of Arguelles that the Catholic vote would be used against lawmakers who vote for the RH bill.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, also Liberal Party stalwart, said, “First of all, if the position taken by any politician, any candidate is based on his own appreciation of his conscience, I think that has to be respected by anybody including the Church.”

“Because, you know, Congress is a legislative assembly and Congress succeeds when there is an interplay or competition of ideas. And if you try to suppress contrary ideas, then you will not get the best policy out of a deliberative assembly like Congress,” Abad said.

“So I don’t think that’s fair to do because in a democracy it’s the competition in a marketplace of ideas that brings out the best,” he said.

Asked if LP candidates would not be changing positions just because of this warning from Arguelles, Abad said it would depend also on “conscience.”

“As I said, every policymaker should examine his conscience... not threats, not rewards but ultimately I think what is best for which this policy has been introduced, which is really to address the very poor who have no means – information as well as resources – to be able to plan in a responsible way the size of his family,” Abad said.

Asked what guidance the LP could give to the House, Abad said it was the obligation of the legislators, regardless of whether they are pro- or anti-RH, to put closure to this issue because it has become divisive. – With Marvin Sy, Aurea Calica, Evelyn Macairan

Sam Miguel
11-28-2012, 08:04 AM
Bishop: 'Elections and RH will test whether the Philippines remains Catholic or not'

By: InterAksyon.com

November 27, 2012 3:34 PM

Leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines have started campaigning against politicians supportive of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, framing the proposed law and upcoming elections in 2013 as a test of Philippine 'Catholicity'.

The church's official news site, CBCPNews.com, says "efforts to 'educate' Catholic voters on family and life issues (have) kicked off in some dioceses ahead of the 2013 elections."

The report quotes Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes as saying over church-run Radio Veritas: "I already told my priests about it. This is an important issue and this is a very good test whether the Philippines is a Catholic country or not."

Rep. Edcel Lagman, a staunch leader of the RH campaign, on Monday dismissed the notion of a "Catholic vote", citing surveys suggesting that most Filipinos would want greater access to reproductive health information, products, and services.

On CBCPNews, however, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles warned that the Catholic vote is still very much real.

"We must use the Catholic vote and show them what the real Catholic is. There are fake Catholics here, they are the ones ruling in our country," Arguelles said. "We can only stop ethnic cleansing, contraceptive mentality, immorality, increasing number of broken families, and promiscuity if we vote for candidates who love life."

Bastes backed up Arguelles' call for a Catholic vote, suggesting that the coming elections would be a referendum as much on RH as on the influence and principles of Catholicism in the country. "This is a very important issue. Once we have the RH bill, the Catholicity of the Philippines will be gone," he said.

Sam Miguel
11-29-2012, 08:52 AM
An Imperfect God


Is God perfect? You often hear philosophers describe “theism” as the belief in a perfect being — a being whose attributes are said to include being all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, perfectly simple, and necessarily existent (among others). And today, something like this view is common among lay people as well.

There are two famous problems with this view of God. The first is that it appears to be impossible to make it coherent. For example, it seems unlikely that God can be both perfectly powerful and perfectly good if the world is filled (as it obviously is) with instances of terrible injustice. Similarly, it’s hard to see how God can wield his infinite power to instigate alteration and change in all things if he is flat-out immutable. And there are more such contradictions where these came from.
The second problem is that while this “theist” view of God is supposed to be a description of the God of the Bible, it’s hard to find any evidence that the prophets and scholars who wrote the Hebrew Bible (or “Old Testament”) thought of God in this way at all. The God of Hebrew Scripture is not depicted as immutable, but repeatedly changes his mind about things (for example, he regrets having made man). He is not all-knowing, since he’s repeatedly surprised by things (like the Israelites abandoning him for a statue of a cow). He is not perfectly powerful either, in that he famously cannot control Israel and get its people to do what he wants. And so on.

Philosophers have spent many centuries trying to get God’s supposed perfections to fit together in a coherent conception, and then trying to get that to fit with the Bible. By now it’s reasonably clear that this can’t be done. In fact, part of the reason God-bashers like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are so influential (apart from the fact they write so well) is their insistence that the doctrine of God’s perfections makes no sense, and that the idealized “being” it tells us about doesn’t resemble the biblical God at all.

So is that it, then? Have the atheists won? I don’t think so. But it does look like the time has come for some rethinking in the theist camp.

I’d start with this: Is it really necessary to say that God is a “perfect being,” or perfect at all, for that matter? As far as I can tell, the biblical authors avoid asserting any such thing. And with good reason. Normally, when we say that something is “perfect,” we mean it has attained the best possible balance among the principles involved in making it the kind of thing it is. For example, if we say that a bottle is perfect, we mean it can contain a significant quantity of liquid in its body; that its neck is long enough to be grasped comfortably and firmly; that the bore is wide enough to permit a rapid flow of liquid; and so on. Of course, you can always manufacture a bottle that will hold more liquid, but only by making the body too broad (so the bottle doesn’t handle well) or the neck too short (so it’s hard to hold). There’s an inevitable trade-off among the principles, and perfection lies in the balance among them. And this is so whether what’s being judged is a bottle or a horse, a wine or a gymnastics routine or natural human beauty.

What would we say if some philosopher told us that a perfect bottle would be one that can contain a perfectly great amount of liquid, while being perfectly easy to pour from at the same time? Or that a perfect horse would bear an infinitely heavy rider, while at the same time being able to run with perfectly great speed? I should think we’d say he’s made a fundamental mistake here: You can’t perfect something by maximizing all its constituent principles simultaneously. All this will get you is contradictions and absurdities. This is not less true of God than it is of anything else.

The attempt to think of God as a perfect being is misguided for another reason as well. We can speak of the perfection of a bottle or a horse because these are things that can be encompassed (at least in some sense) by our senses and understanding. Having the whole bottle before us, we feel we can judge how close it is to being a perfect instance of its type. But if asked to judge the perfection of a bottle poking out of a paper bag, or of a horse that’s partly hidden in the stable, we’d surely protest: How am I supposed to know? I can only see part of it.

Yet the biblical accounts of our encounters with God emphasize that all human views of God are partial and fragmentary in just this way. Even Moses, the greatest of the prophets, is told that he can’t see God’s face, but can only catch a glimpse of God’s back as he passes by. At another point, God responds to Moses’ request to know his name (that is, his nature) by telling him “ehi’eh asher ehi’eh” —“I will be what I will be.” In most English-language Bibles this is translated “I am that I am,” following the Septuagint, which sought to bring the biblical text into line with the Greek tradition (descended from Xenophanes, Parmenides and Plato’s “Timaeus”) of identifying God with perfect being. But in the Hebrew original, the text says almost exactly the opposite of this: The Hebrew “I will be what I will be” is in the imperfect tense, suggesting to us a God who is incomplete and changing. In their run-ins with God, human beings can glimpse a corner or an edge of something too immense to be encompassed, a “coming-into-being” as God approaches, and no more. The belief that any human mind can grasp enough of God to begin recognizing perfections in him would have struck the biblical authors as a pagan conceit.

So if it’s not a bundle of “perfections” that the prophets and scholars who wrote the Hebrew Bible referred to in speaking of God, what was it they were talking about? As Donald Harman Akenson writes, the God of Hebrew Scripture is meant to be an “embodiment of what is, of reality” as we experience it. God’s abrupt shifts from action to seeming indifference and back, his changing demands from the human beings standing before him, his at-times devastating responses to mankind’s deeds and misdeeds — all these reflect the hardship so often present in the lives of most human beings. To be sure, the biblical God can appear with sudden and stunning generosity as well, as he did to Israel at the Red Sea. And he is portrayed, ultimately, as faithful and just. But these are not the “perfections” of a God known to be a perfect being. They don’t exist in his character “necessarily,” or anything remotely similar to this. On the contrary, it is the hope that God is faithful and just that is the subject of ancient Israel’s faith: We hope that despite the frequently harsh reality of our daily experience, there is nonetheless a faithfulness and justice that rules in our world in the end.

The ancient Israelites, in other words, discovered a more realistic God than that descended from the tradition of Greek thought. But philosophers have tended to steer clear of such a view, no doubt out of fear that an imperfect God would not attract mankind’s allegiance. Instead, they have preferred to speak to us of a God consisting of a series of sweeping idealizations — idealizations whose relation to the world in which we actually live is scarcely imaginable. Today, with theism rapidly losing ground across Europe and among Americans as well, we could stand to reconsider this point. Surely a more plausible conception of God couldn’t hurt.


Yoram Hazony is president of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author of, most recently, “The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.” He will be giving a lecture at The New York Public Library author series on Monday.

Sam Miguel
11-29-2012, 11:01 AM

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:38 am | Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Not to worry, says Edcel Lagman, there’s no such thing as a Catholic vote. Lagman, of course, is the principal author of the Reproductive Health bill, a thing that started strong but seems to be floundering in the House. “RH advocates should not fear a negative Catholic vote because the alleged backlash has no empirical basis,” Lagman says. “In fact, if there’s a Catholic vote at all, he says, it is for the enactment of the RH bill.” That is shown by the SWS and Pulse Asia surveys, which consistently show the overwhelming majority of Catholics—70 percent or more—endorsing it.

Miriam Santiago agrees: “In the past, the Catholic Church campaigned against Sen. Juan Flavier because as health secretary, he freely distributed condoms. But Flavier won the elections. The so-called Catholic vote is a political myth.” While at this, she warned the bishops against making electoral threats against congressmen as it constituted “a borderline violation of the constitutional principle of the separation of Church and State.”

Is the Catholic vote more imagined than real?

Well, yes and no. The days when the Church could demonize people like Claro M. Recto, portraying his nationalism as godless communism, are over. That is really where the Catholic Church clout has manifested itself—not in getting candidates elected but in getting candidates not elected. But its power to do that at the national level has waned epically over the decades.

Forget Juan Flavier, mind only Erap. Jaime Cardinal Sin was far more credible in his time than Archbishop Ramon Arguelles is at this time, but he failed completely, miserably, to stop Erap from becoming president. Despite incessant harangues at the pulpit, despite repeated depictions of Erap as one of the most immoral men on earth, given to drinking and womanizing, Sin lived to see Erap sworn into office—on a Bible. Erap in fact didn’t just win, he left Jose de Venecia too far behind to even bite his dust.

But the Church does continue to have some clout in local elections. As does the Iglesia ni Cristo, which moreover can make certain candidates win by its practice of bloc voting. (That in fact is what constitutes a certifiable, and not just borderline, violation of the separation of Church and State.) That is the territory congressmen inhabit—local elections. Which explains why they have been suddenly stricken en masse by one ailment or another and been absent from Congress of late.

I don’t know though that two can’t play the game.

At the very least, I don’t know why the BIR doesn’t take a sudden interest in Church holdings, the better to establish the full extent of its tax obligations. If only to drive home the point about the Church and State being separate as articulated by Christ himself who said, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Collecting the right taxes from the Church should be far better than collecting sin taxes from the public, which only tax the poor more than the rich. It has the added virtue of making Arguelles and company contemplate the true meaning of sin. Avarice, if I recall, is a sin, too, one of the cardinal ones in fact.

Just as well, I don’t know why we can’t mount a “women’s vote” and a “reasonable Catholic vote” to counter the “Catholic vote” with which the Church is threatening congressmen who vote for the RH bill. Those will be a vote against the congressmen who variously disappeared from Congress in the hour of need, who withdrew their support for RH at a critical time, who have posed formidable obstacles to the passage of the bill from the start.

To this day, of course, despite the efforts of the women’s groups to raise it, there has been no such thing as a “women’s vote.” At least its effect has been marginal. But you never know. The recent US elections were determined mostly at the margins, but the combined weight of the Latin American vote, the American-Asian vote, the youth vote, and the women’s vote turned it into a massacre of Mitt Romney. The women voted for Barack Obama precisely because of his pro-choice stand, which went well beyond the RH bill to allow abortion. The RH bill, it should be said again and again, is nothing of the kind. It draws the line at abortion, limiting itself to contraception.

The logic of the US women’s vote was simple: Why should we allow these old, jaded, bigoted male dodos particularly of the GOP to decree what we may or may not do with our bodies? A good question for our own women to ask the bishops—and the congressmen who are in such fear of them—come Election Day.

Even less is there such a thing as a “reasonable Catholic vote,” but it can always be raised as a one-shot deal for next year’s elections. If the surveys are right and the RH bill finds support among the majority of Catholics, then there’s no reason the Catholic voice should not be heard, if in ways beyond the contemplation of the bishops. If in ways that controvert the position of the bishops.

If they can attempt to rally the faithful, or those they believe to be faithful to them, not to vote for those who supported the RH bill, or worse led the fight for it, then the RH advocates can just as well rally the faithful, or those who are faithful to their Catholic beliefs without being unfaithful to themselves, to not vote for the candidates who have shown themselves deserving neither trust nor confidence, neither earth nor heaven. Who are the candidates who have slunk away like cowards from a good fight. Who are the candidates who will sell themselves, their grandmothers, and their country and its future, for another crack at Congress. Who are the candidates who have stood in the way of making life in these parts a little more bearable, a little more acceptable, a little more, well:


Sam Miguel
11-29-2012, 02:01 PM
Why Birth Control Is Still a Big Idea

Contraceptives empower women -- and that's good news for the global health and development agenda.


I spent most of my time this year advocating for better access to family planning around the world. Early on, I told everybody who would listen that I wanted to help put contraceptives back on top of the global health and development agenda. Visiting women in developing countries, however, I realized that this framing didn't quite capture my message.

Contraceptives are tools, and the development agenda is an abstract construct. What was missing were human beings, the women across the world who have told me over and over again that having access to birth-control methods that work for them would change their futures. Now I tell people that I want to help put women at the center of global health and development work, and better contraceptives are one of their top priorities. Listening to women shouldn't still be a revolutionary idea in 2012, but it is.

When I visit family-planning wards at health clinics in African countries, there are always plenty of free condoms available. Condoms are vitally important, especially because they also help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS. But there's a problem: The overwhelming majority of African women can't rely on condoms for birth control because their husbands refuse to use them.

In the same way that American women prefer contraceptive pills, which they don't have to negotiate with their partners, African women favor contraceptive injections over condoms. But because of supply constraints, supply-chain problems, and outdated public policies, these injections are frequently out of stock. To take one example, in Kaduna, Nigeria, a city of some 1.5 million people, there were 226 days last year when not a single public health clinic had injections available.

If you are focused simply on making sure contraceptives are available, you can stockpile condoms and call it a day. But if your goal is helping women build the lives they want for themselves and their families, the bar is higher.

In the United States, especially this year, any occasion when contraceptives and public policy overlap seems to be an excuse to fight about other issues -- abortion or the meaning of religious freedom, for instance. But the fact is, literally 99 percent of women in the United States who have had sex use birth control at some point in their lives. What our behavior (if not our rhetoric) tells me is that contraceptives matter to us. They certainly mattered to me. I was able to go to college and business school. I was able to have a rewarding career at Microsoft. And then Bill and I were able to decide how many children to have (three) and when to have them (each three years apart), which I believe made us better parents.

These are some of the same reasons that contraceptives matter to women in developing countries. Like all parents, they want their children to grow up healthy and go to school. Contraceptives don't do all this, of course. They are a single link in a long chain that includes proper nutrition, vaccines, clean water, productive farms, and high-quality public schools. But they are the first link, and they give parents a much better opportunity to complete the chain. As one young mother in Kenya told me, "I want to bring every good thing to my child before I have another."

There are convincing data showing the long-term impact of contraceptives. The leading study, ongoing in Bangladesh for the past 35 years, proves that people who have access to and education about contraceptives have a higher quality of life in almost every conceivable way than those who don't. They are healthier, less likely to die in childbirth, and less likely to have children who die. They are better educated, with sons and daughters who have more schooling. And they are more prosperous: Their households have more total assets, including land, livestock, and savings. On an even larger scale, economists have argued convincingly that the so-called East Asian economic miracle of the 1980s was due in large part to parents in the region deciding to have fewer children.

Contraceptives unlock one of the most dormant but potentially powerful assets in development: women as decision-makers. When women have the power to make choices about their families, they tend to decide precisely what demographers, economists, and development experts recommend. They invest in the long-term human capital of their families. They don't do it because they're worried about GDP; they do it because they're worried about their children's futures. But the two fit together beautifully.

Today I tell people that I want to help put women at the center of global health and development work -- and that contraceptives are one of the best ways to do that. Because when women everywhere have the power to achieve their goals, they will be doing the majority of the work of development by themselves.

11-30-2012, 09:15 AM
Be wary of Catholic ‘effort,’ Enrile tells RH backers

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:33 am | Friday, November 30th, 2012

There may not be a Catholic vote but there is a “Catholic effort.”

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Thursday reminded reproductive health advocates who say there is no such thing as a Catholic vote that it was Jaime Cardinal Sin’s call to the faithful that brought the people out to Edsa in droves against Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

“What brought about Edsa? Who were the people who went there to bring down an administration? Didn’t Cardinal Sin call on the faithful who went to Edsa to bring down [Marcos]? You have forgotten that event?” Enrile said at Thursday’s Kapihan sa Senado news forum.

“That should be food for thought for anybody who claims that there is no Catholic vote. But there is such a thing as a Catholic effort if it becomes necessary,” he said.

“You can just imagine what will happen if the bishops link their arms with nuns and priests and a crowd to march in the streets and push their position on this particular issue. Do you think any policeman or soldier would be crazy to raise his guns against these people?” Enrile said.

“Don’t ever think that this issue is that simple. We must use our heads because this is a very explosive issue,” he added.

Ironically, Enrile said he would still vote against the reproductive health (RH) bill even if all his 17 amendments to the measure were adopted.

“I’m not a hypocrite. I speak out according to my best assessment of what is good for the country. My vote is against the reproductive health bill … even if they accept my proposals,” he said.

Asked why he was proposing amendments when he was against the measure, Enrile said: “Just to show them that we are not delaying it and we want to refine it.”

“And to tell you the truth, my purpose in proposing some of my amendments is to show to the people that this bill is not really all for the health of women. It’s camouflaged as a health bill but its real purpose is to contract the population,” he said.

On the possibility his anti-RH bill stance would adversely affect the senatorial bid of his son, Cagayan Representative Jack Enrile, next year, he said: “If my son should lose because of that issue, then so be it.”

“Even my life I will put at stake for something I believe in,” he added.

Enrile doubted the Senate would be able to vote on the RH bill before Christmas.

“How can they do that? We have not finished the process. Each one of us has a right to present our amendments,” he said.

Enrile recalled that one senator had reserved the right to interpellate proponents of the bill creating a new province from Camarines Sur (CamSur), and then went abroad for a good period of time. Up to now, Enrile said, the CamSur bill is pending in the upper chamber.

“If they respect that senator, why can’t they wait for us on a very major issue?” he said.

Told of the pro-RH senators’ supposed plan to move for a vote on terminating the period of amendment, Enrile said: “That is cloture. Senator [Pia] Cayetano is only one senator. She cannot impose her will on the Senate.”

Cloture is a procedure by which a Senate debate on a measure is ended and put to an immediate vote.

11-30-2012, 09:16 AM
All out

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:52 pm | Thursday, November 29th, 2012

THE ADMINISTRATION coalition surprised itself this week with suddenly decisive action on two contentious bills pending in Congress: a plenary vote approving the amendment by substitution of the controversial Reproductive Health bill, and a committee vote endorsing the equally controversial Freedom of Information bill to the plenary.

Considering the state of inaction that had claimed the RH bill in the last four months, the decision of the House leadership on Nov. 26 to put the session to immediate use by introducing a substitute bill, with provisions designed to steady wavering allies and attract new support, took the anti-RH bloc by surprise.

Afterwards, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II spoke of “parliamentary momentum” shifting to the pro-RH side. If that reading is accurate, credit both the fast action on the substitution and the fact of the substitute bill itself. It is a compromise measure that is, to use the language of the market, priced to move. Both sides of the RH divide should find something useful in the substitute bill—unless one side is not in fact interested in any form of compromise.

Elizabeth Angsioco, a prominent women’s health rights advocate, found the new bill acceptable, noting that while there have been changes, “the substitute bill retains the important provisions, albeit stated differently.” She identified several, including the measure’s propoor focus, the government guarantee of access to and information on contraceptives, and the voluntary nature of participation. Some of the most controversial features of the bill, in the view of the Catholic bishops, were dropped: The government was barred from providing any contraceptives which may “prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum,” and the parental right to opt out of “classes pertaining to reproductive health and sexuality education” for one’s children was reaffirmed.

Not perfect, but a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, a few recalcitrant anti-RH congressmen vowed once again to deploy the delaying tactics that have worked so well in the last four months. This makes us wonder: We thought the threat of a Catholic backlash at the May 2013 elections was the anti-RH bloc’s most potent weapon. How can outraged Catholic bishops and irate parish priests urge the Catholic faithful to throw out all those who voted for the bill, when the anti-RH group is working so hard to block the vote in the first place?

For the bill to finally become law after a dozen fruitless years in Congress, President Aquino must himself put his weight behind the campaign. He must invest his political capital, and certify the substitute bill as urgent. In the eyes of the majority of the members of the Catholic bishops’ conference, the die was cast many years ago; the majority sees him as indisputably pro-RH. The President might as well turn that enmity to good use, by going all out for the substitute bill.

All in

ANOTHER SMALL legislative milestone was marked when the House committee on public information, voting 17 to 3 with one abstention, managed to pass the Freedom of Information bill on Tuesday. The committee chair, Rep. Ben Evardone, said he expects to send the committee report to the plenary next week.

The surprise was the failure of the right-of-reply advocates to attach their patently unconstitutional rider to the FOI bill. Perhaps they studied the legislative terrain again, and saw they might have a better chance of attaching the rider if more members of the House were taking part in the vote. Or perhaps they saw the FOI bill had no real chance of passage in the 15th Congress, and gave the FOI advocates a tactical but pyrrhic victory.

Whatever the case, the bill that President Aquino himself committed to as a campaign promise, the same measure that complements the Aquino administration’s avowed straight path of governance, the very same law-in-the-making that would empower Mr. Aquino’s own boss—ordinary people, citizens of the republic—in the continuing struggle to create a more accountable, a more transparent, democracy, has taken the necessary next step.

What is stopping Mr. Aquino and his entire administration, voted to power on the accountability platform, from going all in on the FOI bill?

11-30-2012, 04:44 PM
How about making the RH Bill work like the Bush Tax Cuts, i.e. let it expire after so many years (say, 100 years) then debate on it again whether to extend it or let it expire completely? By then it should be clear if it really has reduced maternal and infant mortality and/or the undesirable consequences (increase in promiscuity and abortion cases) were realized.

Sam Miguel
12-03-2012, 02:53 PM
^^^ I like that idea. But that means we should have all manner of contraception free for everybody who wants it.

Sam Miguel
12-03-2012, 02:54 PM
Bishop seeks prayers for Enrile

By Norman Bordadora, Philip C. Tubeza

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:33 am | Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

A Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) official on Saturday appealed to the faithful to pray for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in the wake of reports he may be ousted from his post for opposing the reproductive health (RH) bill.

Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, urged Catholics to pray for Enrile to keep his job so the RH bill would not pass in the Senate.

He noted that President Aquino would be meeting with the lawmakers on Monday on the RH bill, which the Catholic Church vehemently opposes since it promotes the use of artificial contraception.

“The President once again (is) calling the congressmen and women to a luncheon meeting. He will push for a vote on the RH bill,” Castro said.

“We have also received a report of moves to oust Senator Enrile as Senate President because of (his) opposition to the RH bill,” he added.

“We beg you to pray (to) Our Lord through Our Lady to thwart all their plans. O Mary, save our country from danger. We are yours. Help us in this hour of need,” he said.

Earlier, Enrile said RH bill proponents in the Senate could not force a vote on the measure since some senators were still proposing amendments to the bill.

The Senate President mentioned Sen. Pia Cayetano, in particular, saying she could not force a vote unless the majority of senators sided with her.

But senators close to Enrile downplayed reports of a Senate coup in the making supposedly as a result of Enrile’s perceived moves to block the RH bill.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, himself staunchly anti-RH, said there were RH bill advocates in the Senate, who nonetheless remained supportive of Enrile’s leadership.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan also expressed doubt there would be a Senate coup at this time, saying the senators were too preoccupied with priority bills on the Aquino administration’s legislative agenda.

Both, however, acknowledged they would probably be among the last to know if a coup was indeed in the offing because of their closeness to Enrile.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a member of Liberal Party (LP) headed by President Aquino, denied the existence of a plot to oust Enrile.

“No such thing as far as I’m concerned,” Pangilinan said in a text message to the Inquirer.

Enrile and Honasan are stalwarts of the United Nationalist Alliance that is fielding candidates against the LP-led coalition in 2013.

Sotto ran as an independent in 2010.

Sam Miguel
12-03-2012, 02:55 PM
^^^ Really, my Lords Bishop? We're praying for Johnny Enrile now? He's doing God's work now?

Sam Miguel
12-03-2012, 02:56 PM
Some lawmakers see RH Bill won’t be certified as urgent by Aquino

By Karen Boncocan


2:20 pm | Monday, December 3rd, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – Despite meeting with lawmakers on Monday, some members of the House of Representatives said it was unlikely that President Benigno Aquino III would certify the Reproductive Health Bill as urgent.

Iloilo Representative Janette Garin, co-author of House Bill 4244 or the RH Bill, told reporters in a text message that the measure “cannot be certified as urgent as it is not time bound. It has, however, been listed as a priority bill.”

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said that 182 of their members confirmed their attendance to the meeting with the President.

Aquino could be meeting with lawmakers to “simply urge Congress to vote. He won’t lobby for either a yes or no vote but he will press us to respect the parliamentary process, appeal to those engaged in procedural delays to desist, and get on with the vote,” said Akbayan Partylist Representative Walden Bello.

Cibac Partylist Representative Sherwin Tugna said the President’s move on the RH Bill could depend on their dialogue with him over lunch as well as the Catholic Church’s response to the substitute bill. “I believe that the President will urge the legislators to be present during the deliberations, so that at the very least the RH Bill will be deliberated and debated.”

The most recent development on HB 4244 was the acceptance of a substitute version for it last week and while many feel that the President could push for voting to take place within the day, Bello expressed uncertainty over finishing the period of amendments on Monday night.

“I think there will be resumption of the amendments process, though I’m not sure if we’ll be able to complete that this evening,” he said.

But the bill’s main proponent, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, said that he remains confident that they can breeze through the period of individual amendments and pass the measure before they go on Christmas break.

To do this, Garin said that it was important that lawmakers reach and maintain a quorum—something which has become rare since they resumed session last November 5.

Sam Miguel
12-03-2012, 02:56 PM
Bishops, lawmakers meet on RH bill

By Gil C. Cabacungan, Jocelyn Uy

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:46 am | Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Lawmakers are optimistic that Congress will finally end the gridlock on the divisive reproductive health (RH) bill after some leaders of the Catholic Church have given their inputs to the substitute measure introduced by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

A member of the House majority, who declined to be named because he was not authorized by the House to speak on the matter, said at least four bishops—Antonio Ledesma, Gabriel Reyes, Deogracias Iñiguez and Teodoro Bacani—who have been vocal in opposing the bill had given their inputs to the substitute measure.

The source said this explained why the substitute bill had been “toned down” from the original bill, which the Church had vigorously opposed for its provisions on mandatory population control measures. “With their endorsement, we expect the RH bill to be passed soon,” the source said.

Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco said some bishops had met with some lawmakers to discuss the substitute RH bill. “This is true. They met with Speaker (Feliciano) Belmonte. RH bill proponents have already bent over backward to accommodate the antis and yet to no avail. The substitute bill is a good bill,” she said.

In a text message, Belmonte confirmed that he and other lawmakers met with some bishops in September. Belmonte, however, did not identify the bishops and did not say if the Catholic leaders would support the substitute bill as a compromise.

Cojuangco said that this week’s voting would be critical. “We will know more this week. If they (bishops) are supporting it (the substitute bill), of course, I am contented. In the language that bishops understand, ‘whatever you do for the least of my brothers that you do unto me.’ We all know who said those words and is what the RH bill is all about,” she said.

Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Church hierarchy’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, meanwhile, said Bishop Reyes, chairman of the commission, was not part of those who had written the substitute bill.

Castro said he mentioned to Reyes reports that identified the bishop as among those who had a hand in drawing up the substitute bill.

The bishop denied any involvement, Castro told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a text message.

Sam Miguel
12-03-2012, 02:58 PM
‘Time for RH bill showdown’

President to meet lawmakers at Palace

By Cathy C. Yamsuan, Leila B. Salaverria, TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:05 am | Monday, December 3rd, 2012

The time has come to put the reproductive health (RH) bill to a vote, Malacañang officials and lawmakers supporting the measure said Sunday.

“We can’t leave it hanging,” Transportation Secretary Joseph E.A. Abaya, a former lawmaker, said on the eve of a meeting with lawmakers led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Liberal Party (LP) leaders that President Aquino is presiding over at the Palace to muster support for the passage of the bill.

Abaya, LP executive vice president, said the House of Representatives had reached a stage where the bill “should be put to a vote.”

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said it was time for a showdown.

“Rich or poor, Filipinos want the RH bill. We should do head-butting now,” said Santiago, cosponsor of the bill in the Senate, which would to provide women, especially the poor, access to different forms of contraception so they can plan the size of their families.

She said she was confident of winning the showdown. She counted 13 senators in favor of the measure, one head short of the 14 that Sen. Panfilo Lacson, one of those who filed a bill on RH, earlier announced.

She reminded politicians to be sensitive to public opinion and realize that as many as 80 percent of respondents in surveys on the RH bill favored its approval.

Best before Dec. 21

The best time to vote on the bill is before Congress adjourns on Dec. 21 for the holidays, otherwise it would be too late, said Secretary Manuel Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO).

Mamba said there would be just a few weeks of sessions next year before the campaign for the midterm elections in May 2013 went into high gear in February.

He said the President was making a final pitch to members of the House to show up and vote on the measure before the holiday season.

Majority and minority leaders, leaders of the LP, Nacionalista Party, and Nationalist People’s Coalition and National Unity Party (formerly Kampi), and most of the House members are expected to turn up at the meeting in Malacañang at noon today.

All lawmakers were invited, according to Mamba.

He said Mr. Aquino would put forward one request: Show up at plenary deliberations, produce a quorum and vote on the measure.

“That’s the compromise I’m expecting. Vote on it, however it goes,” Mamba said by phone.

“He (the President) will ask them that they should be there so that there will be a quorum and that they can vote on it. They can’t just archive it and decide later on. When is that going to happen again?” the PLLO chief said.

For weeks, the House had failed to introduce amendments to the bill in plenary due to a lack of quorum, no thanks to absentee lawmakers, mostly administration allies. “Even the coauthors have disappeared,” Mamba said.

Substitute bill

When it finally mustered a quorum last week, the chamber accepted a “substitute bill”—House Bill No. 4244—that purportedly incorporated all the amendments.

The new version gives priority to the poor in the provision of birth control methods and bans contraceptives that prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum, as this is considered abortion by the Catholic Church.

On Saturday, the President attended a thanksgiving Mass for the elevation of Manila Archbishop Luis “Chito” Tagle to the College of Cardinals in what was seen as a “thawing of relations” between the state and the Church.

The meeting, however, hardly made a dent on the President’s position on the bill, which is fiercely opposed by the Church for purportedly promoting use of contraceptives and abortion.

“You know, I disagree that there was a change of heart. That has always been his position. The President is pro-RP—responsible parenthood—but he’s always maintained that it should be voted according to your conscience,” the President’s deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said over government-run radio.

The President’s attendance at Tagle’s Mass showed that “men of principle can have disagreements on certain issues but they can still break bread together,” Valte said.

Monday’s meeting in Malacañang may be the President’s final chance to make a personal appeal to the 287-member House to vote on the RH bill.

“He has always told them that they’re leaders, and as leaders, they should lead their people,” Mamba said.

Abaya agreed. “For such an important bill, I think the President wants to be involved to make his message clear on what his guidance and policy direction is, not only to Liberal Party but [also] to other supporters,” he said by phone.

“I’m sure some are confused. So it greatly helps if he comes forward and makes a statement. It erases all [doubts],” Abaya added.

Mamba, whose office acts as the middleman between the executive branch and Congress, said he was “optimistic about the outcome.”

He recalled that lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to terminate debates on the RH bill after emerging from the Aug. 5 meeting with the President.

“Yes, that can be put to a vote,” Mamba added, referring to the substitute bill which he said was acceptable to Malacañang. “After all, the President has always told them that ‘we will implement whatever you pass.’”

Abaya said “every inch” would be a battle from now on, but added that there was “still a shot at approval” before Congress adjourns this month.

Should it come to voting, Mamba himself wasn’t confident that the bill would breeze through approval.

“It could go either way,” he said, admitting that pro-RH lawmakers enjoyed a “slim margin” over their anti-RH colleagues.

The bill is a priority measure but it has not been certified as urgent by the President.

Mamba said the President would certify a measure as urgent if it was certain that it would be passed on second and third reading on the same day. “It’s useless to certify it as urgent if there is no quorum,” he said.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, an LP deputy spokesperson, said Mr. Aquino was expected to call on lawmakers to vote on the bill, but was not inclined to dictate on lawmakers which side to choose.

But one opponent of the measure, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, said that if Malacañang forced a vote on the bill immediately after the meeting, without completing the period of amendments, it would “strain relations between the Catholic Church and the President.”

Rodriguez has begged off from attending the Palace meeting, saying he won’t be swayed into changing his position on the bill.

Modified bill

Baguilat said proponents of the measure had already modified the original reproductive health bill to address the concerns of bishops.

He believed that while the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines would continue to oppose the passage of the bill, there were prelates who softened their stance on the measure.

“Privately, many bishops are comfortable with the language of the substitute bill,” he said.

Asked to explain her confidence that pro-RH legislators would win, Santiago said: “Apart of course from a politician’s concerns, the first consideration in the real world is how many voters want the RH bill? If that is what the voter wants, why go against the one who has power to determine whether he or she remains senator or congressman?”

“If anyone calls for a vote, we already have 13,” Santiago said in a radio interview.

Besides, the RH bill had already languished for 15 years in Congress. Surely, it would be unimaginable for lawmakers “to let it die of old age,” she said.

Sam Miguel
12-03-2012, 03:12 PM
Watch out for Monday’s railroad show

By Dr. Antonio Montalvan II

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:53 am | Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Pro-life advocates and supporters are advised to bring their cell phones to the House of Representatives on Monday. The likelihood is that congressmen will again avoid nominal voting. As was surreptitiously done the last time just before the habagat winds and rains slammed and deluged Metro Manila, it will be viva voce. The Ayes will simply din out the Nays and we will never know who voted how.

But a citizenry in search of transparency has powerful options. At the instance of voting, cameras must be ready to record the event. Make sure to pan them on those who have been lured to vote in favor of the substitute reproductive health bill. Let YouTube take care of the rest, unless House security is instructed midday Monday that cell phones be banned. If this happens, let us only understand why. Alternative media can be cruelly honest. They can affect the ballot next year. Still, the advice is to try YouTube if one wishes to be brutally frank.

For the news was already out last Friday—Malacañang has called all congressmen to a gathering for lunch today.

President Aquino wants to break the impasse on the RH bill. The invitation was sent through text messages by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte. It is, as an erudite analyst describes it, “another” trapo-esque railroading maneuver,” the script of which we can already read in advance for its predictability.

Expect Monday to be a day of circus masters and balimbings, that sweet-sour many-sided fruit that we once had in our backyard at home. The viva voce is the only way to railroad the RH bill in a legislature that has in fact sat on that bill since Congress resumed sessions last November 5. This has been a no-quorum House. But today will be a day of magic. And the spell is not just any abracadabra.

Ordinary mortals like us must ask: What is the Palace’s enticement for an Aye vote? We do have an idea how dirty politics works in the country. Surely the answer could not be in what will be served at the Palace lunch. In fact, the menu may be bland, given the economics of the present occupant. There is only one way to scare the daylights out of the congressmen. We know what that is. And the timing is perfect. Next year is election year. No one wants to be without her or his, well, that porcine and calorific matter called pork barrel.

Dangling the pork barrel has been done by all presidents. But there must be something uncanny and misplaced about it if it were done today. It is as if we are not in the daang matuwid. Because that is what President Aquino says he preaches. And that is what we expect him to practice. He says he is different—as vastly different as the deep blue ocean is from a hell of fire—from his predecessor. And so indeed we simply expect him to be different.

Enticing congressmen, therefore, to a lunch with threats related to the release of their pork barrel is going to be blatantly scandalous and immeasurably coercive. That it is done in the guise of transparency—Malacañang has not denied that congressmen have indeed been called to lunch and that they’ll be doing this in full view of the Filipino people—is nothing but bastos, if you may pardon the language of the gutter. But then again, people have been known to sell their souls in this country.

If this administration wants to pass the RH bill badly, it must do so by doing it the only appropriate way. Enticements are cheap. They are old tricks, in fact. They are, yes, of traditional politics. Surely the Speaker of the House should have better ways than being seen lending an ear to Congress lobbyist Beth Angsioco. Surely Malacañang should have better ways than being trapo-esque, not to mention being burlesque. One decent way to do it is conscience voting.

Edcel Lagman claims 71 percent of Filipinos want the RH bill (so why the lunch and viva voce?). Yet, why the “no-quorum” in the House since it resumed sessions? The answer must not be in the surveys. A Palace secretary had suggested (was he authorized to speak such, or did he make a faux pas?) that congressmen may be afraid of incurring the ire of Catholics. Is that admitting a Catholic vote, after all?

Our guidance on the RH bill must come from President Aquino himself. Last Friday in Cebu City, before the mammoth congregation in the National Thanksgiving Mass for St. Pedro Calungsod, one cannot help but be impressed by his commanding address after the Mass:

“Faith in God is our pillar of strength. Selfless sacrifice for our principles is the same sacrifice we are called today. The challenge is to live our principles.” And there is our guidance for the RH bill. For those who see the RH bill as an infringement on their religious convictions, President Aquino has spoken. He himself has told us this. Do not let your guards down. Not unless he was just playing to the colossal crowd. If he did, that is his problem. Let us assume he did not: that there indeed is a Catholic conviction that can be translated into action, into responses to Catholic suppression. History is replete with precedents.

But bring cell phones with cameras on Monday to the House. Then download to YouTube. The truth must be used to set us free. That is what they have taught us. That is what we are told.

Sam Miguel
12-03-2012, 03:12 PM
Once more, the RH bill

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:51 am | Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Last Saturday I received an anonymous message through the Internet that said: “Anti-RH bishops do not speak for the entire clergy. We, the silent Catholic clergy, support the RH [bill]. Poverty dehumanizes. To address it brings us closer to God. Pass the RH [bill].”

That makes my Internet pal a candidate for exclusion from the Church and consignment to eternal fire by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles. Yet the message expresses a sentiment close to the heart of Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle himself who, in an interview by the Tablet, said, “The Church cannot and must not pretend to have easy answers to the dilemmas facing men and women today. Instead, it must be an attentive and listening Church—only that way will people believe that God listens to them too.”

He went on: “The Church must be a humble Church, modeling herself more on Jesus and being less preoccupied by her power, prestige and position in society.” Still more: “I realize that the sufferings of people and the difficult questions they ask are an invitation to be, first, in solidarity with them, not to pretend we have all the solutions. [People] can resonate and see the concrete face of God in a Church that can be silent with them, can be as confused as they are, also telling them we share your situation of searching.”

Jesus Christ Himself would not make a facile Arguellian condemnation of my Internet pal.

The Reproductive Health bill has traveled a long road and I myself have written about it and have likewise been consigned by some to the lower regions. I know that in its unamended form the bill is not perfect, and I myself, mainly on constitutional and moral grounds, have offered criticism and suggestions. I am not about to give up in my effort to help Congress come up with a bill acceptable to all.

There is now, it seems to me, an openness among legislators that is encouraging. A couple of weeks ago the House of Representatives accepted a substitute bill containing very significant amendments. It is hoped that the bill will be subjected to the amendment process and approved before the House breaks for Christmas.

The amendatory bill first came out in April. No action was taken on it by the House. The following were the salient provisions:

Section 13. Role of barangay health workers. Instead of saying that they should “give priority to family planning work,” simply say they should “help implement this Act.” This should obviate the complaints that family planning is being given undue emphasis.

Section 15. Funding mobile health services. Charge the funding to the national government instead of to the Priority Development Fund (PDAF) of congressmen while at the same time allowing individual lawmakers to use their PDAF.

Section 16. Mandatory age appropriate sex education. Give parents the option not to allow their children to attend mandatory sex education while at the same time giving assistance to parents who want assistance in this matter. This is in conformity with the primary right of parents.

Section 20. Ideal family size. Delete the entire provision. This will preclude further misinformation about the meaning of this provision.

Section 21. Employers’ responsibility. Delete this because it is simply a restatement of Article 134 of the Labor Code. Deleting it will preclude further debate.

Section 28(e) Prohibited acts. Delete the provision that penalizes “any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent and provisions of this Act.” There already are penal limits to freedom of expression.

In addition to the above amendments already proposed by the authors of the consolidated bill there are others that are worth considering. Let me mention a few:

On age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education:

1.) Private schools can opt to provide an alternative sexuality education curriculum based on the school’s religious beliefs or values. The government will monitor that there is a curriculum being implemented, whether the standard one or the alternative one. This is now in the substitute bill.

2.) If a public school cannot provide enough adequately trained teachers or there are public school teachers who cannot teach the government’s curriculum because of religion-based objections, the proper government agency would send trained instructors to teach the sexuality education classes.

3.) An additional topic for the curriculum is the role of religious freedom and conscience in choosing the means of planning families.

On prohibited acts:

Any health care service provider, whether public or private, who shall require a person to undergo a sterilization as a condition for providing basic health care or emergency care or health care assistance to indigents shall be penalized.

What were first presented last April were mere proposals. They still are to fay. But the acceptance of the substitute bill for plenary debate gives hope that there will be an RH law before Christmas. Rep. Edcel Lagman, the original author of the bill, might therefore receive his Christmas gift. It will not be a perfect law. But every law we have, even the Constitution, is a work in progress. There are many valuable points in the bill that can serve the welfare of the nation and especially of poor women who cannot afford the cost of medical service. There are specific provisions that give substance to these good points. They should be saved.

12-05-2012, 08:04 AM
Senate rejects Enrile, Recto RH changes

by Ayee Macaraig

Posted on 12/04/2012 8:55 PM | Updated 12/04/2012 11:09 PM

MANILA, Philippines – This time, they did not succeed.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen Ralph Recto failed to remove key provisions of the Senate's version of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

The Senate voted against amendments of the two RH critics on Tuesday, December 4. (The House of Representatives has its own version of the billl, which President Benigno Aquino III wants members to approve this week.)

Enrile and Recto first proposed the amendments to RH bill principal sponsor Pia Cayetano. When she rejected 4 of the amendments, the Senate decided in all 4 times to uphold Cayetano’s decision.

The most contentious amendment concerned the removal of the phrase “safe and satisfying sex life” from the definition of RH.

Enrile introduced the change, along with a similar amendment removing “pleasurable” from the phrase “pleasurable and safe sexual experiences” in the definition of sexual health.

Cayetano did not accept the changes. “Many women are denied a pleasurable sexual experience. They give in to their husbands because they have to, to make them happy even if they become pregnant,” she said.

“To delete ‘pleasurable’ is just to say we can deny them of a pleasurable experience,” she added.

Cayetano said the two phrases were “very important” parts of the bill.

Unconvinced, Enrile then asked for a nominal voting.

In both amendments, the Senate voted 11-6 to reject his proposed changes.

Cayetano’s office posted on Twitter that 10 senators voted consistently to support her:

•Co-sponsor Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago
•Sen Alan Peter Cayetano
•Sen Franklin Drilon
•Sen Francis Escudero
•Sen Teofisto “TG” Guingona III
•Sen Panfilo Lacson
•Sen Loren Legarda
•Sen Ferdinand Marcos Jr
•Sen Sergio Osmeña III
•Sen Francis Pangilinan

The RH bill aims to provide access to both natural and modern family planning methods, and to promote sex education and family planning.

One of the most contentious measures in Congress, it has been pending for about 17 years. The Catholic Church is staunchly against the bill, saying it promotes a contraceptive mentality and promiscuity.

President Benigno Aquino III has expressed support for it, saying he would vote for the measure if he were still a lawmaker.

‘DOST has no role in RH’

The Senate also had to vote on Enrile’s proposal requiring the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to help the Department of Health (DOH) in ensuring that RH devices are “thoroughly tested and certified to be medically safe.”

Cayetano said she could not accept the amendment because it is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the DOH that is in charge of the task.

“The DOST has no role here. Certifying medication is the mandate of the DFA. That’s their job. The DOST does not even employ any pharmacist. This is a pharmacological matter. I do not understand how it can be tasked with this duty,” Cayetano said.

When Enrile asked for a vote, the Senate voted 4-12 to side with Cayetano.

Enrile introduced a total of 7 amendments for the day, with Cayetano accepting the minor ones.

This was on top of the initial 6 amendments the Senate President introduced on November 19.

Recount on Recto proposal

Recto also did not prevail in the nominal voting.

The senator wanted to change the provision requiring local government units (LGUs) to ensure the establishment or upgrading of hospitals or facilities to provide emergency obstetric and newborn care.

Recto proposed that the mandate be given to the national government instead, saying the bill not give enough funds to LGUs.

“I think the responsibility should be with the national government because we’re enacting a national law. We are promising these services but then we’re passing the buck to LGUs. I don’t think that’s right, Mr President,” Recto said.

Cayetano though rejected Recto’s amendment, saying that the Local Government Code said LGUs have the responsibility for primary and maternal health care.

“Swak na swak doon ang (It fits perfectly there) reproductive health care so it’s the responsibility of the LGU,” Cayetano said.

Recto called for a vote but the senators were held in suspense as the RH advocates questioned the initial finding that the Senate accepted the amendment.

After a recount and a suspension, presiding officer Sen Gregorio Honasan II announced that the vote was 9-8 to reject Recto’s amendment.

Voting patterns?

Incidentally, Recto lost the vote even after the Senate approved a similar amendment he introduced on November 19.

In a vote of 13-7, the chamber then passed Recto’s amendment to remove from LGUs the responsibility to provide RH services. Supporters saw it as a loss, saying the provision was an important part of the bill.

Sen Panfilo Lacson has said that the votes on the amendments are indicative of senators’ final vote on the entire bill.

Yet for Sen Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, senators’ stand on individual amendments cannot be taken as an indication of their position on the controversial measure.

Cayetano is pushing for a vote on the bill soon, similar to her counterparts in the House of Representatives. The focus on other priority measures and delays by critics have pushed back voting on second reading in the two chambers. – Rappler.com

12-05-2012, 08:07 AM
Male senators uneasy with ‘safe, satisfying sex’

by Ayee Macaraig

Posted on 12/04/2012 6:39 PM | Updated 12/04/2012 11:30 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Five words sparked a lengthy and loaded debate in the Senate, leaving male senators ill at ease. The phrase? Safe and satisfying sex life.

Five male senators were indignant, curious and at times laughing as they questioned the inclusion of the phrase in the definition of Reproductive Health (RH).

The debate was rooted in an amendment that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile introduced, removing the phrase from the definition of RH. (Read the other amendments here.)

The entire line that Enrile wanted removed was, “This (RH) implies that people are able to have a safe and satisfying sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide, if, when and how often to do so.”

Sen Pia Cayetano, the bill’s principal sponsor, rejected the amendment, triggering the debate.

Enrile ally Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III stood up to defend the amendment.

“May I ask, wala ba tayo ngayon niyan? It’s present. We should have safe and satisfying sex life and we can decide when and where to do so. So bakit kailangan pang ilagay sa batas iyon? Ang sagwang tingnan sa batas eh,” Sotto said. (May I ask, don’t we have that now? That’s present. So why do we need to put that in the law? It does not look pleasant to have that in the law.)

Sen Jinggoy Estrada turned comical when he rose to question the phrase. “’Di ba pagka magsesex ang isang babae’t lalaki, we assume we will be satisfied?” (Don’t we assume that when a man and a woman have sex, we will be satisfied?)

“Because I’m quite disturbed because if I for example have sex with my wife, I assume that I will be satisfied and I assume my wife will also be satisfied and we will always be satisfied,” Estrada said.

For Sen Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III, the question was, “Does the deletion of that phrase mean we won’t have a happy and healthy sex life?”

The RH bill aims to provide access to both natural and modern family planning methods, and to promote sex education and family planning. The House of Representatives has its own version of the billl, which President Benigno Aquino III wants members to approve this week.

One of the most contentious measures in Congress, it has been pending for about 17 years. The Catholic Church is staunchly against the bill, saying it promotes a contraceptive mentality and promiscuity.

President Aquino has expressed support for it, saying he would vote for the measure if he were still a lawmaker.

‘Chiz currently in love’

Yet it was Sen Francis “Chiz” Escudero’s question that drew the most laughs. Escudero said he was “not too comfortable” with the phrase, prompting Cayetano to ask, “Is your problem with the safe or is your problem with the satisfying?”

Escudero said “I like both,” adding it was the phrase being used in the law that was his problem.

Cayetano in turn asked him what he wants his daughter and wife to have: a safe or satisfying sex life?

Escudero replied “safe” for his daughter and for his wife, “I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know anymore. You should have asked me before.” The senator is already separated from his wife.

Cayetano then alluded to his relationship with actress Heart Evangelista, “I’m speaking [hypothetically]. I assume you will have a wife again because I know that you are currently in love.”

Escudero said it was another matter but later on laughed out loud.

‘Not a laughing matter’

The mood turned serious when Cayetano addressed the questions, especially that of Estrada.

“I just want all the gentlemen laughing here now to know that in conferences all around the world, having a safe, satisfying sex life is not a laughing matter. It’s serious business,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano explained that the phrase was lifted from the International Conference on Population and Development, which the Philippines acceded to.

“Many times a woman’s satisfaction is inhibited or she is not satisfied because she’s afraid of getting pregnant. A lot of women will accede to the desire of their husband to have sex because they want to make their husband happy and they want to have sex too but without protection, they know they will bear the burden of another child.”

“So I hope I convince his honor that contraceptives is necessary to have a satisfying sex life for many people,” Cayetano added.

Her brother, Sen Alan Peter Cayetano sided with her. He said, “What is the discomfort with the phrase? Is it because we are prude or we just don’t like the language because they might say we are vulgar or is there something inherently wrong with safe, satisfying sex life?”

The younger Cayetano added, “I am in favor of having it there if we have a better word but to remove if because we’re uncomfortable, we weren’t elected to be comfortable. We were elected to do the right thing here.”

'Why so aghast?'

Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago also stood to defend the phrase. “Why are we so aghast with use of ‘safe, satisfying sex life?' It’s been used for 20 years or more.”

Santiago said the phrase is already part of legislative vocabulary worldwide.

She was snarky. “Some may find the phrase strange … because we don’t always deal with international law in this chamber.”

The issue eventually came to a vote, with the Senate voting 6-11 to reject Enrile’s move to remove the phrase.

The Senate also voted 6-11 against another similar Enrile amendment to remove the word “pleasurable” in the phrase “pleasurable and safe sexual experience” under the definition of sexual health. – Rappler.com

12-05-2012, 08:08 AM
Senate removes RH mandate from LGUs, private hospitals

by Ayee Macaraig

Posted on 11/19/2012 5:35 PM | Updated 11/19/2012 10:16 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate accepted the amendment of key provisions of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, removing the mandate of local government units (LGUs) and private hospitals to provide RH services.

Sen Ralph Recto introduced the amendment to remove the LGUs' mandate during the period of amendments on Monday, November 19. RH bill principal sponsor Pia Cayetano rejected it but the Senate voted 13-7 to adopt the change.

The RH bill initially gave joint responsibility for RH services to the national and the local government. The amended provision now reads, “The provision of reproductive health care and information must be the primary responsibility of the National Government consistent with its obligation to respect, protect and promote the right to health.”

Recto explained that LGUs are already burdened with many responsibilities, and are hard pressed to fund various programs.

“How much will this cost the LGU, with all these mandates? If we can’t answer the question of how much, it will be very hard to have a new mandate,” Recto said.

Cayetano countered that the primary responsibility of health care is with the local governments. Her co-sponsor Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago stood to defend the original bill.

“You cannot send to jail any local official if he can’t carry out his mandate because the government is not giving him money. I think the fear is misplaced,” Santiago said.”

The two sponsors were outnumbered though with the chamber voting 13-7 to accept Recto’s amendment.

The Senate also voted in favor of another Recto amendment, lifting the responsibility of private health care facilities to provide RH services.

In an interview after the session, Cayetano told reporters she "felt bad" about the two amendments but will continue fighting for the measure.

Recto began introducing amendments after the Senate voted to tackle the RH bill first before the sin tax bill on Monday.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile made the motion to discuss the RH bill first to refute allegations he is delaying the deliberation of the bill.

The RH bill is facing a bigger battle in the House of Representatives. A series of parliamentary tactics and problems with quorum have prevented the chamber from starting the period of amendments.

Enrile outvoted on ‘when life begins’

Before Recto, it was Enrile who first introduced changes.

Enrile introduced 6 out of his 17 amendments on Monday afternoon. The most contentious one was an amendment defining conception.

“Conception – refers to the successful penetration of an ovum by a spermatozoa in the fallopian tube, otherwise known as fertilization when new life begins to form in the mother’s women,” Enrile read into the Senate records.

The amendments sparked a long debate, with Cayetano and Santiago strongly objecting to the definition. The sponsors said Enrile’s definition was not supported by scientific evidence.

Santiago said, “Even scientists don’t know when life begins so how can we put it into law?

Cayetano and Santiago said Enrile’s definition had implications on the use of contraceptives, medical procedures, and may spark legal challenges against the law before the Supreme Court.

Santiago added, “There is a consensus in scientific community that contraceptives work prior to fertilization so they can’t be considered abortifacients. I am deeply regretful that this proposed amendment is unacceptable to the sponsor.”

Enrile responded, “The Constitution protects equally the life of the mother and the unborn. The phrase is ‘life of the unborn from conception’ so it’s incumbent upon us to determine when life begins and must be protected.”

Cayetano said defining when life begins implies that the senators are smarter than experts. Enrile shot back, “That’s not right. I am not saying I’m smarter than anyone.”

In a vote of 9-11, senators rejected the Enrile amendment.

Include ‘unborn,’ delete ‘population’

Here are the other changes Enrile introduced, and the Senate’s decision:

1) Delete the phrase “International Conference on Population and Development”

- Enrile said this is to ensure that the RH bill is aimed at helping women and will not be a population control measure in the guise of development initiatives

- Cayetano said RH services will have an effect on population but population control is not the main objective of the bill

- Senate votes 8-7 to adopt Enrile’s amendment

2) Insert phrases “the unborn” and “the health of the unborn”

- Cayetano accepts the amendment

3) Delete “population and development”

- New provision will read, “Active participation by non-government, women’s and people’s organizations and communities is crucial to ensure that reproductive health and population and development policies, plans and programs will address the priority needs of women, the poor and the marginalized.”

- Enrile repeats that RH bill should not be a population control measure

- Cayetano said, “If you empower [a woman] to plan her family, that will have, most likely have a macro effect on population. You can’t deny that but it doesn’t meant the state is controlling population.”

- Senate votes 9-10 to reject the Enrile amendment – Rappler.com

12-05-2012, 08:10 AM
Marcos: Senate RH vote still possible

by Ayee Macaraig

Posted on 11/25/2012 1:03 PM | Updated 11/25/2012 5:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Despite the tight timetable, Sen Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr believes the Senate can still vote on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

Yet in the House of Representatives, he said it’s another story.

In an interview on radio dzBB, Marcos said he will help push for a vote on the RH bill after the Senate passes the 2013 national budget. The budget is the priority of the chamber and the administration, with its enactment seen before the year ends.

Marcos has been one of the RH bill’s supporters, having authored a version when he was still congressman of Ilocos Norte.

“Susubukan talaga natin iyan, andiyan na eh. Konti na lang ang gagawin. Sa Senado, meron pang interpellation ang Senate President, nasa amendments na tayo. Pagkatapos niyan, botohan na,” Marcos said in the interview on Sunday, November 25. (We will really try that, it’s already there. We just need to do a few more things. In the Senate, the Senate president just has his interpellation and amendments. After that, let’s vote.)

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has yet to introduce 11 amendments after proposing an initial 6 last Monday, November 19.

Marcos said win or lose, the Senate should decide on the fate of the bill.

“Lahat ng debate nagawa na eh …. Paulit-ulit na rin ang ibang isyu kaya sa palagay ko, hinog na iyan. Dapat nang iboto iyan at ready na kami, ready na kaming lahat. ‘Di ko masasabi kung mananalo o matatalo o hindi dahil nililihim ng ating mga kasama.” (We’ve done all the debates. We just keep repeating the issues so I think the time is ripe for a vote. We are all ready. I can’t say if we will win or lose because our colleagues keep their stands secret.)

House vote may not happen

Marcos said the bill is encountering more problems in the House of Representatives. This week, a word war ensued, with RH proponents in the House accusing the chamber's leadership of “dribbling” the measure.

There are only 12 session days left before Congress goes on Christmas break.

“Sa House, palagay ko, baka ‘di na umabot. Sa atin baka kayang tapusin pa,” Marcos said. (In the House, the bill may not make it. In the Senate, I think we can finish it.)

Marcos said another challenge in the House is that some authors abandoned the bill with the 2013 midterm elections drawing near.

“Tinatakot sila ng mga pari, mga obispo na lalabanan sila pag sumuporta sila sa RH bill kaya marami na rin ang umatras.” (Priests and bishops are threatening to campaign against them if they support the RH bill that’s why they backed out.)

Marcos said the reality is that the bishops’ warning affects politicians, with some priests having threatened excommunication and using their homilies to speak against RH advocates.

“That scares you somehow. No matter how strong you are in your district, those kinds of words will make you think twice.”

The senator said Congress must pass the RH bill before the year ends, with lawmakers going on full campaign mode come January.

Senate amendments vote no indication

Marcos also said that the Senate vote on the RH amendments last November 19 is no indication on the vote on the entire bill.

For example, he said he voted for the amendment introduced by Sen Ralph Recto that removed the mandate to provide RH services from local government units.

RH advocates said the amendment weakened the bill, along with another change Recto introduced that removed the RH mandate from private hospitals.

“In my view, we should not add to the burden of the local governments mandates that they cannot fulfill. That has always been my advocacy. I voted for the amendment,” Marcos said.

He added, “It’s hard to read where senators stand [on the entire bill]. We keep doing headcounts but no one can clearly say if we’re going to win or lose.”

If the Senate vote pushes through, Marcos said this will send the message that the measure was a “big deal.” Even if the bill does not become law in the 15th Congress, he said at least lawmakers will see that there is hope to continue in the next Congress.

“I am still hoping that we can vote at least. You plan for the ideal. The ideal is we have a vote in both houses [of Congress].”

The RH bill seeks to provide access to both natural and modern family planning methods and services, and to promote sex education.

Advocates said it is meant to promote women's rights and health but critics label it as a population control measure that goes against the Catholic faith.

One of the most controversial measures, the bill has been pending before Congress for about 17 years. Catholic bishops staunchly oppose the bill while President Benigno Aquino III expressed support for a position he calls “responsible parenthood.” – Rappler.com

12-05-2012, 08:13 AM
Enrile: 'Our biggest export is OFWs. That's why I'm against RH bill'

by Ayee Macaraig

Posted on 11/29/2012 2:41 PM | Updated 11/29/2012 5:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines – There’s no convincing Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Enrile says whether his amendments to the Reproductive Health (RH) bill are accepted or not, he will vote against the controversial measure.

The Senate President has yet to introduce 11 out of his 17 “substantial amendments” to the bill. Yet the staunch RH critic said it does not matter whether the bill is revised.

“I’m not a hypocrite. I speak out according to my best assessment for what is good for the country. My vote is against the RH bill even if my proposals are accepted, not because of religion, morality but because of my long-term assessment of what this bill will do to the country,” Enrile said at the Kapihan sa Senado press forum on Thursday, November 29.

Asked why he introduces amendments in the first place, Enrile said he wanted to show that he is not delaying the passage of the bill but refining the measure.

“My purpose in proposing some of my amendments is to show the people that this bill is not really all for the health of the women. It is [for] population and control management. I feel that. Hindi ba, every time I touch on population, tumatalon si Sen Pia Cayetano, pumipiyok, she screams sometimes.” (Isn’t it that every time I touch on population, Sen Pia Cayetan’s voice breaks?)

Enrile was referring to heated debates with the bill’s sponsor, Sen Pia Cayetano.

When he spoke about the economy in the earlier part of the press briefing, Enrile said, “Ang pinakamalaking export natin is OFW (overseas Filipino workers). Export iyan eh, kaya ako kontra ako sa RH dahil diyan. Ang magpapalago ng bansa natin ay iyong excess population natin na sinanay natin na tumatanggap ng mga trabaho abroad that others don’t want to handle. We have to accept that. Korea started that way.”

(Our biggest export is OFWs. That is export. That’s why I’m against RH. What will improve our economy is the excess population that is used to accepting jobs that others don’t want to handle.)

The Senate President began introducing 6 amendments to the bill on November 19. Among the changes he wanted was to remove the phrases “population and development” from the bill.

Sen Ralph Recto also proposed changes, removing the mandate to provide RH services from local government units and private hospitals. The Senate voted to accept Recto’s changes.

The RH bill aims to provide access to both natural and modern family planning methods, and to promote sex education.

‘What’s so special about RH?’

Enrile also objected to the plan of Cayetano to force a vote to close the period of amendments of the RH bill. Cayetano said Senate rules allow her to do so provided a majority of senators vote in favor of the move.

“Senator Cayetano is only one senator. She cannot impose her will on the Senate,” Enrile said.

“If she can get the numbers to [have] the other members so be it but I do not think the other senators will do that because that will start a precedent and while they may have the numbers now, soon the political weather might change and it can also be used against them.”

Enrile said with his amendments and the changes other senators plan to introduce to the RH bill, it is uncertain when the Senate can vote on the measure.

He responded to questions about the RH bill’s timetable.

“Kung walang timeline ang passage ng CamSur, bakit naman may timeline ang passage ng RH? Kung walang timeline ang passage ng Anti-Trust Law, what is so special about RH? If there’s no timeline for the Freedom of Information bill, why should there be a timeline for RH?”

(If there is no timeline for the passage of the bill dividing Camarines Sur and the Anti-Trust Law, why will there be one for RH?)

Enrile added, “What is so special about that?”

‘There is Catholic effort vs RH’

Enrile also commented on the statement of Catholic bishops warning of a “Catholic vote” against pro-RH lawmakers.

RH proponents like Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago contradicted the bishops, saying there is no such thing as a Catholic vote. Citing surveys, other RH advocates said the Catholic vote is pro-RH.

Asked if he believes in such a vote, Enrile said it is best to wait and see. Yet he cited the first EDSA People Power Revolution, saying it was Church leaders who got the people out on the streets.

“That should be food for thought for anybody who claims there’s no such thing as a Catholic vote but there’s such a thing as Catholic effort if it becomes necessary,” Enrile said.

“You can just imagine what will happen if bishops link their arms together with nuns and priests and a crowd to march on the streets to push their position on this particular issue. Do you think any policeman or any soldier will be crazy to raise their guns against these people? Don’t ever think this issue is just simple.” – Rappler.com

12-05-2012, 08:16 AM
How to kill a bill

by Marilen J. Dañguilan

Posted on 11/22/2012 7:10 AM | Updated 11/22/2012 7:50 AM

What a coup! Sen Ralph Recto was able to emaciate the RH bill, snuffing out its life. In his amendments, local government units (LGUs) and private institutions are no longer mandated to provide RH services such as family planning and emergency obstetric and newborn care. If the RH bill becomes law, it would be practically useless.

Recto’s amendments would disable two critical components of the health care delivery system – the LGUs, i.e., the 80 provinces, 138 cities, 1,496 municipalities, and 42,026 barangays; and the private hospitals that compose about 60% of the total number of licensed hospitals in this country.

This is like installing power stations throughout the regions without setting up the transmission wires and transformers to distribute electricity to the households.

No mandates for the LGUs

Take Recto’s first amendment, the lifting of the mandate on LGUs.

Recto’s reasons are: a) he does not like mandates; he does not like the State to tell LGUs or the private sector what to do; and b) LGUs are not all that rich and many could not afford RH services.

The Senate approved this amendment, even when they know fully well that making a law and implementing it are not two separate and distinct activities; one reinforces the other. They also are aware that the success of any law’s implementation would rely, to a great extent, on those who are primarily tasked to implement it, the LGUs, in this case, in partnership with the national government.

Recto’s amendments focused on the operational aspects of the bill, unlike Sen Juan Ponce Enrile’s, that touched on philosophical, emotion-laden matters such as “the equal rights of children, youth, and the unborn” and on the centuries-old issue of when human life begins.

Recto, on the other hand, went for the kill.

He raised the nuts-and-bolts issue of costs, and implicitly the cost-effectiveness of RH services, as well as the capability of LGUs, particularly those that are struggling and impoverished, to implement the RH law. He framed these discussions within finite budgets to accommodate infuriatingly infinite mandates that impose on already overstrained LGUs. And all this, under the threat of jail terms for LGUs which do not comply.

Recto envisions a country where LGUs, even without any mandate, would ensure that each and every woman or man would be able to access RH services. But this simply is not the case.

LGUs have different priorities from the national government’s. If one takes a look at the Department of the Interior and Local Government Performance Challenge Fund, one could gauge the priorities of LGUs. Projects are mainly on infrastructure such as farm-to-market roads, irrigations systems, flood control canals and waterways, market stalls, among others. Health, particularly reproductive health, hardly emerges as one of the priorities of LGUs.

There are of course LGUs that have their own RH charters. But some, even without charters, strive to provide RH services such as Aurora, Sulu, Asipulo, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Quezon City, and Davao City. But this is not the norm; these are the outliers.

And this explains why, despite our having a high literacy rate and a relatively decent GDP growth, we have 2.2 million women whose contraceptive needs are not met and about 4,288 women who die every year from pregnancy and childbirth.

That’s why it is extremely important to mandate and legislate -- particularly on services like reproductive health that national and local governments have not funded and provided.

Now, with the Senate’s approval of Recto’s amendment, the national government would be unable to effectively harness the powers of one of the most important and indispensable implementing political structures that could make a success of the RH law – the LGUs.

No mandates for private health facilities

The other amendment that Recto introduced, and which the Senate approved, is that private health facilities are not mandated to provide RH services. The reason behind this amendment is, once again, Recto’s strange aversion toward mandates.

Health facilities, private and public, are essential components of any health care delivery system. They provide health services directly to people. And private health facilities have always been a significant provider of such services in our country. In 2009, 60% of hospitals were privately owned and about 49% of patients were confined in such hospitals, according to an Asian Institute of Management study.

Like Recto’s amendment on LGUs, his amendment on private health facilities cuts out another crucial implementation arm. This limits the effectiveness and reach of the RH bill.

Despite this, all hope is not lost.

In the upcoming bicameral conference committee, our legislators can still bring the RH bill back to life by reversing Recto’s two amendments. They can mandate the LGUs and private health facilities to provide RH services. It is, after all, their duty to do so.

And just so they remember: We have a right to these services. - Rappler.com

(Marilen Dañguilan, medical doctor, did postgraduate studies on public policy and public administration. She was the head of the technical staff of the Senate Committee on Health in 1987 and has engaged in policymaking on health since then.)

Sam Miguel
12-06-2012, 07:59 AM
RH bill moving at agonizing pace in House

By Christian V. Esguerra

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:17 am | Thursday, December 6th, 2012

The reproductive health (RH) bill continued to move at an agonizing pace in the House of Representatives, but Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II on Wednesday said it was “only a matter of time” before the period of amendments was terminated and the measure finally put to a vote.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he and other lawmakers opposed to House Bill No. 4244 were gearing up for the vote on second reading, but asked that individual amendments be completed first.

Rodriguez was confident that the RH bill would eventually be defeated via a 136-95 vote.

“We are going to marshal our forces this week,” he told the Inquirer, acknowledging that results of recent nominal voting on individual amendments indicated a “slight lead” in favor of pro-RH House members.

Rodriguez said many anti-RH lawmakers failed to show up during the period of amendments because they had to attend to their constituents affected by Typhoon “Pablo.”

Rodriguez himself flew to Cagayan de Oro at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, less than six hours after RH deliberations were suspended. He was to fly back to Manila in the afternoon to attend the session.

7 sessions left

But with only seven sessions left before Congress goes on a Christmas break, Gonzales said he was expecting a number of House members to move for the termination of the period of amendments.

“It’s only a matter of time before the period of amendments is terminated because many of us, including anti-RH congressmen, also want to vote on the bill,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think the pro-RH (congressmen) will win, but not by a comfortable margin.”

Gonzales said putting the measure to a vote would depend on the “feel of the floor.”

Rodriguez sought to correct the impression that he and several of his anti-RH colleagues were merely trying to delay the proceedings by introducing individual amendments.

Stuck on Page 2

“It’s very important for the public to understand that this is such an important bill that would affect our future generations. So let us be patient,” he said.

The chamber remained stuck on Page 2—the declaration of policy—of the 27-page substitute bill to HB 4244, as Rodriguez’s group pushed for amendments seeking the protection of the life of the unborn and respect for the freedom of religion.


Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, sponsor of HB 4244, earlier agreed to key amendments to the government guarantee on “public access to relevant information and education.”

These now include “moral” reproductive healthcare services “that do not violate the freedom of religion.” Also covered are supplies which do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum “in the uterus.”

Lagman also agreed to include the constitutional guarantee that the state would “equally protect the life of the mother and the unborn from conception.”

But Lagman objected to Rodriguez’s proposal to include “where human life begins” after the term “conception” in the declaration of policy. The chamber spent more than an hour deciding on the amendment.

In the end, the proposal lost in the nominal voting that ended shortly after 10 p.m. A total of 81 lawmakers voted against the Rodriguez proposal, while 57 voted in favor of it. One lawmaker abstained.


The session was promptly suspended, but Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay protested, saying the result showed that only 139 House members cast their votes, a number below the required quorum.

Earlier in the evening, Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia sought to include a guarantee that “the state shall refrain from taking any action or measure that will tend to make any woman or couple to violate the tenets or teaching of their religion.”

“Suppose the state will find that the diet of the Muslims is deficient in protein. Will the state promote the free distribution of pork in the markets of Muslim Mindanao and include that in a law?” he argued.

“And that is precisely is what the state is doing through this bill, promoting the sales of contraceptives, condoms, which are in direct violation of the fundamental tenet of the Catholic Church.”

Lagman rejected the amendment, and so did the chamber via nominal voting, 100-74.

Sam Miguel
12-06-2012, 08:02 AM

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:41 pm | Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Time to sum up. In the end, the question boils down to:

Is it moral?

That’s the reproductive health bill which, with any luck, might find resolution this week. I hope it does, as next week will be dominated by the Pacquiao fight. And with Christmas rushing in shortly afterward, voting could end up being deferred to next year, where the impending elections stand to complicate it. Certainly that’s what those opposed to it are banking on.

Their own answer to the question of course is that it’s not. The way they see it, and put it, it’s a choice between expedience and morality. If you’re for RH, you’re for expedience, if you’re against it, you’re for morality. If you’re for RH, you’re for convenience, if you’re against it, you’re for conscience.

The RH bill is immoral, they say, because of several things. One is that it goes against the teachings of the Church, or Vatican. Two is that even without Vatican, contraception is anti-life, or indeed it is corruption as Socrates Villegas puts it. And three is that it promotes promiscuity.

None of these arguments holds water. You insist that Vatican is infallible when it says contraception is evil, divorce is a sin, and women-priests are an abomination, you are only going to spark a modern-day schism. Dogmatism is the fountainhead of tyranny, which drives believers away, which makes the faithful unfaithful. It doesn’t help that Vatican itself is racked by sex scandals, which raises all sorts of questions about whether infallibility is a dispensation from having to practice what you preach.

The proposition that any interference with the seed falling on fallow womb is a sin has met with much irreverent response, and not without reason. Should you worry, as the kids with raging hormones ask, that you’ve destroyed life with what you do with yourself in the john? Reductio ad absurdum, but the proposition is reducible to absurdity.

As to the promiscuity, well, that’s been there long before RH, afflicting politicians and priests alike, generals and bishops alike. Like traffic lights, in this country the Church’s ban against premarital and extramarital sex is taken only to be a suggestion. The same goes for the vow of chastity for the clergy. The lack of RH hasn’t produced more restraint, it has only produced more babies, the promiscuous, for reasons that owe to our macho culture, insisting on having them with their mistresses.

In fact, to RH’s credit, it’s not just that it’s not immoral, it’s that it’s perfectly moral. The choice is not between expedience and morality, convenience and conscience, it is between hypocrisy and morality, nonsense and conscience. You oppose RH, you choose hypocrisy and nonsense. You support RH, you choose morality and conscience.

That’s so first off because RH doesn’t promote promiscuity, it promotes responsibility. This country will remain promiscuous whether there is RH or not.

But I can’t think of anything more irresponsible than launching into this world life that is beyond your means or capability to sustain. I can’t think of anything more immoral than producing mouths to feed that you can’t possibly feed, heads to put a roof over that you can’t possibly put a roof over, minds to awaken that you can’t possibly awaken.

The anti-RH camp says the pro-RH people are treating births, or children, or life as though they were a disease. Not at all. Birth is not a disease, a child is not a disease, life is not a disease. They are as precious as air. But birthing a horde of children without a thought to the likelihood that they are going to end up sleeping on the pavement, badgering or hustling commuters for alms on Christmas or other days, or taking to a life of crime for having precious little means of clinging to life, that recklessness is a disease. That unconcern is a disease. The justification of it is a disease. The encouragement of it is a disease.

In fact, it’s not just a disease, it’s a plague.

That’s so, second of all, because RH isn’t anti-family, it is pro-women—or more to the point, pro-mothers. Forget that it’s the women who bear the brunt of birthing, who are aged beyond their years from having to spend their youth in a constant state of pregnancy. Though while at this, can anything be more mind-boggling than that argument that contraceptives pose dangerous medical side effects? Even if that were true—and it’s not, most findings find the pill itself reasonably safe—what is this, exposing women to the rigors of unrelenting child-birthing is medically sound?

But like I said, forget the child-birthing, mind only the child-rearing. Mind only that it’s the women, or the mothers, who have their youth and their energy and their lives sucked out of them from having to care for a brood that utter impoverishment makes near-impossible to care for. Can anything be more immoral than condemning them to that kind of life while their husbands or partners, who presumably have the harder time of having to bread-win, drink and gamble and womanize to take the bitter taste of it away? RH won’t solve all their problems, but it sure as hell will lessen the fires of the hell they’re in.

And finally, that’s so because RH is not anti-life, it is pro-life. It is pro-life in the sense of life as real life and not abstract life, as flesh-and-blood life and not smoke-and-shadow life, as life with all the joys and tears of daily struggle and not life with the antiseptic senselessness of imagined life. It is pro-life in the sense of life as living and not merely as existing, as carving space and not merely occupying space, as reaching for things beyond our grasp and not merely grasping at straws.

In the end, the question boils down to: Is RH moral? And in the end, the answer is one resounding: Yes. To the core.

Sam Miguel
12-06-2012, 08:16 AM
"Hey! There's a hole on the hull! We have to plug it or we'll sink!"

"Nonsense. This is a huge boat. That hole can't be more than a yard across. It won't sink us."

"But look at the water coming through. There must be at least a gallon coming in every second."

"Psshaw... It'd take at least a thousand gallons to sink this boat. Har-har-har!"

"But we're easily half a day away to our port! At this rate we'll be sunk in less than 20 minutes! We HAVE to plug the hole!"

"I have a better idea! Why don't we just make the boat bigger? Let's extend the hull frame by ten feet. That'll give us more time."

"Are you insane!? Isn't it easier to plug the hole?"

"We have more than enough men and material to extend the hull. Why plug the leak when we can extend the hull? You're always being lazy, looking for the easy way out. This is life at sea; it's supposed to be hard."

"Why don't we let the crew decide then?"

"This is a boat, not a parliamant. Besides, what do those bilge rats know? They'll simply do as they're told."

"If they knew they'd die in less than 20 minutes I'm pretty sure they'd rather plug the hole."

"I'm the captain here and I say we extend the hull and leave that hole alone!"

"You are relieved of command then Captain."

And the first mate shoots the captain right between the eyes and plug the hole with a barrel of grog and some rags and tar.

Sam Miguel
12-06-2012, 08:36 AM
Pablo and the RH bill

By Malou Guanzon-Apalisok

Cebu Daily News

7:50 am | Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Supporters of House Bill 4244 a.k.a. Reproductive Health Bill will scoff at observations that Super Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) was a heavenly sign aimed to thwart the passage of the controversial population control policy.

Be that as it may, let us look closely at how Pablo turned lives upside down, momentarily for some, irreversibly for others already living in the fringes of society.

Pablo triggered the mass evacuation of peoples in Metro Cebu and outlying areas. Northern Mindanao bore the brunt of the rampaging storm as some 60,000 people moved to safer ground.

Storm warnings issued by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration triggered terrifying images of last year’s killer typhoon, especially in Cagayan de Oro City where Typhoon Sendong claimed more than 2,000 lives and left billions of pesos worth of damage to crops and property. The bitter lesson learned from the tragedy prompted many people to take precaution but some were not as lucky.

International wire reports placed the death toll at more than 100, with Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces having the most number of casualties. Reports from Siquijor, Bohol and Dumaguete have yet to be confirmed, so the number of casualties could still go up. Economic losses wrought by past tropical storms always go in the hundreds of millions of pesos, and since Pablo charged with winds of not less than 160 kph, damage is incalculable.

It’s good to know local government units and national government agencies moved swiftly to mitigate human toll and suffering. Suspension of work and classes, sea travel in high-risk areas including air travel in routes crossing the storm’s path were carried out. Ahead of the weather disturbance, state agencies directed people living near creeks, rivers and coastal areas to evacuate.

Gold mining was halted earlier in Compostela Valley to subdue populations vulnerable to landslides, in particular in New Bataan town. Two platoons of army soldiers brought the villagers to a barangay hall and school building but the structures were no match for the raging waters. Nine army soldiers remain missing as I write.

I heard a number of local government officials in Region 11 on live TV the other night asking aid from national state agencies. Staples like rice, noodles and canned goods for tens of thousands of evacuees seemed like a tall order because most LGUs have very little calamity funds. One governor said he was only talking of victims housed in the poblacion, but he was certain that thousands more in far flung areas are waiting for much-needed assistance.

Pablo in 2012, but before it came Sendong (Washi) in 2011, Juan (Megi) in 2010, Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, Frank (Fengshen) in 2008 plus Reming, Ruping, Rosing, Kadiang, Loleng, etc. The death toll is in the tens of thousands and economic losses are hard to quantify.

The list of very destructive tropical storms that hit the country in the past decades has laid out in graphic terms our biggest challenge, which is none other than increasing and expanding the capability of local and national government agencies to respond to natural calamities. This measure should be complimented with laws aimed to lessen the impact of climate change.

Instead of spending taxpayers’ money on procuring condoms, contraceptive pills and other birth control supplies, and subsidizing sex education, the government should enable local government units to acquire skills in risk management and more access to state resources to bridge the needs of calamity victims.

Pablo is the 16th typhoon to visit the Philippines and weather trackers are saying another howler is going to hit the country before Christmas. Congress has less than 10 days before it adjourns for the holidays, supposedly the remaining window to pass HB 4244, assuming the Chamber is able to muster a quorum and the pro-RH votes will hold out until the bill is put to a vote.

That is easier said than done because anti-RH lawmakers are poised to question the substitute bill line by line. And while congressmen are inclined to support President Benigno Aquino III’s call to put the measure to a vote, RH supporters are uneasy over nominal voting because that would directly place them in the Church’s line of fire.

* * *

Meanwhile, another Pablo stands in the way of HB 4244.

It would be one-dimensional to say that Rep. Pablo Garcia (2nd district, Cebu) is sworn to defeat the passage of the RH Bill on the basis alone of his moral stance because what he and anti RH colleagues are doing is simply to ensure that the House follows its own rules in law making.

The rule on quorum has been a prickly issue because many House members don’t attend the plenary even if they are present. This happened last Monday when Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez asked whether there was a quorum. At this, many congressmen who were outside the session hall rushed inside.

Moreover, it seems only a handful of legislators know about details of a substitute bill, and even the killer amendments proposed by the anti-RH bloc are not very clear. Congress should allow ample time for thorough debates in full view of the public, if possible through live media coverage, given that HB 4244 is a highly divisive issue.

12-07-2012, 09:34 PM
CBCP = Tea Party
(Republican) Lawmakers fear their wrath just as much as the prospect of losing to a rival candidate.

CBCP = Filipino basketball referees
Parurusahan ka for "resentment to the call."

Sam Miguel
12-10-2012, 08:33 AM
Anti-RH, anti-poor and anti-women

By Raul C. Pangalangan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:19 pm | Friday, December 7th, 2012

The members of the parliamentary opposition to reproductive health must face the music. They owe their power to the democratic process. They mustn’t disdain the democratic verdict. If only to show respect for the source of their power and all the perks they now enjoy, they must stop delaying the vote. It isn’t kosher to enjoy democracy’s bounties while shrugging off its burdens. President Aquino said it more diplomatically when he convened the pro-RH congressmen in Malacañang: “Leadership comes not just with perks but also with responsibilities, and among those responsibilities is that of making a choice.”

But there is a deeper reason they must end their filibuster and all the parliamentary tricks to prolong the 13-year wait for an RH law. The bill entails fundamental debate on the values we hold most dearly as a people. It cheapens their cause for them to win through technicality and parliamentary sleight of hand.

The anti-RH forces invoke respect for their religious beliefs and parents’ authority over their children. The pro-RH forces invoke the idea of a secular state, the privacy of the marital bedroom, state solicitude for maternal health, and social justice for the poor. Yet the only way for the anti-RH legislators to elevate filibustering to virtue is to say that their desired result—a congressional stalemate—is God’s gift to his anti-RH legions, but that only demeans their cause into superstition.

Major concessions

Worse, it also shows them to be dogmatic and unreasonable if they maintain their hard-line stance despite major concessions already made by the pro-RH camp. In the compromise RH bill, religious hospitals will be exempted from the obligation to offer modern family planning care.

The compromise expands the grounds for “conscientious objections” and allows doctors and nurses to refuse to render medical services they deem inconsistent with their faith. Moreover, the compromise gives parents an opt-out clause if they don’t want their kids to undergo compulsory RH education in schools.

There is even a clause that embraces the Catholic definition of when life begins: The compromise will promote only those “health care services [that] do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum.” Finally, the compromise will even limit the scope of the poor and marginalized qualifying for subsidized care.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III argues that we don’t need an RH bill because we already have enough laws and programs for maternal health and population control. “In other words,” Sotto said, “the problem here isn’t the absence of laws but the need for correct and effective implementation of the laws that we [already] have.” The argument fails at several levels.

One, if all those wonderful laws have failed to prevent the unnecessary deaths of Filipino mothers, why now resist a law that addresses directly the problem of maternal mortality? Dr. Marilen J. Danguilan, in a talk before public health advocates, cited our “scandalously slow” progress in curbing maternal mortality. “Put another way, from 1990 to 2010, about 50,349 to 86,221 women have already died. If we have to be dramatic about these figures, that’s about 287 jet crashes, without any survivors.”

Two, the argument is disingenuous. If we abandoned the RH law and relied on the existing laws that Senator Sotto cites, does he assure us that those laws will in fact be carried out to benefit the reproductive health of poor Filipinos? Indeed, does he even assure us that his own cohorts wouldn’t sabotage those laws?

Third, and if somehow Senator Sotto would indeed advance RH through other laws, why would he oppose advancing RH through the RH law? What is so bad about achieving through an RH law the same results that he says can be achieved under other laws? The only explanation is that what he objects to is not the practical result, namely, promoting RH, but affirming a principle, namely, that men and women have a right to enjoy reproductive health.

On this point, Senator Sotto has a point. He can compromise on the fine print but he will hold the line on first principles. Precisely for that reason, the pro-RH groups must reciprocate in kind. They, too, must not lose sight of the foundational norms that have animated the RH struggle from its inception, namely, the right of every human being to make the most intimate choices by which to live his or her life. That principle tends to be overshadowed by the population control arguments. At this stage of the debate, we must shift to the rights-based argument in order to clinch the RH law.

2 distinct strands

The RH debate in the Philippines consists of two distinct strands—population control and human rights. The first approach sees RH as an economic issue: Any progress we make in economic development will just be eaten up by the growth in our population. That makes eminent sense, I agree. But it also opens up the debate to old arguments that will never die. There’s the distributional argument: “It’s not the size of the pie but how it’s distributed.” There’s the anti-corruption spiel: “If only we can reduce corruption ….” There’s the old economist’s wisdom: “Don’t look at that one mouth to feed, but see the two hands that work.” The problem with these arguments is that they provoke only more debate. The “two hands that work” thesis, for instance, assumes that there are well-paying jobs waiting to employ those hands, and before long you will find yourself mired in debates about which economic system is best.

The second approach sees RH as each person’s right to make informed choices that shape his or her own life. Unlike the first, it doesn’t take a “macro” view of the problem of poverty. Rather, it starts on that assumption: There are many who are poor in our nation. The population control approach looks for economic strategies to overcome poverty and its effects. In contrast, the rights-based approach says that while we grapple with those big questions, poor fathers and mothers should be able to plan their families, and decide how many children they want and how far apart to space them.

The advantage of the rights-based approach is that it is based on one document that each and every congressman and senator has taken the oath to respect, the Philippine Constitution. That document recognizes the “right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.” It also provides for “social justice,” including the government’s duty to make health services “available at affordable cost” especially for women and children. It also states that the “separation of church and state shall be inviolable.”

The rights-based approach is more in step with the times because it empowers each individual to decide for himself or herself. There are millions of hardworking Filipino parents struggling to raise a family. They may be powerless to shape the nation’s economy, but we must empower them with the first and most basic impulse to take charge of their lives.

Sam Miguel
12-10-2012, 08:42 AM
Bishops will be watching RH vote

By Jocelyn R. Uy

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:35 am | Monday, December 10th, 2012

Catholic bishops are expected to troop to Congress on Wednesday to watch how the lawmakers will vote on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill and to show their support for those who stand by the Church’s position.

According to Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (CBCP-ECFL), the presence of the prelates in the gallery would be an expression of support for lawmakers who would vote against the family planning measure in line with Church dictates.

On the other hand, President Aquino had earlier called on his Congress allies to finally vote on the measure, which he has endorsed.

All the lawmakers are now in the “pressure cooker” because of the interest groups watching and trying to influence the outcome of the measure in the House, said Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, a coauthor of the bill.

These include Catholic Church officials and church groups, as well as Malacañang, Baguilat said, adding that both sides were expected to mount their own pressure tactics to attain victory.

Nonetheless, Baguilat urged his colleagues to take a stand and not shy away from the voting.

He said it would do the lawmakers good to listen to their constituents when they decide on how to vote on the bill. And as a coauthor of the measure, he believes they are on his side.

The majority of the population, particularly women, are in favor of family planning, surveys have shown.

Listen to the people

“It’s best to listen to what the people, the final arbiter in this debate, have to say,” he said. With this, no lawmaker should be afraid to take a stand on the bill, he added.

The RH bill mandates age-appropriate sex education in the schools and the promotion of birth control methods—both natural and artificial—by government health center. The measure is in line with women’s rights to information and access to reproductive technology. It also supports a more vigorous campaign against the spread of HIV-AIDS.

The Catholic Church, which is against artificial contraception, launched an all-out campaign against the passage of the bill.

In an interview with reporters, Castro said anti-RH legislators had urged the attendance of the bishops at the House gallery, saying they “need moral, spiritual [support] and the physical presence of the bishops.”

Prayer the main thing

“But the main reason the bishops will be there is to pray for the lawmakers,” the priest said.

While he couldn’t say how many bishops were expected to observe the crucial voting, Castro said he was hopeful there would be more of them on Wednesday than at previous deliberations on RH measure.

Before proceeding to Congress on Wednesday, anti-RH supporters, together with the bishops, will attend a noon mass at St. Peter’s Church on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, Castro said.

“After, there will be a procession all the way to the Batasan. If all of us cannot be accommodated inside then we’ll just stay outside to pray,” Castro said.

Many other religious groups in the Philippines, however, are not against the measure.

Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the important thing was to get the lawmakers to attend the session and vote.

The House had been beset by attendance problems since November. But following the meeting with President Aquino last Monday, a quorum has usually been attained.

Gonzales said he hoped the lawmakers would participate in the actual voting and not stay away to avoid having to take a stand.

“I prefer that all members cast their vote one way or the other, or even abstain if that is their position, rather than not attend sessions or skip the actual voting round,” he said in a text message.

Each side has numbers

Supporters and opponents of the controversial bill both say they have the numbers on their side.

The reproductive health bill only got moving again last week with the opening of the period of amendments after a personal call from President Aquino to finally put the measure to a vote.

Since August the bill has not moved forward because of quorum problems and because opponents of the bill had been making lengthy privilege speeches.

The period of amendments has been moving relatively slowly as well because opponents have introduced nearly line by line amendments to the measure.

Sam Miguel
12-12-2012, 10:13 AM
Bishops gird for RH bill battle

Church calls for prayer power; Tagle leads vigil

By Christian V. Esguerra, Leila B. Salaverria, Philip C. Tubeza

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:10 am | Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Storming the heavens with prayers, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Tuesday urged the Catholic faithful to attend an overnight vigil in Makati City for the defeat of the reproductive health (RH) bill.

Tagle called on the faithful to gather at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Makati City starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday as Congress convenes Wednesday to vote on the RH bill, which seeks to provide people with information on reproductive health matters and access to contraceptives.

“The overnight vigil continues (Wednesday), with Masses at 6 a.m., 8 a.m, 12 noon, 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Cardinal Tagle will celebrate the Mass at the Shrine at 12 noon,” said a statement from the Archdiocese of Manila.

In a letter to lawmakers, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), also invoked Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Catholic prolife movement.

“As you resume your deliberations on the reproductive health bill, I pray that through the gracious intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day we celebrate today, you may be bountifully guided by the Holy Spirit,” Palma said.

“Recalling Our Lady’s words when she first spoke to the Indian peasant St. Juan Diego on that cold December day on Tepeyac hill in Mexico 481 years ago, I am confident she will grant us the fruit of her affection and protection if we ask for it. In these difficult and trying days, we humbly ask for it,” he added.

LP meeting

The bill on Tuesday inched closer to getting passed on second reading following separate meetings by President Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP) and coalition partner, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), on the eve of the crucial vote in the House of Representatives.

That was the reading of Tarlac Rep. Kimi Cojuangco of the NPC and Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. of the LP, who attended the meetings separately at the Batasang Pambansa and the LP’s Balay headquarters in Quezon City before the afternoon session.

Spearheading the meeting at the LP headquarters were Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.

“Because we are supportive of the President, a ‘yes’ vote is a vote for the President,” Cojuangco told reporters. “A lot toed the line.”


Baguilat said the meeting at Balay was meant as “insurance” that the RH bill would be passed on second reading.

He said the meeting’s primary audience was the “swayable” group of LP members who had not yet committed to voting either for or against House Bill No. 4244.

Baguilat was confident that the RH bill would be passed, with the combined support of LP and NPC members. There are around 90 LP members and 50 lawmakers belonging to the NPC.

Cojuangco said the decision to support the RH bill was a leadership stand.

In a statement, the LP said it asked its members to vote and support the bill.

The LP leadership also impressed upon the members the importance of the bill to millions of Filipinos, especially its implication on the health and safety of mothers and women. It also reminded members of the President’s position on the issue.

Vidal in House gallery

On the eve of the congressional vote, Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal said he and other Catholic Church leaders were leaving the matter to God.

“Ours is the power of prayer. The power of the Lord will always be there because we always depend on God’s will,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the period of amendments in the House.

Vidal, who watched the proceedings with at least seven other bishops in the gallery, was responding to a question which pointed out that House Bill No. 4244 enjoyed the support of Mr. Aquino.

During the thanksgiving Mass for the canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod in Cebu, Vidal recalled telling the President when the subject of the RH bill came up: “You decide what is right. Only that. What is right.”

Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes said the fate of the bill would not be known until the actual vote was taken, and he and other opponents were firm in their faith that the measure would be defeated in the House.

Supreme Court option

But just in case the bill managed to pass, Reyes said other opponents of the measure were prepared to go to the Supreme Court to challenge its constitutionality because the State should equally protect the right to life of the mother and the baby.

Many of the supposedly “killer” amendments introduced by critics of the bill have been defeated constantly either in voice vote or nominal voting in the plenary.

But Reyes, who chairs the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said the voting on the amendments would not necessarily reflect the final outcome.

“I always expect voting would change, and the RH bill would not be approved,” Reyes told reporters in the House.

Power of prayer

He said prayer could accomplish a lot of things. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of,” he said, quoting the English poet Alfred Tennyson.

In his letter to lawmakers, Palma noted that Pope Benedict XVI had said that “it is not the law of the strongest that must prevail.”

“This makes it vital for every society to remove everything that could cast suspicion on the law and its ordinances, because it is only in this way that arbitrary conduct on the part of the State can be eliminated and freedom can be experienced as something genuinely shared by all,” Palma said.

He said people would revolt against the law if it was perceived as no longer the expression of a justice but a product of despotism.

Truth is basis of law

Palma urged lawmakers to dump the RH bill, saying the Philippines needed a law “to unite rather than divide.”

“We need a law to affirm and protect the truth about the dignity of the human person, who has been created in the very image of God; the sanctity of the family, the basic social unit which even our Constitution recognizes as the foundation of the nation; and the inviolability of the social institution of marriage, which the Constitution likewise recognizes as the foundation of the family,” Palma said.

He urged lawmakers to respect the “right to life, the right of married couples to found a family according to their religious beliefs and moral convictions, and to be the primary educators of their children.”

Palma said “the truth must be the basis of the law, rather than the result of legislation.”

Sam Miguel
12-12-2012, 10:14 AM
Sen. Arroyo cites gov’t, Church compromise over past controversial issues

12:06 am | Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Senator Joker Arroyo is at a loss why the Aquino administration and the Catholic hierarchy continue to quarrel over the reproductive health bill when the government and the Church leadership struck a compromise over two controversial issues in the past.

The first one was in 1938 when then President Manuel L. Quezon vetoed a bill, approved by the then unicameral National Assembly, on religious instruction in the country’s public schools.

“A heated debate between Quezon and Church followed. The public joined the debate, zeroing in on the separation of Church and State. The National Assembly did not meet to override the presidential veto,” Arroyo said in a statement.

He said that 18 years later during the Magsaysay presidency in 1956, Senators Claro M. Recto and Jose P. Laurel introduced in the Senate a measure mandating the reading of national hero Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” in all the country’s schools.

“The Catholic Church opposed it and the controversy was heated and nationwide. The Church insisted that some passages in Rizal’s novels were derogatory to the Church and to make it required reading would be unfair,” Arroyo said.

He said a compromise was reached after weeks of heated debate.

“Among others, the unexpurgated version of Noli and Fili, which contain critical essays against the Church would not be required reading in the elementary and secondary schools. The original text will be taught in the college level,” Arroyo said.

He said that in the first two controversies, “it looks like the Church lost in the religious instruction bill in 1938.

“It was a tie on the Noli-Fili controversy,” Arroyo said.

After 56 years

“Now comes the RH bill, the third one after 56 years. It is just as heated and acrimonious as the religious instruction and the Noli-Fili bills. But the period of debates in the RH bill is a lot longer,” Arroyo said.

“It’s some wonder why the RH bill cannot be resolved amicably by the contending parties like the Noli-Fili,” he added. Norman Bordadora

Sam Miguel
12-12-2012, 10:15 AM
Pro, anti-RH bill groups in show of force in House deliberation


Karen Boncocan

4:19 am | Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—Groups supporting and opposing the passage of the reproductive health bill on Tuesday flocked to the House of Representatives, which is set to put the measure to a vote Wednesday.

Church groups, led by several bishops and archbishops, filled three levels at the left side of the gallery at plenary while pro-RH groups sat at the right wing of the gallery to monitor deliberations on amendments proposed for the measure.

The groups chimed in during viva voce voting on proposed amendments, in an attempt to help the side they were on in gaining more votes.

At some point, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III started reminding the audience to refrain from clapping, voicing their sentiments or chiming in while lawmakers cast their votes.

The Catholic Church earlier vowed to turn up in Wednesday’s session in a show of force.

The legislators reached page 12 of the 27-page bill before session was adjourned Tuesday.

And with voting expected on Wednesday, the leadership of the Liberal Party met with some of its members from the lower chamber of Congress and urged that they vote for the controversial bill, which President Aquino supports.

Sam Miguel
12-12-2012, 11:56 AM
Teary-eyed Lani Mercado complains to House colleagues

by Angela Casauay

Posted on 12/05/2012 7:03 PM | Updated 12/05/2012 7:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Two days of late-night plenary sessions on the Reproductive Health bill have taken their toll on some lawmakers.

In a privilege speech Wednesday, December 5, an emotional Cavite Rep Lani Mercado-Revilla complained of the "shabby treatment" she received from 3 lawmakers during Tuesday's (December 4) proceedings, and appealed for "sobriety" over the "emotional nature of debates" on the controversial measure.

Revilla asked to strike out certain words from the House Journal pertaining to "uncalled for remarks" made by Alagad party-list Rep Rodante Marcoleta concerning her husband, Sen Bong Revilla.

In explaining his vote on a proposed amendment on "when life begins" in yesterday's RH deliberations, Marcoleta quipped: "Mas mabagsik si Senator Revilla kasi kung minsan nadaan lang po e nabubuntis na." Marcoleta later apologized to Mercado-Revilla.

Like her husband, Mercado-Revilla is opposed to the RH bill. Husband and wife are top celebrities.

The actress noted, too, that presiding Speaker Erin Tañada spoke to her with arrogance and in a condescending tone after she asked him if the House was still in session. Tañada allegedly said: "I can suspend the session without looking at the time."

On Wednesday, Tañada went down from the rostrum to deliver his own privilege speech, apologizing to Mercado-Revilla. He had no intention to hurt her feelings, he said, and it had been a long day.

Tañada has been presiding over the plenary since Monday. In the past two days, RH deliberations have pushed lawmakers to hold sessions up to about 10 pm to 11 pm. Session officially starts at 4 pm.

Teary-eyed, Mercado-Revilla also complained that Deputy Majority Floor Leader Janette Garin turned her back when she wanted to speak to her. She said she heard Garin say "Wala akong pakialam kung magalit man siya, matuto siyang sumunod sa rules." (I don't care if she gets mad, she should learn to follow the rules.)

Mercado-Revilla said Garin sent her text message afterwards to apologize, "but the damage has been done." Garin is a staunch advocate of the controversial bill.

A first-termer, Revilla lamented the way she's been treated by her colleagues, saying they were not setting a good example to a neophyte like her.

"Totoo Mr Speaker, 'di ako magaling," she said. (It's true, Mr Speaker, I'm not a great [lawmaker]). "Di ko naman hinangad na maging magaling na mambabatas. Hinangad ko lang na maging mabuting kinatawan ng aking distrito," she added. (I never aimed to be a great lawmaker. I just wanted to become a good representative of my district.) - Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
12-12-2012, 12:01 PM
^^^ Hija, just like your idiot husband, the only reason you were voted into office is because of your showbiz popularity. If you admit that "Di ko naman hinangad na maging magaling na mambabatas" then for godsakes get the f--- out of Congress. There are already more than enough of your shabby and below-average kind there, including the Sarangani gentleman who leads the House in absences. Being a great lawmaker is precisely what will make you a good representative of your district and constituents.

Sam Miguel
12-13-2012, 08:23 AM
House passes RH bill on second reading

By Karen Boncocan


2:16 am | Thursday, December 13th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—After fourteen years of being stuck in Congress, legislators finally put to a historic vote and passed the Reproductive Health Bill before dawn Thursday.

With 113 votes on affirmative, 104 negative and three abstention, the RH Bill was approved on second reading, the most critical voting period for a legislation.

The lawmakers went on a lengthy nominal voting, in which each lawmaker had three minutes each to explain his or her vote, after doubts were expressed about the voice vote earlier done on the bill. The tally of the votes was announced at about 2 a.m. Thursday.

The reproductive health bill gives the national government the mandate to make reproductive health services accessible to poor families through information and education and the provision of free contraceptives.

Unlike his earlier statement that the closing of the amendment period would be initiated by the opposition, House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II moved to terminate the period of amendments quarter to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

This was despite the overwhelming number of Catholic leaders present during session, led by Archbishop Ramon Agruelles, Bishops Teodoro Bacani Jr., Broderick Pabillo, Jesse Mercado, Honesto Ongtioco, Gabby Reyes and Monsignor Clemente Ignacio.

Even Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino’s attempts to delay the proceedings by proposing amendments which have already been suggested by other legislators and turned down by Lagman in the end proved to be ineffective.

The RH Bill also lost co-authors Deputy Speaker Jesus Crispin Remulla and Iloilo Representative Augusto Boboy Syjuco in the process.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, the sponsor of the bill, said that the bill was more about “human rights, maternal and infant health and sustainable development.”

“The choice belongs to couples and women who shall freely and responsibly determine the number of their children” he told fellow lawmakers, maintaining that the bill “addresses the population issue” but was not on “population control.”

“Let us have children by choice, not by chance,” he said.

Gonzales, in explaining his affirmative vote said: “Wala namang mali sa magiging resulta ng pananaw natin dito, magkakaiba lang tayo. Magkakaiba lang ang ating pamamaraan.”

“Nais kong mapaghandaan ng mga tao ang kanilang kinabukasan,” he said.

“(The RH Bill) is not about religion nor population control. This is pure and simple legislation,” said Iloilo Representative Janette Garin, a proponent of the bill. She said that the measure “responds to the call of our people.”

Her sister-in-law, Aambis-OWA Partylist Representative Sharon Garin, said it was wrong to call supporters of the RH Bill immoral. “I do not believe that we will become promiscuous or immoral because of the RH Bill. Every woman needs access to basic health services, information on reproductive health.”

Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco, who has strongly supported the bill, said that she voted for its passage “for all the women in the Philippines who cannot afford quality health care.”

Even Muslims backed the RH Bill, according to Muntinlupa City Representative Rodolfo Biazon, who said that a fatwa was even issued in support for the measure. He said that many are demanding for the passage of the bill.

Proving this, Sulu Representative Tupay Loong voted for the RH Bill, saying that the population should be at a level that is sustainable by the country.

Akbayan Representative Kaka Bag-ao, another co-author of the bill, explained her yes vote, pointing out how the measure “affirms life, upholds choice.”

“Enactment of this bill will not make anyone less Catholic or religious,” she said.

Gabriela Partylist Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Luz Ilagan voted for the passage of the bill but said that she did so “with reservation.” They are co-authors of the RH Bill but said that they were wary of provisions which they felt promoted population control.

Gonzales said that their staff has been working to prepare the amended version of the bill for easier transmission to their members.

The RH Bill has not been certified as urgent by President Benigno Aquino III and will take three days before it is put to a vote for third and final reading.

The earliest that the measure can be put to vote for third reading is on Monday, said Gonzales.

A version of the bill is also set to be voted on second reading at the Senate. With reports from PDI

Sam Miguel
12-13-2012, 08:25 AM
Lagman ‘elated’ over passage of RH bill

By Karen Boncocan


5:41 am | Thursday, December 13th, 2012

RH Bill sponsor Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman describes his feeling of elation after the measure was passed on second reading before dawn Thursday.

MANILA, Philippines—Cheers and hugs were abound at the plenary of the House of Representatives before dawn on Thursday after they passed the Reproductive Health Bill on second reading.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, the sponsor of House Bill 4244 otherwise known as the RH Bill, was positive that the 113-104 voting on the measure was already “virtually impossible” to change once it is put to vote for third and final reading.

Prior to its historic approval on second reading, the RH Bill was stuck at Congress for roughly 14 years. Lagman said its passage made him feel “elated.”

House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II said that Monday is the earliest time that the RH Bill can be put through third reading. After it is passed by that time, the approved version of the measure will be transmitted to the Senate which has its own version that is still pending voting on second reading.

But Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez saw the next voting on the bill as an opportunity to change its fate, saying that nothing was impossible. He added that the voting turnout next time could change once legislators who were absent on second reading turn up.

There were 217 legislators present during session, forming a quorum. As per latest count of the House of Representatives’ public relations and information bureau they are made up of 284 solons.

He said that they were sure to overturn the votes once those unable to make it to the second reading show up for final voting next week.

But Lagman seemed unperturbed by this statement, telling reporters that the nominal votes on second reading was very telling of the strength of the pro-RH group at the lower chamber of Congress.

The RH Bill could have been passed Wednesday night through voice vote, the method of voting usually used for second reading, but nominal voting pushed through after a motion from the measure’s opponents. In the end, the RH Bill was still passed but early morning on Thursday.

The Albay legislator urged opponents of the bill to shift to their side, confident that the results of the upcoming final reading would be similar to that of nominal voting for second reading.

“In the third reading, our margin of victory will be greater,” he said.

12-18-2012, 07:59 AM
‘Fight vs RH bill is Catholic Church’s biggest challenge’

By Evelyn Macairan

(The Philippine Star) | Updated December 16, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The fight against the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill is the biggest challenge the Catholic Church is facing this Christmas season, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said yesterday.

Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles yesterday said that while a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 children in the US, President Aquino would be killing millions of children with a stroke of a pen if he signs the RH bill into law.

“Our President intends to kill 20 million children with a fountain pen…to sign the RH bill into law,” he said.

He said that if this happens, the womb of the mother would no longer be the safest place.

“The RH bill is against life (and) so much young blood (would be) shed. May our leaders not give the Divine Child the same Herodian gift of 2,000 years ago: death of the innocents,” said the Batangas prelate.

CBCP secretary general Monsignor Joselito Asis said that pushing for the passage of the measure at a time when Catholics celebrate the birth of the Savior is a funny thing.

Today, which signals the start of the nine-day Simbang Gabi (dawn Masses), also marks the beginning of the celebration of the Christmas season in the country.

“This is the biggest challenge of the Church today, protecting the life of an unborn which is the very message of Christmas. So it is kind of funny because we will celebrate and say Merry Christmas to Jesus but actually we hate life,” Asis said.

When asked if this would be a bleak Christmas for Catholics, the CBCP official answered “no,” adding that the RH bill has yet to pass third and final reading.

“It is a human law that can be repealed and erased. We hope that this would be a good topic for reflection for the whole Simbang Gabi Masses.”

The Monsignor said that the best way to beat the measure is still through prayers. Church leaders believe that the RH bill would only promote the use of abortifacient drugs.

He also believed that the Christmas season would be a good time for Filipinos to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ, who came to this world to give the true meaning of “life.”

He recalled that a member of the House of Representative once said that at a time when the country celebrates the birth of the Lord, they are discussing birth control.

Asis urged the lawmakers not to compromise their faith.

RH bill ‘heroes’

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago considers President Aquino as her hero for certifying the RH bill as urgent but for the CBCP, the real heroes were the 104 lawmakers who voted against the legislative measure.

The CBCP yesterday issued a pastoral statement titled “Contraception is Corruption” penned by CBCP vice president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.

Villegas issued the pastoral statement in behalf of CBCP president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, who is currently attending the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC) in Vietnam.

“In behalf of the president of CBCP, I reiterate the collective discernment of the Philippine bishops that the RH bill, if passed into law, can harm our nation. Contraception corrupts the soul. The RH bill is being gift wrapped to look like a gift for maternal health care. It is not so. It will lead to greater crimes against women,” Villegas said.

The CBCP also praised the 104 members of the House of Representatives who stood firm in their position and voted against the measure during its second reading.

The Church appealed to the 64 congressmen who did not cast their vote on the measure during the second reading to be enlightened and stand up for truth.

Arguelles believes that prayers could do miracles in swaying the minds and hearts of the lawmakers not to support the passage of the measure.

Pangasinan Rep. Gina de Venecia, who voted no against the RH bill, said she wants to see a better life for every Filipino, “but certainly not at the cost of an unborn child.”

De Venecia said the RH bill is an attempt to institute measures to control the country’s population, masquerading as a reproductive health measure, with the end-in-view of diminishing, or alleviating the problem of poverty. – Eva Visperas

12-18-2012, 08:01 AM
^ The part in bold above is without a doubt the most irresponsible statement ever to come out of the mouth of a Catholic clergyman since whoever it was last time said "everybody is doing it anyway" or some like shit like that about the previous administrations' thieving and corruption. Has the Philippine Catholic Province really come down to this?

12-18-2012, 08:06 AM
Congress passes RH bill

No roadblock expected in bicam conference

By Cathy C. Yamsuan, Christian V. Esguerra, Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:05 am | Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Pia Cayetano embraced each other as they stood in the middle of the session hall, while Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada announced Monday night the 13-8 vote approving the reproductive health (RH) bill.

It was a long-delayed triumph for both women who gained enemies for their defense of what they believed was a measure that would give a woman the choice to determine the number of her children, meet a teener’s need to be protected from an unplanned pregnancy and educate citizens about sexual health.

“There is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come and that idea today is the RH bill,” Santiago said. Before the voting, the bill had languished in Congress for 13 years.

A quarter before 8 last night, senators approved Senate Bill No. 2865 on third and final reading, less than an hour after they did the same on second reading.

The vote in the Senate paves the way for the measure to become law after the House of Representatives also approved on third reading last night the bill that President Aquino had certified as urgent.

‘No miracle’

The “miracle” that anti-RH groups were waiting for did not materialize, as the House voted 133-79-7 to pass House Bill No. 4244 on final reading, increasing the winning margin to 54. In the second reading on Thursday, the chamber voted 113-104-3.

The two chambers will have to reconcile their versions of the bill in a bicameral conference committee so Mr. Aquino can sign the measure into law.

Senate leaders have yet to name their representatives to the bicameral conference that Santiago wants to convene Tuesday.

Malacañang hailed both houses of Congress for their “historic vote” and crafting a law “that can truly address the needs of our people.”

“The people now have the government on their side as they raise their families in a manner that is just and empowered,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said. “It begins a process of healing for the wounds that may have been opened by an often feisty democracy.”

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, sponsor of the House bill, was optimistic that the bicameral committee would face no serious roadblock in reconciling contrasting provisions with the Senate version. He said the committee could meet Tuesday and have the final version ready for ratification by Wednesday.

“Before the end of the year, it will become a law as long as we can harmonize the differing provisions in the bicameral conference committee,” Lagman told reporters.

“Considering that these two bills are mutually identical from the start and the differences were in the period of amendments, I don’t think the differences are insurmountable. We could fast-track the forging of a bicam report, I think, within a day.”

In the Senate, those who voted with the two sponsors in favor of the highly contentious RH bill were Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Senators Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Franklin Drilon, Francis Escudero, Teofisto Guingona III, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Francis Pangilinan and Ralph Recto.

Those against were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto, Senators Gregorio Honasan, Aquilino Pimentel III, Antonio Trillanes IV and Manuel Villar.

Senators Manuel “Lito” Lapid and Sergio Osmeña III were not in the session hall during the vote.

For poor women

“I will not gloat. In fact, my work has just begun. … This is for every woman wallowing in poverty, for those who don’t even know they have the right not to be beaten up by their partners,” Cayetano said after the head count to emphasize the continuing struggle for women’s rights.

Cayetano failed to fight tears as she thanked all those who supported her efforts for the past 17 months in having the measure approved.

Santiago, in turn, cited Nicolaus Copernicus who contradicted Catholic teaching at a time when the Church insisted that the sun revolved around the Earth.

“The Catholic Church has made many mistakes because it is a human institution,” she said. Santiago’s statement appeared to be indirectly addressed to religious groups against the RH bill.

Fear of a Catholic backlash appeared to be one of the biggest reasons Congress’ decision to pass the RH bill that had been derailed since it was first introduced in 1995.

Sotto and Enrile, the most rabid among anti-RH senators, have openly sided with the Church hierarchy in shooting down the measure.

Other senators stood up after the head count to explain their vote.

Angara cited the rising number of teenage pregnancies as an imperative for his “yes” vote.

Arroyo warned he would change his “yes” vote should drastic alterations be made in the Senate version during the bicameral conference.

Minority Leader Cayetano said the RH bill’s approval was not tantamount to a promotion of promiscuity. “We should fight misconceptions if we want to help our people,” he said.

Estrada lamented the wedge driven between the Church and RH supporters because of the measure.

Escudero said he was against abortion, but supported the rights of women and children, especially the unborn.

“I want to give all Filipinos equal opportunity, men and women, young or old, that’s why I favor the RH bill. I do not favor premarital sex. I am for the protection of the rights of women and children,” he said.

Sotto, ‘satisfying’ sex

Before the vote, Sotto’s proposal to delete the word “satisfying” in the definition of reproductive health was met with vehement objection from the Senate’s three women members. This forced him to withdraw this amendment.

Sotto initially explained that the word “satisfying” ran counter to the “conservative” culture of Filipino women.

The three women senators stood up one by one and blasted Sotto’s statement. Cayetano and Legarda said Filipino women had the right to have satisfying sex.

Santiago went to the extent of vowing to file a bill that would penalize a husband “who does not give satisfying sex to his wife.”

About dreams

In explaining his vote, Guingona said the bill was “about our dreams and aspirations,” and the country’s future. Lacson lauded those who opposed the bill for allowing the majority rule to prevail.

Honasan noted in his explanation that he was living in a highly matriarchal family.

Legarda dedicated her “yes” vote to Filipino women, while Marcos noted the agony of young people when faced with “a situation they are ill-prepared for,” thus his promise to improve “the pathetic state of affairs” by voting for the RH bill.

“What bothers me is a proposal wrapped in a condom argument,” Pimentel said. “I cannot accept the twisted rationale to legislate what is better left to the conscience of married couples,” he added.

Recto appealed to sponsors to maintain fidelity to the version approved by the Senate during the bicameral conference.

“I hope dead provisions would not be resurrected like zombies and newly birthed ideas not aborted in the third chamber,” he said, referring to the bicameral panel.

12-18-2012, 08:07 AM
^ Continued

Revilla’s revelation

Revilla revealed he was the third senator whose child was born with complications after his wife took pills in the early stages of pregnancy.

“My daughter’s name was Maria Alexandra. She was born in 1990 and lived only for 26 days because of heart complications as Lani took pills not realizing she was already pregnant,” Revilla said, his voice shaking.

Apart from Revilla, Lapid and Sotto confessed during RH interpellations that their wives had given birth to babies suffering from complications due to pills the women took while pregnant.

“Why can’t we spend the money on infrastructure or projects to help poor people, instead of using it to buy harmful things?” Revilla said.

Sotto noted that Malacañang certified a contentious bill as urgent, instead of measures that were “more necessary.”

“If Cory Aquino were alive, this bill would not even reach first base,” he said.

Wide chasm

Enrile, who cast the last vote, said the bill “inflicted a very wide chasm of division” not only in the chamber but also in Philippine society.

“I hope this bill we now dispose of tonight will bring the benefits it seeks to accomplish,” he said.

In the House, RH bill supporters, clad in purple, shouted in jubilation from the gallery as soon as Deputy Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella announced the results.

After the vote, supporters of the bill gave out purple orchids to lawmakers and applauded them as they left the session hall to greet fellow advocates.

A dismayed Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes said the House made a “big mistake” by passing the bill. “We tried hard (to campaign against it) because we are convinced that it’s bad for people, not only Catholics, but all people,” he told reporters.

Reyes attributed the wider margin of victory for the RH bill to the President’s certification and to “pressures” exerted by Malacañang on House members.

Badge for passage

Lagman downplayed the impact of the President’s certification of the bill. “The inherent merit of the RH bill was its badge for passage and the presidential certification was the assurance for its approval,” he said in a statement.

“While the certification by the President of the necessity for immediate enactment of the RH bill sealed its enactment, the intrinsic merit of the measure and its laudable objectives galvanized legislators’ support and justified the presidential endorsement,” he said.

Conspicuously absent during the voting was Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, who was celebrating his birthday Monday. He voted against the bill last Thursday.

The anti-RH bloc also missed the vote of Fuentebella, who was asked to preside over the proceedings. This allowed Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada to cast his vote in favor of the measure.

Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez, a staunch opponent of the RH bill, did not help his group’s cause when he abstained. Deputy Speaker Raul Daza, another known critic of the bill, was again not present on the floor.

12-18-2012, 08:10 AM
^ In the first voting there were 104 Congressmen against. In the passage voting only 79 remained against. Wouldn't it be good to know why? Roilo Golez for one abstained in the passage round. Deputy Speaker Raul Daza wasn't even on the floor. These are two veteran politicians who surely can live without their pork barrel for their entire terms if need be, and if indeed that was the stick bandied about by Malacanang.

12-18-2012, 08:13 AM
This was a previous lead editorial, but one which I thought should be brought up after the final voting:

Contraception is not corruption

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:55 pm | Sunday, December 16th, 2012

To mobilize the opposition to the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill on the eve of two more crucial votes in Congress, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a strongly worded pastoral letter on Saturday. Sadly, the statement—written by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, and read in churches on Sunday—was based on a lie.

“Contraception is corruption!” was the pastoral letter’s thundering headline, a deliberate repetition of a controversial statement made last August and attributed to Villegas too. That time, in remarks read on his behalf, the archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan and the much-respected former rector of the Edsa Shrine, argued that “contraception is corruption. The use of government money, taxpayers’ money to give out contraceptive pills is corruption.”

We called him out then, because his “fudging of the facts and of logic” was “deeply dishonest” and “extreme.” Just because the Catholic bishops do not agree with a particular government policy doesn’t mean the policy is necessarily corrupt. As we asked then: “If the purpose is to safeguard the health of poor women at risk of multiple pregnancies, or to give married couples the freedom of choice, or to allow households to create the right conditions for raising human life with dignity, how can giving out contraceptive pills be considered a waste of taxpayers’ money?”

This month’s pastoral letter improves on the August speech by using the following formula: “Contraception corrupts the soul.” This is a subtle, indeed theological argument—but it is not really the kind of corruption the bishops have in mind. The rest of the pastoral letter revolves around the use of government money to make artificial means of contraception available. In fact, the theological formula is immediately followed by practical policy considerations. “The RH bill is being gift-wrapped to look like a gift for maternal health care. It is not so. It will lead to greater crimes against women.”

Let us, for the sake of argument, grant that last point. Even if it were true that an RH law will “lead to greater crimes against women”—and we must stress that in fact we think the opposite will happen, and more pregnancies will be provided for, fewer abortions will take place and more women’s lives will be saved—all this is not necessarily corruption.

Are we merely playing language games? No. It is the bishops, those whose thinking is represented by the unfortunate pastoral letter, who are using language tricks. Consider, for example, the statement’s praise for those lawmakers who voted against the RH bill in the House of Representatives.

“We congratulate the one hundred four (104) congressmen and women who voted NO to the RH Bill. You have voted courageously, despite all pressures, to stand up for what is right and true. The Church will remember you as the heroes of our nation, those who have said no to corruption and who care for the true welfare of the people, especially the poor. May you continue to be steadfast and not waiver in your stand against moral corruption.”

Among the 104 representatives the bishops laud are such anticorruption exemplars as Mikey Arroyo, Rudy Antonino and Mitos Magsaysay, defenders of the corruption-stained Arroyo administration; JV Ejercito, defender of the plunderous Estrada administration; and Imelda Marcos, defender and conjugal coruler of the Marcos dictatorship. Archbishop Villegas, are you telling us now, a quarter century after Edsa, that Imelda is not only against moral corruption, but a very hero of the nation?

In moralizing the politics of the RH bill, the Catholic bishops make the fundamental mistake of viewing legislators in absolute, black-or-white terms. They are able to do so because of the lie that contraception is corruption. It isn’t. The RH bill facing second reading in the Senate and third reading in the House is a landmark piece of legislation, with no more moral implications, and no fewer, than other equally important, equally historic, laws.

12-18-2012, 08:17 AM
^ Archbishop Villegas should answer that last question in the penultimate paragraph. If he refuses to, or if he simply cannot, then perhaps he and the rest of the like-minded should stop folling the rest of us into thinking that theirs is a moral stand. Because if it is then they will have to categorically state that those who stand with them are moral people. And if they do that - particulary in the cases of Imelda Marcos, JV Ejercito and Mikey Arroyo - then they should resign as Catholic clergy. Those are clearly not the clergy who should be leading the Philippine Catholic Province.

12-18-2012, 08:26 AM
The historic RH vote: How a democracy manages conflict over values

By Walden Bello

7:55 am | Saturday, December 15th, 2012

When the presiding officer, Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, arrived at my name and asked for my vote during the historic House of Representatives’ vote on the Reproductive Health Bill last Wednesday night, December 12, I replied in the affirmative and walked towards the rostrum to explain my vote.

He then posed the standard question, “What is the pleasure of the gentleman from Akbayan?” To which I replied, “I hesitate to answer that question since ‘pleasure’ has become a controversial word during the last few days’ debate.”

It was my attempt to inject some humor into a proceeding that had become like a tense basketball game, where one team maintained a slight edge but could not quite pull away owing to the tenacity of the other side. Some of the other statements that evening drew more laughter than my intervention, probably because they were inadvertently funny, as when Rep. Thelma Almario of Surigao del Sur expressed her sanguine wish that “in my lifetime we will have enough Filipinos so we can ‘Filipinize’ the whole world.”

Or when Congressman Dong Gonzalez of Pampanga hoped his parents would know he had fulfilled their dying wish that he vote against the RH Bill “in case they’re now flitting around in this hall.”

Conflict of Values

Apart from such moments of light humor, the situation was deadly serious, and much of the country stayed glued to the voting via television or the internet. To many on both sides of the RH debate, the outcome of the vote would either be a national triumph or national tragedy. Unlike other major legislative encounters in the last few years, the RH debate was not over national security. Neither was it about clashing economic interests, nor about different political visions about the future of the country. It was about a clash of values or beliefs on key social relationships: the relationship of the state to the family, the relationship of the church to the state, and the responsibility of the State towards its citizens.

Many of the anti-RH legislators rose that historic evening to express the deep beliefs that informed their scorched earth efforts to block the bill till the very end. Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro and Rep. Pablo Garcia of Cebu claimed it was anti-constitutional because in their view, it was against life, the right to which is protected by the constitution. Rep. Amado Bagatsing said that between a church that was over 2000 years old and a state that was just a few decades old, he was taking side of his church. Earlier in the RH debate, Bagatsing earned the distinction of claiming that “contraception is abortion.”

Yet the debate showed that conservatism on the use of contraceptives has its roots not only in religious conviction, but in personal circumstances. Not a few members recounted how they were part of poor large families—in the case of Congressman Dong Gonzalez, 12 siblings—where parents and children pulled themselves up by the bootstraps. Their message was if they could do it through hard work, why couldn’t other poor families, why should the state promote smaller families via the provision of contraceptives?

On the pro-RH side, the articulation of fundamental values was equally impassioned. These were the values mainly of the liberal tradition. For Rep. Edcel Lagman, whose 14-year-long leadership in promoting the bill will be remembered as a legislative epic, the key principle was the state’s right to “benignly intervene” in the reproductive area, as in other dimensions of individual and social life, to promote the collective interest. This intervention was being done in the service of free choice. Providing access to contraceptives to the poor was the liberal state’s way of assuring that couples could in fact exercise free and informed choice in deciding the size of their families and the spacing of their children.

Rep. Emmeline Aglipay of party Diwa spoke for many on the pro-RH side when she said she was casting her vote “for reason and against ignorance.” For Rep. Linbelle Ruth Villarica of Bulacan, the bill was a necessary sep forward in the struggle for women’s rights and women’s welfare. Rep. Angelo Palmones said that by the time the legislators finished voting for the measure, another 14 women would have died owing to the maternal health complications addressed by the bill. Several said that the bill was not only pro-life, but “pro-quality of life” owing to its presumed effect on reducing poverty.

It was left up to two Mindanao legislators to bravely bring up the issue of population management, which the anti-RH side had made into a bogeyman, with their shrill warnings against “population control.” Rep. Tupay Loong of Sulu asserted that uncontrolled population growth had become a hindrance to national development and necessitated action on the part of the state. In the view of Rep. Joey Zubiri of Bukidnon, the last congressman to speak, the RH bill was necessary because “population growth has become the number one national security problem” that had to be addressed by the state.

Democracy and Value Clashes

Coming out of Wednesday’s night debate, which saw the bill win by a vote of 113 to 104, with three abstentions, I can only be grateful that we have a democratic process whose rules are internalized by most Filipinos, particularly the principle that the majority rules. Conficts over basic values often turn into bloody wars. Take the wars of the reformation in 17th century Europe or the current fundamentalist-instigated conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the rules of representative democracy have not taken hold. We may have fundamentalists on the anti-RH side, but thank god, they believe in the rules of democracy.

Hopefully, the third reading of the RH bill will proceed smoothly in the House and the Senate will approve its version next week, so we can a bill that can be reconciled and ratified early in January and ready for the president’s signature.


I will look back with pride to the 15th Congress that passed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Bill. Indeed, even if no other bill I am associated were to be passed in this Congress, the victory of this long overdue measure, which will enable our country to have greater capacity to confront the challenges of the 21st century, will be enough to bring me immense satisfaction.

It was probably this sense of history-in-the-making and his wish to be part of it that made one of my colleagues, notorious for his absenteeism, to emerge out of the woodwork to vote for the bill. Hopefully, he won’t vanish again.

12-18-2012, 12:39 PM
CBCP: Palace 'corrupted' pro-RH solons

by Paterno Esmaquel II

Posted on 12/17/2012 9:12 PM | Updated 12/17/2012 10:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines – For advocates, it was a historic vote. For Catholic bishops, the approval of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill on third and final reading on Monday evening, December 17, was simply corruption.

Blame it on the Palace's "apparent intervention," said the chair of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes. His commission is at the forefront of the CBCP's pro-life movement.

In an interview posted on CBCP News, Reyes said the "no" votes would have prevailed – especially when the bill underwent second reading – if the Palace had not interfered.

He said tides turned especially after the luncheon that President Benigno Aquino III organized on December 3, when he stepped in to break the impasse on the RH bill. For Reyes, that was when previously anti-RH solons began to support the measure.

"What's sad is that the executive department itself became the corruptor of our congressmen by promising government projects, political favors... and that pork barrel funds will not be given if they don't vote for the RH bill," Reyes said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Reyes called this "bribery," CBCP News reported.

He said those who voted "no" – 8 from the Senate, 79 from the House of Representatives – embodied "heroism and faithfulness." "I really praise them. I admire them for standing by their principles. Despite (threats to withhold) pork barrel, promise of political favors, and government projects, they stood for what they think is right," Reyes explained.

He said he hopes those who voted "yes," on the other hand, will "change their minds and... realize that voting for the RH bill is something that is harmful for the country.”

Citing the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, among others, the CBCP has vehemently opposed the RH bill.

Its vice president, in fact, released a pastoral letter on Sunday, December 16 – the first night of the Philippines' traditional midnight Masses for Christmas – to condemn proposed law. In his letter, CBCP Vice President Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said "contraception corrupts the soul."

"The moral fiber of our nation is at risk," said Villegas. He echoed an earlier statement by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle warning against the "culture" to be created by an RH law.

The Catholic Church itself, however, is divided over the RH bill. Citing Church teachings, for instance, a group of Catholic school professors has stated that Catholics may support the RH bill in good conscience – a stance frowned upon by the CBCP.

The Palace, for its part, said the historic vote shows that "people now have the government on their side." By voting to approve the RH bill, the Senate and the House of Representatives moved the measure closer to becoming a law. – Rappler.com

12-18-2012, 12:41 PM
^ When our good bishops accepted those SUV's from the previous administration they lost EVERY FRIGGING RIGHT to call others out as corrupt or corrupting others.

What was it the good book said about taking the plank or log or whatever the hell it was out of your own eye first?

12-19-2012, 08:29 AM
Bishop warns Roxas Church will make him pay in 2016

By Christian V. Esguerra, Philip C. Tubeza

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:15 am | Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II’ presidential ambition in 2016 could be affected by his active role in pushing for the reproductive health (RH) bill, a Catholic bishop said Tuesday.

Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said Roxas was one of the administration officials who went to the House of Representatives to ensure that the RH bill was passed.

“The Church is not after political power but it has much influence. We use that influence for the growth of the country (but) Malcañang really fought the Church,” Reyes said at a Church forum in Intramuros, Manila.

“As for Mar, I think it will affect (his presidential ambition) … The Church has much moral influence on our people. Many still believe in the Church. In surveys, the Church has the highest credibility [than] the executive, legislature and judiciary,” Reyes added.

However, the bishop was quick to point out that Catholics should not be “single-issue” voters and should consider a candidate’s competence and incorruptibility.

“One could be anti-RH but he could also be a thief. It will be up to the voters to weigh a candidate’s track record and decide,” Reyes said.

Monsignor Joselito Asis, CBCP secretary general, said the Church was “not after political power” and was just trying to present a spiritual and moral case against the RH bill.

“We just want what is good for the common good. The Church has no pork barrel and no government projects. We can just use persuasion, appeals and so on,” Asis said.

“We are a democratic country. The power really lies with the people in selecting leaders. In this case, it was the legislators who decided,” he added.

What was expected to be a close vote on third reading turned out to be a landslide on Monday for Malacañang and House members pushing for House Bill No. 4244.

From a close vote of 113-104-3 on second reading, the result was an emphatic victory for the pro-RH bloc (133-79-7) on third and final reading.

That means that instead of gathering more votes, the anti-RH group lost a total of 25, mainly because many supporters did not show up.

Roxas, along with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Secretary Ricky Carandang, were back at the South Lounge on Monday night as House members were casting their votes on the RH bill.

“Our domain, which was the South Lounge, was again invaded,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “We did our best in pushing for amendments, but our best arguments could not marshal enough forces to frustrate the wishes of Malacañang.”

Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay pointed out that Roxas and Abad were “in charge of releasing the pork barrel,” which is formally known as the priority development assistance fund.

“The Catholic Church has no pork barrel to dangle,” she said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte defended the presence of Roxas and company, saying that as former House members, “they have the right to be there.”

Belmonte noted that former Sen. Francisco Tatad, a known opponent of the RH bill, also showed up at the Batasan.

“He was also there and we also welcomed him. What he ate was also free, the same as everybody else,” he said.

12-19-2012, 08:37 AM
^ Ano ba talaga mga Monsignor?

Tignan daw ang track record, maaaring magnanakaw kahit anti-RH. Susmaryosep jejomar...

You cannot have your cake and eat it too, Monsignors. That is why even the Flock struggles to take your word for it now. You do not know how to be honest and take a stand.

Here's an idea: Let the Church put some muscle where its mouth is and excommunicate every pro-RH politician, as in refuse them communion and all of the other sacraments in full view of the Flock.

If they see Edcel Lagman in the communion line, tell him to f--- off and get the f--- out of that church and never darken that church's doors again.

Of course if they do that, they better do the same to Erap Estrada who they publicly and vociferously denounced and vilified, and to Gloria, Mike and Mikey Arroyo, Johnny Enrile and all of the other politikos who lie, steal, cheat and murder as well.

If they haven't the testicular fortitude to do this, then perhaps it is high time for the Church to do some inward reflection and figure out what in the blazes they are still doing in this plane of existence.

Mahirap 'yang selective condemnation mga Monsignor. Diyan nag-uumpisa ang kawalan ng kredibilidad.

12-19-2012, 08:41 AM
Sotto derails RH bicam meeting

By Cathy Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:13 am | Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The bicameral conference committee tasked with reconciling the Senate and House versions of the reproductive health (RH) bill suffered a setback Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III invoked several rules barring the bill’s principal sponsor, Sen. Pia Cayetano, from forming the Senate contingent to the bicameral conference committee and from holding the bicameral meeting.

Citing Rule 12 Section 35 of the Senate rules, Sotto said only Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile could appoint the seven senators who would comprise the chamber’s panel in the bicameral meeting.

Cayetano’s office has yet to provide Sotto clean copies of the RH bill that contain the amendments he introduced on Monday night.

In a 13-8 vote, senators approved the measure on Monday night.

Sotto said he wanted to read the clean copies of the Senate and House versions as, according to him, he intended to become a member of the bicameral panel.

But as Senate majority leader, it would be imprudent for him to leave his post inside the session hall and attend the 4:30 p.m. bicameral meeting that Cayetano called in the Senate Tuesday.

Some members of the House of Representatives, who were to participate in the bicameral meeting, were already in the Senate building before the afternoon session.

Sotto said the bicameral meeting was considered a committee hearing.

Senate rules also did not allow senators to hold hearings when there was a session. Otherwise, this could result in a lack of quorum, he explained.


Cayetano, however, said Senate “tradition” allowed the chairman of a committee the “privilege” of naming bicameral members instead of the Senate President.

“It is my prerogative to select the members. I don’t think there is anything wrong (with that). It is absurd and contrary to ask to delay a process which I would like to continue,” she said.

Cayetano would have wanted her brother, Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, and Senators Ferdinand Marcos III, Teofisto Guingona III, Francis Pangilinan, Panfilo Lacson and Sotto to join her in the chamber’s bicameral panel on the RH bill.

“Nothing prevents me from calling a bicam (meeting). I am offended that (I am) being imposed upon, not to call for a bicam. The House panel already agreed to hold it here (in the Senate),” she added.

The senator also said she was “offended” by Sotto’s apparent new “steps being taken to delay the process” of turning the RH bill into law.

Senate President Enrile said the tradition that Cayetano invoked was allowed only when no member objected to the bicameral lineup or its creation.

Enrile and Sotto are the Senate’s most vociferous opponents of the RH bill. Despite the numerous amendments they managed to include in the Senate version of the bill, they still voted “no” to its approval on second and third readings on Monday.

The two claimed the RH bill would promote promiscuity, result in an aging population supported by fewer younger people and merely accommodate the global birth control business.

Drilon’s suggestion

Sen. Franklin Drilon stood at one point and proposed that Cayetano be allowed to meet with House members in a “prebicameral” meeting.

“It would not be a bicameral conference, your honor,” Drilon assured Enrile.

Drilon also suggested that the bicameral conference be held this morning instead after senators shall have gone over the clean copies provided by the Senate and the House of Representatives.


As it is, the schedule set by RH sponsors for the bill’s road to ratification and signing into law in Malacañang was already delayed.

Cayetano and a bill’s sponsor, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, initially wanted the bicameral conference held Tuesday, the reconciled version’s ratification Wednesday and its submission for President Aquino’s signature so it could become law by Thursday.

If the bicameral panel begins its work only Wednesday, such a schedule will have to be revised.

Sotto immediately clarified that his objections were not another attempt to delay the bill’s transformation into law.

“If I were intent on doing that, the unfinished business for this day alone would already take us four days to take up, but I’m not insisting on that,” he told Cayetano before Enrile ordered an end to their bickering.

Senate coup?

Last week, Santiago warned that Enrile’s opposition toward the measure could lead to his “highly likely” removal as Senate President between January and February next year.

Santiago added that Enrile’s move of returning the gifts that she and Cayetano gave the Senate President for Christmas was seen as an indication of the animosity borne out of their differing positions on the RH bill.

Santiago quoted Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who had his own verbal tussle with Enrile over another issue, saying that Malacañang “has already been giving careful attention to (the) political contretemps” in the Senate and that the hostilities arising from the RH bill ran counter to “the flow of this present administration.”

12-19-2012, 08:42 AM
^ Tito Sen, mag-privilege speech ka na lang ulit na plagiarized, 'yung hayagan, kunwari 'yung Gettysburg Address ni Lincoln, sure ball na isang linggong delay 'yon sa dami na naman ng press na makukuha mo.

12-19-2012, 08:45 AM
RH law fo the faithful Catholic

Cebu Daily News

7:38 am | Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

For the Catholic faithful who have come to share their bishops’ conclusions about the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, the approval of the measure in the Senate and the Lower House was huge blow to traditional Christian culture.

In the history of religion, the Catholic Church stands as the last Christian denomination that holds fast to the teaching that artificial contraception is resistance to divine law that is manifested in natural law.

In practical terms, once the RH bill becomes law, the faithful Catholic will find himself co-opted into doing something that ordinarily he would not do: Fund, through his taxes, the supply of artificial means of family planning to multitudes of Filipinos, many of them Catholics like himself.

In other words, the faithful Catholic will feel the pain of having worked for the glory of his God only to see part of the fruits of his labor earmarked for what he finds sinful and for creating for his neighbor what theology calls “a near occasion of sin.”

For a near-occasion of sin is what free contraceptives are for Filipino Catholics, especially poor ones who would like to stay faithful to Church teaching except that their resolve to do so is eroded by the heightened accessibility of the accessories of contraception.

There are Catholics who call themselves progressive and support the RH bill. They are cheering its impending enactment into law.

Traditional Catholics, however, will question the presentation of their own version of what constitutes the common good as an alternative magisterium.

The former will highlight the latter’s breast thumping (“I am Catholic and I support the RH bill”) as a textboox example of defiance of shepherds; in short, disobedience.

This is where the leading voices of the hierarchy have disproven the view of Church critics who say that ecclessiastical opposition to the RH bill is a show of naked power and vengefulness by bishops.

In the face of the division of the flock and the clear snub from the laity on an essential issue, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle of Manila said, “This vote leads us to further commit the Church… to the service of the poor, of the family, of women, of infants and children.

“This vote leads us to further commit the Church… to the service of the poor, of the family, of women, of infants and children,”

The vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, did not mince words in calling the impending law “a moral time bomb.”

Yet he said, “We might not see eye to eye but we can work hand in hand for the real progress that our people so richly deserve… a progress with God, in God and through God.”

12-19-2012, 08:49 AM
^ Now that last statement truly rocks!

12-19-2012, 08:56 AM
Sex ed, Life ed

By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:16 pm | Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

One of the most contentious provisions in the approved reproductive health bill has been that of sexuality education, with earlier versions proposing its inclusion in grade school, but which, through negotiations, ended up limited to high school. But even this postponement of sexuality education to high school has met opposition, on the argument that it should be done at home, and that discussing sexual matters in school will lead to promiscuity.

We will just have to live with the law, thankful it finally got passed, but I thought I should share some light personal accounts to argue for sexuality education at an early age.

All children are curious about their bodies, including their genitals and the differences between males and females. They also ask about how babies are made. When they ask questions about these matters, you can’t just give answers like “You’re still too young. I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

There’s only so much you can do to shelter children from the hypersexualized images in modern society: in mass media, in advertising, in entertainment especially, and in the conversations of adults… and older children—for example, high school students trying to show they’re grown up. Kids will learn, very early, to say someone’s “sexy,” courtesy of all those noontime shows with gyrating dancers, male and female. They hear songs like “Birthday Sex.” Soon they begin to link “sex” with romantic scenes on TV, even just kissing.

As soon as they can spell, the more adventurous ones will type “sex” in a computer search engine. You can activate restrictions on Web access on your cell phone and computer but the kids will find ways—in their friends’ computers, or in Internet cafés.

When you refuse to talk about sex, and forbid kids from searching on their own, you only make them more curious, and they can end up with more misinformation. On the other hand, willingness to discuss sex and sexuality with children means that they will come to you whenever they have a question.


Let me get now to three amusing stories to show why sexuality education is needed from early childhood.

A few months back, my then 6-year-old son asked if I could give him a bath. I repeated what I’d been saying for some time—that he was a big boy now and could manage a bath on his own. This time, though, I thought I’d add some sexuality education.

I introduced the term “private parts” and when he asked why those parts ended up with a soldier’s rank, I explained “private” as something one owns, that no one, not even his father, or relatives, or household helpers, or friends, had a right to touch. It was a fairly short conversation but, being a teacher, I asked him to summarize what we had just discussed.

“No one has the right to touch my private parts,” he said.

So I asked: “And what if someone tries to?”

He paused for a few seconds then blurted out: “I’d say, ‘Marry me first.’”

“Tumpak!” I praised him, laughing out loud as well at how he seemed to have picked up on marriage lately. I in fact have a second story to tell about his views on marriage but wanted to say the “private parts” lesson didn’t end there. The next morning I overheard him in the toilet calling out, “Private, salute!”

Freaky looks

Second incident. Earlier this year I was talking with a close friend on the cell phone about his houseboy having eloped with a new domestic helper. My son was next to me and when I ended my phone conversation, he told me, “You know, that houseboy freaks me out.” My son visits that friend’s house quite often to play with his kids, so I was curious about why the houseboy was upsetting him.

“Every time the labandera (laundry woman) washes clothes, I see him sitting next to her and he’s always looking freaky at her.”

I asked him to elaborate.

“It’s that look… that ‘I want to marry you’ look. That’s why they’re gone now. They’re probably married now.”

That exchange reminded me that kids may be very innocent, and yet perceptive. They know the “I want to marry you” look, picked up probably from television. In some ways, my son was more perceptive than my adult friend, who was clueless about the houseboy courting the laundry woman.

What about the “making babies” part? My approach is to throw the question back to them and see what their latest theory is. The latest one from my son is this: “When a woman wants to have a baby, she begins to eat, and eat, and eat. She has to eat lots of food so a baby grows inside her. Then when the baby’s grown, then the doctor can take out the baby.”

When he was younger he already talked about babies coming out of a mother’s “tummy,” so I asked if that was where the doctor would take out the baby.

“No, no, babies don’t come out from the tummy,” he answered, making me feel rather dumb, “They come out from the woman’s —.” (Now I’m censoring myself for the sake of adult readers who may not feel comfortable about this issue.) My son got that part right.

There—within a year, he had changed his idea of pregnancy. Sex still doesn’t figure in here, but I know it won’t be long before he wonders… and asks. If he doesn’t, I’ll have to bring up the topic when he gets close to puberty, together with discussions about boyfriends and girlfriends and issues of responsibility in relationships. The fact is that attraction and crushes, so-called puppy love, happen even before puberty, during middle childhood, which is between the ages of 6 and about 10, so you better make sure your kids are prepared to handle all these changes in the body and in the mind.

Comfortable as I am with discussing sexuality with kids at home, I believe schools need to tackle sexuality education because you get to the kids with their peer groups, getting them to exchange information and views, with adult guidance. Sexuality education in schools also means getting to the kids whose parents refuse to talk about sex and sexuality at home, and there are many of them.

The new reproductive health law’s provisions on sexuality education will mean we have to prepare schools and school teachers, many of whom are themselves uncomfortable and/or poorly informed about the many topics that fall under sexuality education.

It is unfortunate that those opposed to the reproductive health bills were thinking only of condoms and sex when they opposed sexuality education. We’re talking here about much more than the birds and the bees. Sexuality education consists of life survival skills that will make an important difference when it comes to children protecting themselves from sexual abuse, children learning about falling in love, and handling heartbreak and “I want to marry you” looks, children learning to be gender-sensitive, caring and responsible in their relationships.

12-19-2012, 09:06 AM
^ How is it sexuality education can be discussed with this much sobriety, quality, insight and thoughtfulness by a Sociology Professor? Perhaps Dr Tan is the right point person with who the Church can engage on contemporary sexuality education. Unless of course the Church does not really want any engagement, period.

12-20-2012, 09:55 AM
RH bicam: Satisfying, pleasurable

1:02 am | Thursday, December 20th, 2012

What was supposed to be a meeting marked by fireworks and verbal jousts turned out to be “reproductive,” “satisfying” and “pleasurable.”

These were the words the senators used to describe the bicameral conference on the reproductive health (RH) bill where the Senate and the House of Representatives reconciled the conflicting provisions of the versions they approved separately.

On Wednesday night, the Senate (11-5) and the House (which resorted to voice voting) ratified the bicameral report on the RH bill. The ratification came just two days after both chambers of Congress approved it on third and final reading.

“In fairness to Sen. Pia Cayetano, she really defended the Senate version as what was her commitment. I think that was what touched (Senate Majority Leader) Tito Sotto who joked about sponsoring the bicameral report on the floor,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said after the nearly five-hour meeting.

Cayetano, principal sponsor of the RH bill, and Sotto have engaged in several hostile exchanges on the Senate floor about the RH bill.

Sotto is staunchly against the measure and remains so even after he joined the bicameral panel set to iron out the kinks on the RH bill.

Members of the Senate and House panels had geared for battle before holding the bicameral meeting, thinking clashes would occur as either panel defended its version of the measure.

“It turned out very conciliatory. Even Sotto was very accommodating. It was a very reproductive afternoon,” said Lacson, one of the authors of an RH bill later consolidated in the report that Cayetano presented to the floor in August 2011.

A smiling Sen. Ralph Recto said the meeting was “satisfying and pleasurable” as he stepped out and also lauded Cayetano for standing her ground.

Before the meeting, Cayetano named three areas where possible clashes could occur between the Senate and House teams.

These included whether local government units (LGUs) would be given primary responsibility for the implementation of the RH law as Recto proposed; the age range for schoolchildren to be given RH education; and, whether minors would need written parental consent to avail themselves of artificial birth control from health centers and government hospitals.


Among the agreements reached during the bicameral meeting were:

■ Adolescents between 10 and 19 years old would be given access to “age- and development-appropriate” RH education in public schools. The Department of Education was tasked with coming up with the curriculum for public schools, which private schools may adapt.

■ The national government and LGUs would share responsibility in the implementation of what would be the RH law. “Financial and technical support” would be given by the national government to the LGUs.

■ Minors could avail themselves of artificial birth control methods in health centers and government hospitals only if they present written parental consent. The only exception would be minors who already have children or young females who have suffered miscarriages.

Before the session, Senate media overheard Sotto tell Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that all the individual amendments that the two of them and Recto had introduced in the bill were all preserved in the bicameral version.

“You mean it is finished?” a surprised Enrile asked.

Sotto answered in the affirmative but asserted he would still vote against the bill by the time it was ratified.

“I still cannot vote in favor knowing how that bill came into being. It is a foreign imposition and I cannot accept that,” he said.

Enrile also said he would still not vote for the controversial measure.

A matter of faith

“My vote is a matter of faith, conscience and my notion of what is the national good,” he explained.

Sotto and Enrile are the senators most vocal against the RH bill. They believe it would promote promiscuity, bring about an aging population supported by fewer younger people and benefit only multinational companies manufacturing contraceptives.

In Malacañang, President Aquino said he wanted the bill signed into law before the end of the year.

12-20-2012, 10:49 AM
Which way for the Church?

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:10 pm | Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The idea of a humble Church—a Church that respects the authority of politics and of science while insisting on the autonomy of faith and morals—is one that fits the complexities of modern society. It carves out a continuing role for religion in a world that is becoming increasingly differentiated into separate functional spheres, where the meaning of life is supplied not by a single dominant center but by a plurality of angles. Understandably, it is an idea that does not sit well in societies that believe religion’s social purpose is best achieved when it is able to impose its will on every institution in society.

I think the young Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, expressed this concept very well at a press conference in Rome this year. Explaining the principal message of the recent bishops’ synod on the new evangelization, he said: “In the message, we find a humble church, admitting that it does not understand everything that’s happening in the world. That it’s confused, that it has suffered, but it also admits its share in the wounds of society…. Humility for the Church is not a strategy; it is the way of Jesus. It is how God manifested himself to us in Jesus, and loved us in the form of Christ crucified.”

This “humble church” cannot be one that imagines itself at war with secular powers. Neither can it be a Church that expects God to “finish the war for us,” as one bishop recently put it when Congress proceeded to pass the reproductive health bill despite the Church’s strenuous objections. For as long as the Church casts its role in combative terms, I think it is courting defiance. It will be seen as an institution that is so accustomed to wielding total influence that it treats every exercise of autonomy on the part of other institutions as an assault on its authority. But this is just my view as an observer. How the passage of the RH bill will be processed by the bishops themselves when they meet is another matter. It will be worth watching.

I think there will be at least two schools of thought.

One will see the passage of the RH bill in terms of a hostile war against the Church, declared by the state, and led by no less than the President, P-Noy. From this view, this war will be opened on many fronts, and the RH bill is just the beginning. The stance that corresponds to this perspective would be one of militant and critical engagement with the current administration. If this view prevails, it would draw the Church even more into the political arena, binding it more closely than ever to its activist past.

The other school of thought will read this RH episode as but an integral part of the wrenching transition of Philippine society to modernity. Far from being a call to war, the RH bill passage would be received as an invitation to institutional self-reflection, whose starting point is humility. Shedding an arrogance acquired from previous political victories, it sees the secular state not as an enemy but as a friendly neighbor with different concerns, and hopefully a partner in the enterprise of ending the scourge of poverty and violence. This humble Church, serene in the embrace of its faith, may lose some of its temporal privileges in this transition, but it cannot be humbled.

Which way then for the Catholic Church? It is difficult to say. The Church in the Philippines has played a major role in the evolution of the Filipino nation. Its influence survived the anticlericalism that served as one of the major impulses in the war of independence against Spain. To that extent, unlike Mexico, for example, our country did not become a fully secular society. While the modern principle of church-state separation is enshrined in all our constitutions, its enforcement has been minimalist, in deference to the dominant culture permeated by Catholicism. The Church thus never left the public square in the Philippines, where it always occupied a special position among the other institutions of society. But, now and then, it finds itself fighting a rear-guard battle against an increasingly assertive state.

In this regard, it would be useful to revisit the Church’s role in the post-Marcos years. It was the Church’s activism in the two Edsas—first in 1986 against Marcos, and then in 2001 against Estrada—that greatly boosted its political capital and inclined it toward greater encroachment into government territory. A Church like this—which was instrumental in the rise to power of two presidents, and whose intervention during moments of political crisis continues to be desperately sought—can hardly be expected to suddenly become reticent in the use of its influence, particularly in matters that bear directly on its pastoral function. That is why a militant stance will appeal to those who believe that the Church is under attack. Only a humble Church that can find its way through this moment of disappointment without being burdened by a feeling of betrayal can avert the perils of a protracted conflict.

It is refreshing to see a president rise above his family’s personal affinities with the Church in order to help push a piece of legislation that he believes, rightly or wrongly, will be good for the country. One can imagine the kind of pressures to which he was subjected. But he, too, can do a lot to temper triumphalist noise on the RH side, and reassure resentful voices on the other side, that together depict the passage of the bill as a resounding defeat of the Church.

This is not a war of institutions, but an adjustment in the relations among autonomous spheres.

12-20-2012, 10:55 AM
^ An "adjustment in the relations among autonomous spheres"... I like that turn of phrase. Would that this is how the Church sees this.

12-21-2012, 08:48 AM
RH law is no quick fix, says Lagman

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:18 am | Friday, December 21st, 2012

Once the reproductive health (RH) bill is enacted into law, don’t expect immediate results.

Proponents of the measure made this statement in assuring the public that it will be good for the country in the long run.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said a massive information drive should be the first step to take once the RH law is in place to teach people what they need to learn and the resources available to them.

Lagman said it would take some time before the full impact of the dissemination of RH information and family planning services would be felt.

“That’s why we proposed that the mandatory comprehensive review should be five years following the effectivity of the law, because that’s the only time we could really see the beneficent effects of the bill. You won’t feel it immediately because much of the work will have to be a massive national information campaign,” Lagman told newsmen.

Five-year review

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said there was an earlier proposal to conduct the review after three years, but proponents insisted it must be done only after five years, when the intent of the law would have been fully realized.

But Lagman said the country would eventually realize the positive effects of the RH law.

It would help the Philippines “approximate” its millennium development goals commitment, particularly reducing infant mortality, improving maternal health and providing universal access to family planning, he said.

The country would also be on its way to eliminating extreme poverty and hunger, he added.

The RH bill’s main proponent in the House of Representatives also said there was no turning back for the measure, and that it is “irreversible.”

No infirmity

Even if the fight is brought all the way to the Supreme Court, he said it will be victorious until the end because its proponents worked to ensure that it would have no constitutional infirmity.

“I think you cannot beat a good idea, you cannot vanquish relentless advocates, and you cannot possibly defeat a measure which will be promotive of the welfare of the Filipino people, particularly our women and children,” he said.

Lagman said he was “elated” that both houses of Congress have ratified the measure after 14 years. He described it as the House “baby,” with the Senate version just a replica of the House version.

Lagman said the President’s certification had a “very tremendous positive effect” on the measure’s approval on third and final reading.

But he also said the present House leadership should be credited for its commitment to getting the bill voted upon. It was very unlike the previous House leadership that was “either negative, ambivalent or even deceptive,” he said.

But he also said the bill, on its own, was “truly meritorious” and would not have gotten support if it were otherwise.

Meanwhile, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said he was pleased that the House managed to avoid bloodshed in the course of heated debates on the RH bill.

No blood spilled

“Despite the sometimes acrimonious debates on the floor of the opposing views, I am happy to note that there is no blood on the floor. In other words, any differences that have existed can be realized. We can come to terms with each other,” Belmonte told lawmakers before Congress adjourned for the year.

The RH bill seeks to distribute contraceptives and make other family planning methods available for free, giving priority to the poor. It bans contraceptives that prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum, as some consider this abortion.

It also provides for age-appropriate mandatory reproductive health and sexuality education in public schools.

It says the state shall promote openness to life, but parents must only bring forth children whom they can raise in a “truly humane” way.

It defines reproductive health as “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. This implies that people are able to have a responsible, safe, consensual and satisfying sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so.”

12-21-2012, 08:52 AM
Ulitin ko lang: If the Church really wants to fight this out until Kingdom Come, then let the Church excommunicate every Cognressmand and Senator and Cabinet Secretary, as is if they see them in a Communion line, refuse them the Body of Christ and tell them to get out of the line and out of that church. If they haven't the stones to do this then please, let us all move on already. It is already the 21st century and we have many more issues and concerns to sort out.

12-21-2012, 09:37 AM
RH bill debacle

By Amando Doronila

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:29 pm | Thursday, December 20th, 2012

The Roman Catholic Church suffered its most crushing defeat in its collision with the Philippine state in 13 years when Congress decisively voted on Monday to pass the Malacañang-certified reproductive health bill providing government funding for contraceptives and sex education in schools.

The bill had been languishing for more than a decade in Congress, where it had been stubbornly blocked by the politically influential Catholic Church. The breakthrough came after the Aquino administration threw the full weight of its resources behind the bill, including denial of pork barrel to members of Congress opposing it. President Aquino gave the bill a powerful push by certifying it as urgent.

The Senate voted 11-5, despite the fact that its leadership (Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Majority Leader Tito Sotto) had teamed up to oppose the measure. The House voted 133-79-7 to pass its own version of the bill on final reading, increasing the winning margin to 54. It voted 113-104-3 on second reading on Thursday. The two chambers subsequently ratified the respective reports in the bicameral meetings. The ratified legislation is due for transmittal to the President for signature into law.

The breakthrough of the legislation confirmed the dictum in Philippine politics that what the President badly wants, he gets. This emphasizes the reality that in his administration, Mr. Aquino has succeeded in subordinating the legislature to pass measures he wants passed, including his success in having the impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona removed by the Senate acting as an impeachment tribunal.

Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes alleged that Mr. Aquino “bribed” members of the House to vote in favor of the RH bill. He claimed that he personally knew of five lawmakers who consistently voted against the bill but changed their position after Malacañang threatened to withdraw their pork barrel. The President had held a series of meetings with House members ahead of his urgent certification of the bill to the legislature for action. In those meetings he lobbied for their support. The bishops had warned members of Congress who supported the bill of political retaliation in the 2013 midterm elections. But these warnings apparently had little effect in swaying them to bend to the Church’s appeal, which was based on arguments that the bill, especially its provisions on public funding of contraceptives, could lead to promiscuity or interference in the natural process of reproduction. The government’s argument is anchored on the economic consequences of large families—that the management and curtailment of explosive population growth are antipoverty measures.

The arguments seem to have more resonance among the poor with large families to feed and educate than the abstract notions on the immorality of using contraceptives to curb population growth. Withholding pork barrel from congressmen opposing the bill in the face of next year’s elections is a more potent threat to their political survival than the threats of the bishops. In the history of church-state relations in Philippine democracy, politicians who oppose Church policy in favor of state policy had seldom been hurt by their disobedience to Church tenets.

For instance, politicians like Claro M. Recto and Jose P. Laurel, did not suffer political damage for actively sponsoring legislation requiring compulsory reading of Jose Rizal’s novels “Noli Me Tangere and “El Filibusterismo.” The Church lost in the showdown on this issue. The Church should beware of the strong undercurrent of the anticlerical tradition of the Philippine Revolution against Spanish rule—a tradition of separation between church and state fostered by American-style democracy.

In the showdown with the Church on the RH bill, the Aquino administration fed on this anticlerical tradition. Church interventions in state affairs have proved to be more successful and received wide public support on issues concerning human rights and political abuses.

The most outstanding example is the Church’s intervention in the People Power Revolution of 1986. Under the interventionist leadership of Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Church took the lead in opposing and checking the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship and the military.

The Church, with its infrastructure of parishes in rural areas, acted as a parallel institutional framework to check the abuses of the Marcos regime, following the collapse of opposition parties and institutions acting as agents of freedom of the press and assembly.

When the military mutiny against Marcos broke out in February 1986, Cardinal Sin and the religious groups formed the nucleus of a coalition between the Church and the opposition led by Cory Aquino and civil-society anti-Marcos activists, They also rallied support for the military rebels led by Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel V. Ramos. This alliance became the foundation of the People Power movement that dominated the development of the post-Marcos democracy. In this role, Church intervention in state affairs was at its best and most welcomed by the Filipino people. It was the height of the influence and power of the Church in the development of democracy.

Since then, the Church’s influence has waned. It cannot be regained by interventions related to population growth and its implications on economy growth and poverty.

12-24-2012, 09:37 AM
Clerics and the political process

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:35 pm | Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

The debates on the reproductive health bill have died down, and now there is toe-in-the-water talk about divorce. Some friends have asked me what role clerics should have in matters involving controversial legislation. Let me be more general, however, and ask instead about clerical involvement in public affairs.

One person who expressed in very strong language his opposition to religious involvement in public affairs was Barry Goldwater. He said: “The great decisions of government cannot be dictated by the concerns of religious factions… We have succeeded for 205 years in keeping the affairs of the state from the uncompromising idealism of religious groups, and we mustn’t stop now!”

Goldwater could not have been more inaccurate historically. Whether viewed against American history or Philippine history, the statement is false. Churches have influenced American politics from the days of Jefferson down to the prophetic preaching of Martin Luther King and the pastoral letters of the American bishops. Likewise in the Philippines, religion has been involved in politics from the days of Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora down to the pastoral letters on social justice and on the conduct of elections. I do not see this involvement coming to an end. Depending on circumstances, it can even intensify, as it did in the RH-bill debates. But it is legitimate to ask how clerical activism fits into the Philippine political culture.

A question often asked is whether a cleric may run for public office. There is no constitutional obstacle to that. There was a Supreme Court decision under the 1935 Constitution which said that clerics, much like firemen and policemen, should not run for public office. But the decision was actually a minority decision upholding a statutory provision at the time when the Constitution required a two-thirds vote of the Supreme Court to declare a law unconstitutional.

As to the obstacle arising from Canon Law prescription, it is not insurmountable. What remains, therefore, is a question of prudence or propriety. This writer’s view on this is that in principle, a cleric must choose between being fully a Church minister or a public official. Combining the two can be both religiously and politically unhealthy.

Another important question touches on the substance of the preaching of clergy and religious. Preaching does not simply refer to sermons and homilies in church. Included are public or semipublic pronouncements such as blogs or columns.

Certainly, no one will deny the clergy the right to preach about morality. That is their task and they would be remiss in their duties if they habitually avoid moral issues. This is all part of ordinary religious preaching.

It is a different matter, however, when out of general moral teachings, specific public positions are advocated—such as impeachment, Charter change, the banning of “jueteng” or even the RH bill. Of course, there are specific conclusions that flow naturally from some general positions. But specific practical conclusions do not always come out naturally. The fact that an act is clearly sinful does not lead to the easy conclusion that therefore it should be penalized. If it were, our prisons would be more crowded than they already are.

Why is it that people sometimes do not want their religious leaders to tell them what specific actions they should take or what political conclusions they should make? It is all part and parcel of being a citizen of a democracy. “I have my own mind. Don’t insult me. Let me draw my own conclusion!”

This is a perfectly legitimate attitude. To avoid alienating people who have such an attitude, a cleric must carefully and respectfully present his conclusions. If the practical conclusions are presented as the product of one’s own study and are presented for people to agree or disagree with, then no one should feel insulted or offended. Much less should a cleric threaten hellfire against those who disagree.

Another objection to specific pronouncements by clerics is that their competence and their access to needed facts for drawing conclusions are limited. Rarely is their expertise related to economics, law, sociology, or politics, etc. Specific conclusions about the morality of economic or political decisions can depend very much on the dynamics and nuances of these specialized fields. If the cleric has competence in these fields, then his conclusion can be more persuasive.

However, it is also good to remember that even the people whose task it is to make important decisions that impact on the lives of people—such as legislators—do not always have the needed expertise on what they may be talking about. Some easily talk through their hat. But this is no reason for a cleric to be reckless.

While a cleric, however, should not be reckless in his statements, neither should he be inordinately pusillanimous. There are political and economic decisions that have great moral significance. These should be faced, with prudence, yes, but not with cowardly avoidance of conflict. Risks are part of the apostolic mission.

Clerics do make mistakes, out of carelessness, perhaps, or through excess of zeal, or even for more foolish reasons. But in my own estimate, mistakes and all, the courageous stand of clerics and churches can do much harm. The courage of the churches in the Philippines has made a significant contribution to improving economic and political life.

Sam Miguel
12-26-2012, 08:16 AM
Bets suffer backlash of RH vote

By Amando Doronila

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:11 am | Monday, December 24th, 2012

President Aquino appears uncertain of his clout in winning control of an ungovernable Senate in the 2013 midterm elections as he faces a grass-roots backlash from the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy over the passage in Congress of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.

After steamrollering the bill for ratification by the Senate-House conference committee last week, Mr. Aquino marked time signing it into law to avoid humiliating the bishops for their defeat.

The Palace patronizingly said the consolidated version of the House and Senate bills would “definitely be signed at the end of the year.”

But the issue is likely to fester as the bishops lick their wounds. They have vowed to mobilize the Church’s nationwide constituency to vote down the administration’s senatorial candidates and reelectionist House members in next May’s elections.

The prospects of ending the deep divisions appear dim.

Buoyed up by the passage of the bill, Mr. Aquino told reporters last week that he was looking forward to campaigning for the administration’s senatorial candidates.

He said the election results would be a “referendum” on his first three years, marked by zeal in tormenting and prosecuting his political enemies, and by a shortfall in accomplishments on economic and social programs designed to reduce poverty and create jobs.

More than a referendum

The midterm elections will not only be a referendum; it will be more than that.

It will determine whether the election results would make the administration a lame-duck presidency. It will also test the political influence of the Catholic Church, which is putting its clout on the line on the RH bill.

According to the President, the Liberal Party (LP), supposedly the ruling party, has trimmed down its senatorial ticket to 12 from 40. The ticket is a mixed lot in composition.

The LP has only four members in the Senate—Francis Pangilinan, Teofisto Guingona III, Ralph Recto and Franklin Drilon. The Nacionalista Party (NP) has the most numbers with five—Manuel Villar, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Bongbong Marcos and Antonio Trillanes.

Lakas-Kampi has three—Joker Arroyo, Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla; Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), two—Tito Sotto and Loren Legarda; Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), two—Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada; People’s Reform Party, one—Miriam Defensor-Santiago; Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), one—Edgardo Angara; Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban), one—Aquilino Pimentel III; and independent, four—Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Chiz Escudero and Sergio Osmeña.

The reelectionist senators are Alan Peter Cayetano, Trillanes, Escudero, Honasan, Legarda and Pimentel.

From this jumble of names and myriad of parties, the vexing question follows: How can one build a party system based on ideology, policy or program of government on this hollow foundation? From this chaos of parties, the LP faces an impossible task of building a ruling party in the Senate.

No majority

The House is less chaotic, but still no single party can claim a plurality, much less a majority.

The status of parties in the House is as follows: Lakas-CMD-Kampi, 107; LP, 39; NPC, 32; NP, 24; PMP, five; PDP-Laban, two; LDP, two; Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, two; six other minor parties with one member each; and seven independents.

This distribution of parties not only staggers the imagination but also illustrates the importance of Mr. Aquino’s claim that the results of the midterm elections could be a referendum on the first half of his administration.

Those in the LP senatorial slate expect or hope that their chances of being elected would be lifted by the President’s popularity, which will be tested in the elections.

The LP ticket includes Senators Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pimentel, Trillanes, former Senators Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Jamby Madrigal, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe-Llamanzares, daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.

The list also includes Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, son of Sen. Eduardo Angara, and Paolo Benigno Aquino V, the President’s cousin.

Only six LP candidates placed in the 12 winning places in the Social Weather Stations survey of Nov. 23 to Dec. 3. According to the survey, Legarda topped the survey, followed by Escudero (second), Cayetano (third), Villar (fourth), Pimentel (sixth to seventh) and Trillanes (11th).

Being identified with the administration is not a guarantee for election to the Senate. It cuts both ways.

Joblessness worsened

The backlash from the negative campaign from some of the bishops on the RH bill can hurt the chances of some senators.

Although the President’s poll survey ratings have remained high, the administration’s record on economic management is certain to come up during the campaign.

The downside is that despite the surprising economic growth in the 2012 third quarter, joblessness worsened in October compared to the same month last year.

According to the National Statistics Office, the unemployment rate stood at 6.8 percent, or about 2.8 million unemployed—higher than the 6.4 percent recorded in October 2011.

Arsenio Balisacan, director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, said that despite the gross national product of 7.1 percent in the third quarter, unemployment was still the government’s “greatest challenge.”

He said “achievement in rapid economic growth is one thing but inclusive growth is clearly another.”

This means that the growth statistics indicate that most of the poor are being left out. The administration didn’t say how taking control of the Senate can create more jobs to reduce poverty.

Sam Miguel
12-26-2012, 09:30 AM
Plastics, rubbers and why senators voted on RH

by Ayee Macaraig

Posted on 12/18/2012 8:36 AM | Updated 12/18/2012 11:22 AM

MANILA, Philippines – What do Victor Hugo, plastics and condoms have in common?

Many senators’ vote on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill was already obvious after they voiced out their stands in the yearlong debates.

So as the Senate voted 13-8 to pass the bill on 3rd and final reading on Monday, December 17, it was not just how but why they voted that mattered.

True to the passionate debates on the measure, senators’ explanation of their votes was colorful, filled with tears and jokes here and there.

Here are their top arguments for or against the bill:

1. Sotto: ‘Ipinagbabawal na ang plastic. Akalain mo, isasabatas natin ang condom?’

Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III looked somber as he watched his colleagues vote in favor of the bill. Yet the self-styled “number 1 oppositor of the RH bill” did not go down without a fight.

He insisted that the RH bill contradicts Filipino culture like valuing the institution of marriage. He also predicted that like the other measures he voted no to, the public will ultimately regret the passage of the bill.

Yet it was one comment that elicited laughter from the gallery.

“Nakakalungkot po talaga. Isipin niyo maraming lugar na sa bansa lalo na sa Metro Manila ipinagbabawal na ang paggamit ng plastic eh, akalain mo isasabatas natin ang condom?” (It saddens me. Many places in the country especially in Metro Manila already ban the use of plastics. Imagine we are legislating the use of condoms?)

He ended his speech by saying, “If we approve this measure, may I ask God the Father to forgive us for we do not know what we are doing.”

2. Recto: ‘RH is not a rubber. It is not one size fits all.’

Sen Ralph Recto surprised RH advocates by voting yes to the bill on the condition that the amendments in the Senate version are not subjected to what he called “bicameral abortion” like what happened in the sin tax reform bill.

Recto defended himself from criticism of introducing supposed “killer amendments.” “I believe if this bill is about responsible parenthood, then we should be responsible midwives of its birthing,” he said.

The senator used metaphors and references to social media in voting for the bill, saying “No legislation especially complex ones can be distilled in 140-character tweets."

“By itself, this bill will not create a social utopia, bring us to our economic Shangri-la and place the nation in a state of nirvana … This is not a fast-acting poverty reduction tool.”

In defending his advocacy of giving local government units (LGUs) the prerogatives and funding for RH services, he said, “We should avoid putting LGUs in one RH straight jacket.”

“For after all, RH is not a rubber, meaning it is not one size fits all.”

3. Pimentel: ‘Condoms are merely masks for some people’s erotic adventures.’

In explaining his no vote, Sen Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said, “Maybe a portion of those funds can address some of [people’s] poverty needs and certainly not on condoms that are neither medicine nor food but are merely masks for some people’s erotic adventures.”

Pimentel, a bar topnotcher who graduated with a mathematics degree from the Ateneo, even used what he called a “mathematical point of view” to argue against the bill.

“This bill might give us false hopes again because if the current rate is that 200 mothers die out of 100,000 live births and if because of the RH bill, the maternal deaths is reduced to 100 mothers die out of 50,000 live births because the law will reduce the number of pregnancies and live births, that is not an improvement.

“That is the same percentage of maternal deaths,” he said.

4. Marcos: ‘I promised to improve pathetic, heart-rending state of affairs.’

Unlike his mother Ilocos Norte Rep and former first lady Imelda Marcos, Sen Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr voted for the RH bill. The senator cited his experience as former governor and congressman of Ilocos Norte. He was a co-author of the bill in the previous Congress.

“It became clear to me, after being witness to the agony and the hardship of young women and men, when they find themselves in a situation they are ill-prepared and often ignorant of.”

“And it was from this that I promised that I would do everything I could to improve the pathetic and heart-rending state of affairs.”

5. Enrile: ‘I’m quite bewildered, uncertain about the future.’

Far from his fiery speeches in the past, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was in a sober and reflective mood as he cast the last vote on the bill.

Enrile said the bill inflicted “a very wide chasm of division,” even dividing families. His son, Cagayan Rep Jack Enrile, voted in favor of the bill.

The senator has opposed the bill on fears it will harm the Philippine economy and defense position. He said he hopes he will be proven wrong.

“In my case, I’m quite bewildered and uncertain about the future of this country. If we made the correct decision, I hope to God we did and we’ll make it but the future is unknown and uncertain and unpredictable.”

6. Pia Cayetano: ‘This bill is for every woman who wallows in poverty.’

The vote was an emotional moment for principal sponsor Sen Pia Cayetano, who defended the bill for over a year. She became teary-eyed as she thanked advocates and supporters who assisted her in the struggle to get it passed.

Cayetano spoke of the women in the Senate. “My life as a women, the life of Sen Miriam [Defensor Santiago], the life of Sen Loren [Legarda], the three of us, this bill is not for us.”

“This bill is for every woman who does not have that right, those who wallow in poverty, those who do not even know they have the right not to be beaten up.”

On the argument that livelihood and education must be prioritized, Cayetano said she supports this.

“But let’s be real. What job, what education can provide a mother with the means to take care of 10 children, 15 children?”

7. Santiago: ‘No force more powerful than idea whose time has come’

Cayetano’s co-sponsor, Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago, addressed the opposition of Catholic bishops.

Citing the history of the Church condemning Copernicus and Galileo, she said, “The Church made mistakes because it is not a perfect institution. It is only human.”

“The Catholic Church does not consist of only the pope, only the cardinals, only the bishops or only the clerics, no that has been corrected by Vatican II. The Catholic Church consists of all the people of God.”

Saying 13 to 15 women die of childbirth every day, she said, “We cannot pray to a father in heaven and ignore people living right beside us.”

Santiago quoted French writer Victor Hugo in encapsulating the significance of the moment.

“The Catholic Church has steadfastly opposed the RH bill for 13 years but I so humbly submit this afternoon, there is no idea, there is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

“And today is the time for RH.” – Rappler.com

12-30-2012, 07:45 AM
Anti-RH groups not giving up, will go to SC

By Christian V. Esguerra, Michael Lim Ubac, Philip C. Tubeza

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:42 am | Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Groups opposed to the reproductive health measure are not giving up even after President Benigno Aquino III quietly signed it into law four days before Christmas.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez welcomed the President’s decision not to make a “big fuss” of the signing, but said questioning Republic Act No. 10354 in the Supreme Court would be a logical next move.

“It’s always an option,” he told the Inquirer.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the low-key signing of the RH bill was proof of the administration’s ardent desire to move on from the highly divisive issue.

Catholic lawyers are preparing to question the constitutionality of RA 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, in the Supreme Court even as Malacañang called for reconciliation.

“The last recourse would be the Supreme Court,” said Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“But we need to know what amendments were introduced and further study the new form of the approved law. (It’s) time to move on. The future will tell where wisdom has been,” he added.

RA 10354, which was published online in the Official Gazette on Saturday, will take effect 15 days after its publication in at least two newspapers of general circulation.

The law makes contraceptives more widely available, especially to the poor, and introduces schoolchildren to sex education.

The Philippines has one of Asia’s highest birth rates, with the United Nations estimating that half of the country’s 3.4 million pregnancies each year are unplanned.

Definitely not over

Maternal mortality also remains high, with 162 deaths for every 100,000 live births, while 10 women die every day from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications, according to the Commission on Women.

Rodriguez, who battled with RH bill proponents in the House of Representatives, said he would meet with like-minded House members and senators beginning next week to plot their next move.

“It’s not yet over, definitely not,” said Rodriguez, a former dean of San Sebastian College of Law.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the RH bill in the House, said Mr. Aquino’s quiet signing of the bill on Dec. 21 was done “in order not to exacerbate the conflict with some Catholic bishops and start the reconciliation process to ensure widespread support in the implementation of the law.”

Still, the signing of the bill without fanfare did not sit well with some Church and law leaders.

‘Highly dishonorable’

Ricardo Boncan, spokesperson of the Catholic Vote Philippines alliance, said it was “highly dishonorable” for the President to sign the law in secret and away from the media spotlight.

“We find the nonpublicized signing of the RH bill into law by President Aquino to be highly dishonorable and unprincipled because he did it right after stating that he was in no hurry to sign the bill before Christmas,” Boncan said.

Catholic Vote Philippines is the alliance of lay Catholic groups that have vowed to oust pro-RH politicians in the 2013 elections.

“We will exhaust all legal remedies to fight this unjust, unethical and antipoor and antilife law,” Boncan said.

Official confirmation

On Saturday, a day after the media learned that the law had been signed, Malacañang urged critics of the measure to move on.

Reading from a prepared statement, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte officially confirmed the signing of the measure during an interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

“The passage into law of the Responsible Parenthood Act closes a highly divisive chapter of our history—a chapter borne of the convictions of those who argued for, or against this Act, whether in the legislative branch or in civil society,” said Valte.

Valte enunciated the desire of the President and his Cabinet to end the highly acrimonious congressional and media tug-of-war that pitted the Aquino presidency against so many leaders of the Catholic Church.

Engagement, dialogue

She said that the law “opens the possibility of cooperation and reconciliation among different sectors in society: Engagement and dialogue characterized not by animosity, but by our collective desire to better the welfare of the Filipino people.”

But Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said the Church’s fight against the “culture of death” would continue.

“If such signing did not merit media and public attention, it only goes to show that such law is not meritorious at all,” Castro said.

Moral ‘time bomb’

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes blasted the President for “planting a moral time bomb” when he signed the RH bill into law.

“Indeed, P-Noy will be known as the RH president, which is not a title of honor. His conscience will be bothering him day and night because he has planted a moral time bomb in our Catholic country,” said Bastes.

“Our opposition to that immoral law will persist,” he added.

Drop in ratings

Boncan said the drop in the President’s approval ratings was due to his “lack of vision” and his “wrong priorities.”

“Instead of the RH bill, the FOI (freedom of information) bill and the antidynasty bills should have been given priority,” he said.

“It will definitely affect his (Liberal Party) candidates and Catholic Vote Philippines will not make people forget this come election time,” he added.

Asked why it took eight days before the Palace announced that the President had signed the RH measure into law, Valte said Mr. Aquino earlier mentioned that he wanted to sign it before the end of the year.

She said Mr. Aquino signed it on Dec. 21 because he would leave after Christmas for a vacation.

“And the President might be thinking that if he would be signing it after he goes back to Manila, it might not be processed (for validation and documentation) before the end of the year,” she added.

Valte said a clean copy of the law was processed when regular office resumed on Dec. 26, after a four-day Christmas break.

“So we received word that everything was finished late on Dec. 27. At least as far as the Communications Group is concerned, we deemed it best to wait for a couple of days before the announcement was made, given the level of intensity of the debates that were had on this matter. We deemed it best to wait a couple of days before the announcement was made,” she said. With a report from AFP

Sam Miguel
01-03-2013, 02:25 PM
RH law goes to SC

By Edu Punay

(The Philippine Star) | Updated January 3, 2013 - 12:00am

CBCP lawyer’s son seeks TRO

MANILA, Philippines - A petition has been filed with the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to stop the implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) law, barely two weeks after its enactment.

James Imbong, who identified himself as a Catholic taxpayer and educator, filed a 24-page petition yesterday, seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the RH law or Republic Act 10354.

After President Aquino’s signing of RA 10354, local Catholic Church leaders declared that the high court would be the next front in the Church’s battle to have the measure trashed. But they said lay groups would likely do the actual legal battle against the controversial measure.

Imbong, son of CBCP legal counsel Jo Imbong, was joined by his wife Lovely-Ann in filing the petition. The couple operate the Magnificat Child Development Center Inc., which is also listed as petitioner.

The couple, both lawyers, said they filed the petition as “a class suit in representation of other parents and individuals similarly situated” and also on behalf of their two minor children.

The petitioners argued that the RH law “negates and frustrates the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino people as enshrined in the Constitution.”

They cited Article II Section 12 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the state “recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.”

The constitutional provision also mandates that the state “equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

Petitioners said at least 11 provisions in RA 10354 violate the Constitution.

“The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of government,” the petition read.

“As regards the value of human life and its sustenance, the Constitution upholds the ideal of an unconditional respect for life and aspires for the establishment of policies that create opportunities to harness the economic potential of every Filipino,” it pointed out.

The petitioners also argued that the new law violates Article XV of the Constitution, which imposes on the government the duties to “strengthen (family’s) solidarity and actively promote its total development” and provide for “inviolable marriage” and ensure the “right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.”

The couple added that the new law violates constitutional freedom of religion and expression and creates doubtful or spurious rights called reproductive health rights.

They also said the law “mocks the nation’s Filipino culture – noble and lofty in its values and holdings on life, motherhood and family life – now the fragile lifeblood of a treasured culture that today stands solitary but proud in contrast to other nations.”

Named respondents in the petition were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

Despite strong opposition from leaders of the local Catholic Church, which only espouses natural family planning methods, Congress passed the law last Dec. 19 and President Aquino signed it two days after.

The law takes effect 15 days after its publication in two major dailies.

Sam Miguel
01-03-2013, 02:27 PM
Phl population expected to hit 97.7 million this year

By Sheila Crisostomo

(The Philippine Star) | Updated January 3, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The country’s population is expected to reach 97.7 million this year due to the 1.7 to 1.8 million Filipino babies born every year, the Commission on Population (PopCom) said yesterday.

“This is just an unofficial estimate made by PopCom. Our population in 2010 was 92.3 million in absolute number. So based on that, we may estimate that by May 2013, our population will be 97.7 million,” said PopCom executive director Tomas Osias.

The National Statistical Coordination Board is the agency mandated to make an estimate of the Philippine population but it has not released a projection so far.

According to Osias, PopCom made the computation based on the annual population growth rate of 1.9 percent. This translates to some 1.7 million to 1.8 million babies being born every year.

Asked if the passage of Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 will slow down the country’s population growth, Osias refused to make the connection.

“The law does not have demographic targets,” he said.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Instead, the legislation will only empower couples, especially the women, to make an “informed choice about their reproductive health.”

Osias added that the law would just provide couples with access to services and information about family planning and their reproductive health.

“They will know that birth spacing will be good for the mother’s and the baby’s health. Because of that, they will evaluate their capability (to raise a family). So in the process, the number of the children will be based on the health and future of the family,” he said.

Osias maintained that there is no provision in the law that will mandate couples to limit the size of their family.

“You will not be told not to have a child anymore after two kids or something like that. There are no demographic or family size targets. What we are saying is, they will be the ones to determine what is good for the family in terms of health and the capacity to give the children a better future,” he added.

Sam Miguel
01-03-2013, 02:28 PM
RH law to take effect Jan. 17

By Delon Porcalla

(The Philippine Star) | Updated January 3, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Reproductive Health (RH) Law that President Aquino signed before Christmas takes effect in mid-January as the government tries to manage the country’s ballooning 95-million population.

Republic Act 10354, entitled “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health,” was published in the business section of The STAR yesterday.

Section 30 of the law provides that “this act shall take effect 15 days after its publication in at least two newspapers of general circulation.” The law was signed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

The new law also effectively repealed and “modified” RA 7392, or the Midwifery Act.

“This act shall be liberally construed to ensure the provision, delivery and access to reproductive health care services, and to promote, protect and fulfill women’s reproductive health and rights,” the provision also stated.

Aquino kept his promise and signed the RH bill into law last Dec. 21, or shortly after the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the measure before Congress went on their annual Christmas break.

The much-debated RH bill that the Catholic Church has vehemently opposed for more than two decades is now a law, which will be carried out by the executive department as soon as the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) are released.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the church could still take part in the formulation of the IRR.

Ona said he sees no problem if the church will want to be part of the committee that would be drafting the IRR.

“Anyone can nominate and then the committee will choose,” he said.

The law mandates the secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) or his representative to serve as chair of the committee that will draft the IRR.

The committee will be composed of authorized representatives from the Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Commission on Women, Philippine Health Insurance Corp., Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Economic and Development Authority, League of Provinces, League of Cities and League of Municipalities.

Four members would come from non-governmental organizations to be selected by the health secretary.

While the committee was given 60 days to come up with the IRR, Ona said they might be able to complete it within the month.

“In essence, there’s actually nothing new. Everything is in the law and all we have to do is go into some details. We’ll make sure that the IRR is (in accordance with the law),” he added.

It took more than a decade before Congress passed the measure due to strong opposition from the church that believed it was promoting abortion and promiscuity.

Proponents of the RH bill approved through the bicameral conference committee one of the most contentious pieces of legislation in history, which included the right to a “safe and satisfying sex life.”

Aquino had certified the RH bill as urgent after advocates won by a very slim margin in the House on second reading, even if he rallied nearly 200 House members previously and urged them to finish the debates by making a “conscience vote.”

Sen. Pia Cayetano, principal author in the Senate, along with her House counterpart, Reps. Edcel Lagman of Albay and Janette Garin of Iloilo, acknowledged the urgent label on the measure hastened the RH bill’s approval in both houses of Congress.

The bill seeks to improve public access to reproductive health services, including natural and artificial family planning options.

It also promotes better maternal care, responsible parenthood, and youth education on sexual and reproductive health issues.

Cayetano said the phrase “safe and satisfying sex life” was retained in the definition of reproductive health in the controversial measure.

“Of course, I will maintain that (provision). And it ended with the word consensual,” she said.

Senate Bill 2865 defines reproductive health as “the state of complete, physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes.”

“This implies that people are able to have a safe and satisfying sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so. This further implies that women and men attain equal relationships in matters related to sexual relations and reproduction.”

Under the law, all accredited public health facilities shall provide a “full range of family planning methods which shall include medical consultation, supplies and necessary and reasonable procedures for poor and marginalized couples having fertility issues who desire to have children.”

“No person shall be denied information and access to family planning services, whether natural or artificial, provided that minors will not be allowed access to modern methods of family planning without written consent from their parents or guardians, except when minor is already a parent or has had a miscarriage,” the law stated.

It also provides for “age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education to adolescents” to be taught by adequately trained teachers in formal and non-formal milieus.

This will also be “integrated in relevant subjects such as, but not limited to, value formation; knowledge and skills in self protection against discrimination; sexual abuse and violence against women and children and other forms of gender based violence and teen pregnancy; physical, social, and emotional changes in adolescents; women’s rights and children’s rights; responsible teenage behavior; gender and development; and responsible parenthood.” – With Sheila Crisostomo

Sam Miguel
01-04-2013, 08:18 AM
The Inquirer's lead editorial for today___

Birth pains

10:25 pm | Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

IT WAS not unexpected. On the first working day of the year, the family of a prominent opponent of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the controversial new measure unconstitutional. The petition, unfortunately, is sincere nonsense.

Lawyers James and Lovely-Ann Imbong alleged that RA 10354 violated the Constitution because it “introduces policies that negate and frustrate the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino” and because it “cannot be implemented without exceeding the boundaries of government action…”

The Imbongs’ suit was summed up more simply, if somewhat melodramatically, by their “collaborating counsel,” James’ mother Jo Aurea Imbong. “The state has no business entering the bedroom,” the older Imbong, a lawyer who works with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, told Agence France-Presse.

At the level of mere sloganeering, Imbong’s fatwa is only as strong, or as weak, as the inevitable retort: But the Church has no business in the bedroom either!

In truth, however, both state and religion are of necessity found in the modern-day bedroom; the laws against sexual abuse or violence against women, for instance, obtain in the bedroom just as much as freedom of conscience and worship. To argue that one or the other is off-limits is to display an impoverished view of what is truly at stake.

The Imbongs’ petition—surely the first of many that will be filed—is based on a close but skewed reading of the RH law.

We will not gainsay their sincerity; however, we will take their arguments (we will focus on three) as characteristic of the anti-RH opposition.

First, we note with dismay the petition’s blatant attempt to engage in class-baiting: “[S]ocial service, according to the Act, is about bringing the poor closer to having fewer children, because, after all, who else are at a social disadvantage in bringing forth children whom they can raise in a ‘truly humane way?’ The upper class? The middle class? The lower middle class? Or the poor?”

The Imbongs, in the act of standing up for the poor, make the mistake of condescending to them instead; they understand the law’s emphasis on raising children in a “truly humane way” in narrowly economic terms. But the controversial last paragraph in the law’s second section applies just as much to, say, “upper class” couples who are psychologically or emotionally incapable of discharging the duties of responsible parenthood. Uncharitably, the petitioners understand the provision only as applying to the poor.

Second, we note with increasing frustration the petition’s appeal (made with great certitude) to a still-uncertain future. The new law, the Imbongs said, will lead to “an inexorable population decline” that would “effectively erase the modest but promising economic gains proudly claimed by the country’s economic leaders and noticed by the world.” This kind of statistical speculation is out of place in a legal brief; it is related to the petitioners’ doomsday argument that the law effectively disempowers the poor as “direct agents of change and direct beneficiaries of social services and economic opportunity”—when in fact the policy is clear about situating reproductive health in the context of “sustainable human development,” a term defined in the law itself.

Third, we note with great disdain the petition’s sweeping claim that the new law also “mocks the nation’s Filipino culture—noble and lofty in its values and holdings on life, motherhood and family.” This reading is possible only if every single reference in the law to these same values and holdings are expunged or ignored. Here, for example, is one provision (a guiding principle for implementation, no less) which the suit slights: “The State shall respect individuals’ preferences and choice of family planning methods that are in accordance with their religious convictions and cultural beliefs, taking into consideration the State’s obligations under various human rights instruments.” In what respect can this be read as mocking the “nation’s Filipino culture”?

It is best to understand the Imbongs’ petition as part of the new law’s birth pains; it is what is keeping the law from being truly, fully, born.

Sam Miguel
01-04-2013, 09:08 AM
Who’s afraid of ‘demographic winter?’


By Domini M. Torrevillas

(The Philippine Star) | Updated January 3, 2013 - 12:00am

The enactment of the Reproductive Health Bill into RA 10354 promises the creation of a population policy that reduces unwanted fertility (or to meet unmet needs for contraception), fosters women’s empowerment and increases employment opportunities for women, resulting in later childbearing and wider birth spacing that slow population momentum.

Although the new law has been passed, it is worthwhile backtracking and seeing the arguments of the pro-RH sectors, regarding the correlation between poverty and overpopulation. Dr. Ernesto M. Pernia, UP economics professor and fellow of the Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis, in his forthcoming book, says the population crisis is “a factor in slow economic growth and worsening inequality, and complicates the task of poverty reduction. More children than desired in poor households is due to lack of information about and access to effective methods of contraception. Unwanted pregnancies lead to induced abortions. Poor households’ larger than desired number of children than rich families could be gradually reduced by education and gainful employment that raise the cost of children and parents’ motivation to invest in children. Thus, the availability of a good family planning program coupled with education as provided for in the RH bill, and employment is the effective way out of the vicious circle of high fertility and poverty (UPSE 2008 ).

“The foregoing suggests that population management must be a part of good governance to accelerate economic growth, lessening inequality, and hasten poverty reduction. A national population policy, at the core of which is a well-funded family planning program that provide accurate information and access to all methods of contraception is pro-poor, pro-women, pro-people and pro-life (UPSE 2004). Family planning programs at the local level as well as various private sector initiatives to address the population issue are likely to become more effective under a national population policy framework.”

The question that remains for some people is whether the new law will result in population decline, or what is called “demographic winter.” A documentary film, titled “Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human family,” raises fears of the decline of the stable, intact family over the past four decades, threatening whole societies with decline and chaos. The film is an independent film written and directed by Rick Stout and produced by Barry McLerran with executive producer Steven Smoot.

Dr. Mercedes Concepcion, one of the country’s foremost experts on population and development, and Dr. Ernesto M. Pernia, professor of economics at the University of the Philippines, say people need not fear demographic winter, as it is “conveniently estimated” to take place 60-70 years from now.

Dr. Concepcion says the term demographic winter “applies to the population age structure that has reached stability, that is, when its Net Reproduction Rate (NRR) = 1. This means that women are simply replacing themselves with daughters who will become the future mothers. The NRR of 1 is reached when the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) reaches a level of about an average of 2.1 births per woman who has reached the end of her reproductive life, that is around 50 years of age. Once stability of the population takes place, the majority of the age structure shifts from one that is young, below 15 years of age, to one that is old, 60 or 65 years of age. It is conventionally estimated that it will take some 60-70 years before this condition is realized.         

“The estimated TFR from the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) was around 3 children per woman, a far cry from the 2.1 TFR required for NRR to reach 1. The 2013 NDHS will tell us what the current TFR is and whether it is continuing its decline or not. If the decline is as slow as what occurred during the previous decades, then the population age structure will not exhibit a strong shift to an elderly structure. Even if the RH Bill provides the needed contraceptive supplies to poor women who choose to plan their families, it will take several decades for the TFR of the two lowest income quintiles (representing the poor) to decline to the level of 2.1 needed for an NRR of 1.”

Promotional material on the Internet re demographic winter defines the term as “the worldwide decline in birthrates, also referred to as a ‘birth-dearth,’ and what it portends.”

Demographer Philip Longman (author of The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity) observes: The ongoing global decline in human birthrates is the single most powerful force affecting the fate of nations and the future of society in the 21st century.

“Sometime in this century, the world’s population will begin to decline. At a certain point, the decline will become rapid. We may even reach population free-fall in our lifetimes. For some countries, population decline is already a reality. Russia is losing three-quarters ‑of-a-million people a year. Its population (currently 145 million) is expected to fall by one-third by 2050.   

What is population stability, and why is the number 2.1 so important? Answer: “Population stability is the point of equilibrium at which a country’s population is neither growing nor declining. In order to maintain current population, the average woman must have 2.1 children during her lifetime. Essentially, she needs to replace herself and a man. Because some children will die before reaching maturity, slightly more than two children are needed. Hence, 2.1. A birthrate of more than 2.1 equals population growth. A birthrate of less than 2.1 means long-term population decline.”

The causes of demographic decline of the post-war era have converged to create “a perfect storm” for demographic winter. Men and women are delaying marriage, so they’re less likely to have more than one or two children. In the West, one in two marriages ends in divorce, and the children of divorce are less likely to marry and form families themselves. More married women are putting off having children for careers.

Economist Robert J. Samuelson wrote in a column in The Washington Post: “It’s hard to be a great power if your population is shriveling.” He warned that Europe’s, Spain’s and Russia’s populations have turned dramatically grayer. By 2040 there will be 400 million elderly Chinese. If the low birth rates persist, who will operate the factories and farms, who will develop the natural resources? Who will care for a graying population? The cost of subsidizing senior citizens will increase.

In our time, the problem is not declining, but increasing, birth rates.  Fortunately, the new RH law with carefully crafted rules and regulations, will help women and men plan families they can feed, clothe and shelter.

Dr. Pernia says, while demographic winter is occurring in varying degrees in highly advanced countries, it will probably take close to 100 years for the Philippines to reach that stage.

“Moreover, the problems of ageing in a more developed country are probably easier to tackle than those of rapid population growth in a poor country. And because the prospect is still so distant for the Philippines, there is ample time to prepare for it and learn from the best practices adopted by advanced societies.”

Sam Miguel
01-09-2013, 09:44 AM
No TRO vs RH law

By Christine O. Avendaño

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:48 am | Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Apparently, the Supreme Court feels no urgency to act on a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the new reproductive health law.

The tribunal on Tuesday held its first full court session for the year but did not take any action on the petition filed last week by lawyer James Imbong and his fellow lawyer-wife Lovely Ann opposing the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.

At a press briefing, acting SC public information chief Gleo Guerra said Imbong’s petition assailing the reproductive health law and seeking a TRO on its implementation, “will be taken up again by the court en banc in a future session.”

Asked how soon the full court would tackle the Imbong petition, Guerra said: “The date has not yet been specified.”

Last week, the Imbong couple filed the petition before the high court on behalf of their two minor children and the Magnificat Child Development Center Inc., asking the law not to be implemented because it was unconstitutional and “mocks the nation’s Filipino culture—noble and lofty in its values and holdings on life, motherhood and family.”

Imbong’s mother is Jo Aurea Imbong, the legal counsel of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). The CBCP lawyer is also a “collaborating counsel” in the case.

President Aquino signed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act into law last month following heated debates in Congress. Opposition to the proposed law was mounted by the Catholic Church.

In a 24-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, the petitioners specifically cited two grounds for their appeal. First, the law “introduces policies that negate and frustrate the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino;” and second, it “cannot be implemented without exceeding the boundaries of government action as established in the Constitution.”

Sam Miguel
01-16-2013, 10:01 AM
SC orders gov’t to comment on petitions questioning RH Law

By Tetch Torres


8:43 pm | Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has not issued a temporary restraining order against RH Law, instead, it ordered the government to comment on petitions questioning the law’s constitutionality.

Respondents to the petitions include Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

The government, through the Office of the Solicitor General, has 10 days to comment on the petition.

Currently, there are two petitions filed with the Supreme Court. The first was filed by couple James and Lovely Imbong on behalf of their minor children.

They said Republic Act10354 or the Act Providing for a National Policy on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RH Law) ”mocks the nation’s Filipino culture–noble and lofty in its values and holdings on life, motherhood and family life–now the fragile lifeblood of a treasured culture that today stands solitary but proud in contrast to other nations.”

They said the new law violates the Constitution which upholds the ideal of an unconditional respect for life and aspires for the establishment of policies that create opportunities to harness the economic potential of every Filipino.

The second petition was filed by the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, Inc. or ALFI.

Sam Miguel
01-21-2013, 08:15 AM
Philippine birth control law takes effect

A controversial birth control law came into effect in the Philippines Thursday after more than a decade of bitter opposition from the Catholic church, in an historic move welcomed by many women.

The law requires government health centres to hand out free condoms and birth control pills, benefiting the country's poor who would not otherwise have access, and mandates that sex education be taught in schools.

The government is still working on the measure's finer details, including how to allocate funding to different regions and at what age to introduce sex education, according to officials.

Supporters say the measures will help moderate the nation's rapid population growth, reduce poverty and bring down high maternal mortality.

But Catholic groups have already shifted their battle to the courts, questioning the law's constitutionality. The church, which counts 80 percent of Filipinos as followers, forbids the use of artificial contraceptives.

The government also has to go through "consultations" with various stakeholders including international and local medical and religious groups, said Hazel Chua, an official at the Health Department's family planning unit.

"It has a lot of broadstrokes in it that need a lot of guidelines. It will take a lot of time before (the law) will go down to the ground," she told AFP.

Under the law, government health centres will be guaranteed a supply of contraceptives, unlike in the past when local mayors could be intimidated by the church into not providing birth control services, Chua said.

One provision of the law, legalising post-abortion medical care, is still undergoing special study since abortion remains illegal in the Philippines, Chua added.

"The abortionist is criminally liable and should be prosecuted (but)... if someone comes in after (an abortion) and is haemorrhaging, we have to take good care of them," she reasoned.

The medical charity Merlin praised the law as a "milestone" but said more efforts were needed to make sure it was properly implemented.

"There is likely to be cultural opposition... led by religious conservatives, which could make it hard for clinics to offer services," said country director Maxime Piasecki.

President Benigno Aquino signed the bill into law last month in the face of strong lobbying by the Catholic church, and religious leaders have vowed that the fight was not over.

The church is now relying on lay groups that have filed petitions with the Supreme Court to challenge the law, said Roy Lagarde, a spokesman for the country's Catholic bishops.

But the legislation's chief author Congressman Edcel Lagman said he was confident it would not be struck down.

"We have long expected that the opposition will go to the Supreme Court. We have prepared for this eventuality," he told AFP.

Housewife Nerissa Gallo, 44, who has given birth to 16 children, said she welcomed the law which would bring contraceptives into the reach of the poor.

Asked about the church's opposition, she said: "We don't pay attention to that. They are not the ones who are giving birth again and again. We are the ones who have to find a way to care for the children."

Sam Miguel
01-21-2013, 08:44 AM
Bravo, Rafael Dy-Liacco!

By Antonio Montalvan II

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:40 pm | Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Call it going against the grain, swimming against the current. For “popular clamor” has always been assumed to be favorable to the RH Law. “The surveys have it,” it has often been said. In a “sea of voices” in favor of the law—“objective” media included—little notice (understandably) was made of Ateneo de Manila University Theology professor Rafael Dy-Liacco. His letter of resignation from that Catholic university was drowned out even more, in fact, by the euphoria of the pro-RH advocates over the clandestine signing of the law by President Aquino. News of the secret signing broke on the same day Dy-Liacco resigned from Ateneo. That day was the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Dec. 28. Mr. Aquino, who by all indications is now a nominal Catholic, must have forgotten the meaning of that commemoration—the wholesale massacre of innocent children ordered by a tyrant in fear of losing his throne.

Dy-Liacco, a graduate of the Yale University School of Divinity, provided the contrast. Mr. Aquino’s clandestine signing, ostensibly meant to placate the Catholic Church, did not achieve its purpose.

Why Dy-Liacco resigned provides us an idea of the internal positions within Ateneo, positions that were mostly left unsaid. The university president, Fr. Jett Villarin, had earlier declared that Ateneo was against the RH bill. But that statement found no corroboration and support in the acts and actuations of the Ateneo community. Despite the statement’s repudiation of the stand of the 192 Ateneo professors who openly supported the bill, the declaration’s continued dissonance with the Ateneo Jesuits’ actuations was apparent. On the night the bill was voted on in the House of Representatives, at least three congressmen who voted yes openly announced their stand as influenced by three Jesuit priests. Are these Jesuits still Catholics? No statement came from its hierarchy. What is going on?

What is going on in Ateneo seems to be a community that is being taught to espouse a magisterium incongruent with that of the Catholic Church. This is extremely disturbing. At the very least, it is duplicitous and deceitful to parents who send their children to Ateneo for Catholic formation, only to realize that Ateneo has reneged on that important mission and has made their children openly and ferociously anti-Catholic. Only Dy-Liacco’s voice had consonance.

The dissonance was instantly patent and palpable in Dy-Liacco’s opening statement. He said he could “no longer share the path” taken by the Jesuit-led community in supporting the bill. He then noted Ateneo’s failure in rejecting “an alliance with a ‘spirit of disdain’ for the Church” that supported the passage of that bill. It is a spirit that “repudiates the Church’s holiness and, at the same time, attempts to assume it for itself (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4). It has manifested at an unusually high level of ferocity, even hatred. It has manifested in the wholesale denigration of the Church—of her teachings, of her bishops, of her catechists, and of her common lay faithful.

“Whatever material good Ateneans believe they have accomplished by supporting the passage of the bill, their failure to reject (an) alliance with that spirit, to truly seek counsel with the Church, and to make amends for and to repair whatever harm that their alliance with that spirit is doing and will do to the faith of believers in the Philippines, has not been right.

“One does not need infallible pronouncements from the Magisterium in order to willingly assent to their truth, and to their implications for any path towards genuine human fulfillment.”

Ateneo chose compromise with the spirit of animosity against the Church, instead of “collusion with it (the Church); no one can serve two masters”—those are strong words. For the audacity to be the “voice in the wilderness,” I say “Bravo, Rafael Dy-Liacco!”

Sam Miguel
01-21-2013, 08:55 AM
SC: Hands off RH

By Oscar Franklin Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:37 pm | Sunday, January 20th, 2013

After Manny Pacquiao’s loss by decision to Tim Bradley, “he marched over to Bradley’s father and told him, ‘Your son is going to be a great champ’.” After the Reproductive Health Law was signed, critics immediately challenged it before the Supreme Court.

Filipinos would be the first to protest had Mommy Dionisia rushed into the ring to whack Bradley with an oversized Hermes Birkin. But why is it acceptable that justices might troop to the Senate to raise Sen. Tito Sotto’s plagiarizing hand in belated victory?

The anti-RH petitions are from another planet, legally speaking. They invoke ambiguous concepts: “ideals,” “culture” and “right to life” as undefined judicial claims against our elected legislators. Proponents continue to claim an entitlement to impose their definition of “morality” as law. Were we to criminalize the alleged destruction of “ideals,” “culture” and “right to life,” our laws would be so vague that teenage Cebuanas whose bikini photos were uploaded to Facebook would be on death row.

But the gobbledygook is beside the point. The RH bill raised political issues that needed to be resolved in democratic process. And resolved in democratic process they were. Who would have thought that, at the second reading’s dénouement, Filipinos would patiently watch congressmen explain their votes to a man, down to Rep. Em Aglipay’s barbaric yawp: “I’m not against life. I’m against ignorance.” Such political maturity leaves someone who stood with the crowds at Edsa II, after the aborted Estrada trial, in hopeful awe.

During the Corona impeachment, we said that seeing it through without another Edsa would be a triumph in itself. The Senate having redeemed itself, we should value our institutions separate from the outcomes they generate. Had the RH Law been blocked, it would be equally obnoxious had Sen. Pia Cayetano made the less outlandish claim that access to reproductive health measures is a fundamental human right judicially demandable from the Court. Whether one is pro- or anti-Carlos Celdran, we should all be insulted by the idea that 14 years of meticulous democratic process is inferior to the vaguest of claims before our unelected Supreme Court.

Justices know US Justice Felix Frankfurter’s classic phrase: “Courts ought not to enter this political thicket,” because they are inevitably stung. Yale Professor Alexander Bickel famously criticized judicial review as having “a tendency over time to seriously weaken the democratic process” because “the correction of legislative mistakes comes from the outside, and the people thus lose the political experience, and the education and stimulus that come from fighting the question out in the ordinary way, and correcting their own errors.” Thus should the Court not be the last refuge of a loser in a political arena.

There are certainly valid judicial questions: When may a health worker validly refuse to join health measures due to a religious objection? To what extent can law overlap with a parent’s right to raise a child? Does a specific contraceptive induce abortion, violating the Constitution? Legal standards will govern these should a concrete court case arise (and none has, given that the RH Law is not even effective yet). The RH Law’s broader framework, however, raises questions so fundamental that these can only be judged by the majority consent that is the crux of democracy. That these questions have so polarized us implies that the disgruntled would respect nothing less.

It is time to question our haste in running to the Supreme Court every single time.

The Court issued a TRO against the anticybercrime law even before an actual cyberlibel case. The TRO came even as senators expressed willingness to amend the law; sponsor Sen. Ed Angara even gamely said so before Boy Abunda. The TRO discouraged amendments’ consideration given a looming Supreme Court decision. More importantly, it cooled the fervor of citizens’ debates, robbing those who ardently blacked out their Facebook profiles the opportunity to realize they have no idea what they are protesting against—down to the fact that cyberlibel was punishable before the anticybercrime law.

The role we grant the Supreme Court is critical to divorce debates. The Constitution states: “Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.” Antis might try to have divorce declared unconstitutional in a technical knockout even before Round 1. Is it more democratic, however, to assert that legislators and citizens themselves must interpret the Constitution’s motherhood statements on marriage? Is it more democratic for women from all walks to speak instead of unelected justices ruling based on musty law books?

The “Coronavela” ended the myth of the Supreme Court’s infallibility, yet we barely grasp our justices’ descent from godhood. It is time for us to reclaim our democracy’s most fundamental questions for ourselves. It is time to assert that Congress is an appropriate ring in which to define abstractions such as “ideals,” “culture” and the “right to life,” and that a fight card with Harvard lawyers from Rep. Sonny Angara to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile himself compares to one with a Davide, a Puno or a Carpio. It is time to ask political minorities to follow the Pacquiao example of gamely asking for a rematch instead of seeking hollow victories outside the ring.

Besides, our democracy can always use more Em Aglipay quotes and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s beautiful legs challenges.

Oscar Franklin Tan (facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan, Twitter @oscarfbtan) teaches Constitutional Law in the University of the East. His 2012 article “Guarding the Guardians” (86 PHIL. L.J. 523) outlines the overlooked sheer breadth of Supreme Court power.

Sam Miguel
01-22-2013, 08:39 AM
Holy orders

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:16 pm | Monday, January 21st, 2013

Bishop Ramon Arguelles unburdened himself of some pretty burdensome thoughts last week. He waxed combative. “(Government) used everything—money, pressure, cheating— to pass the RH Law. And now they’re pleading for reconciliation? I don’t think so.”

Government’s show of extending the hand of friendship, he said, is merely aimed at making the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which will hold its plenary at the end of this month, more amenable to RH. For the Church to yield to government’s overtures, Arguelles said, is for it to be seen as giving its blessings to the law.

RH, he said, represents the “culture of death.” “They say the Church is old-fashioned but we’re just defending life and trying to strengthen the family because (the RH Law) would destroy our culture and that is in the program of these foreigners who were with them …. If they want reconciliation—and here I do not speak for the other bishops—they should debunk the RH Law first. Get rid of it. That is against the order of God.”

You know something is profoundly wrong when someone starts talking about receiving orders from God. You know what they say: When someone begs to talk with God, that is called prayer. When someone hears God talking to him, that is called ting-a-ling. History is littered with monstrosities that came from people hearing God bidding them do certain things. William McKinley did so, or claimed to have done so, and before we knew it we were being invaded by his hordes in the name of Manifest Destiny.

The rest of us can only try to glean the divine will through the use of our faculties, our senses, our intellect, our reason, our hearts. Frankly, I don’t know that Arguelles isn’t giving God a bad press by suggesting God talks to him. Could it have been God speaking to us, through him, when he defended Gloria Arroyo’s right to inhabit Malacañang amid “Hello Garci” on the ground that everybody cheats anyway? Could it have been God speaking to us, through him, when he proposed, by his actions at least if not by his words, that the Arroyo regime represented a “culture of life”?

The problem is not that the Church is old-fashioned, it is that this Church is old-fashioned. Christ, it’s not just old-fashioned, it is out of date, out of this world, and out of its mind. Certainly, it is out of sync with its flock. This is the only Catholic Church in the world that forbids contraception and divorce, calling them elements of the “culture of death.” Italy, seat of Christendom, has both contraception and divorce, having one of the lowest birth rates in the world, if not the highest rates of divorce. Spain, the one country that brought Catholicism to us, has both contraception and divorce, and has one of the lowest birth rates in the world as well, if not the highest rates of divorce.

What is Arguelles saying? That the Catholic churches in those countries have been remiss in their duties? That they are not defending life and the family but listening to the heathen whisperings of pagan foreigners? That God does not talk to their bishops?

By refusing government’s attempts at reconciliation, indeed by continuing to buck RH long after it was passed, with not very veiled threats to make the congressmen and senators who voted for it pay for their sin at the polls, Arguelles and ilk have set themselves on a collision course with government. But the question is: Whom do they represent? Anyone who has gone through catechism school knows the Church is not just its officials, it is the community they serve too. It is not just the clergy, it is the flock too.

I’m glad Arguelles says he doesn’t speak for the other bishops. But this is not just a case of him not speaking for them, this is a case of him not speaking for the Church—the Church as defined by the entire community of faithful. In fact, this is not just a case of him not speaking for them, this is a case of him speaking against them. This is not just a case of him making a quarrel with government, this is a case of him making a quarrel with the faithful.

Most of that faithful accept RH, embrace RH, find in RH a hope for a better life. Most of that faithful have not stopped being faithful, they have just stopped having faith in their leaders who have been unfaithful to them. When Arguelles talks about the Church, which church does he mean?

In the end, it is this continuing mule-headed and wrongheaded railing against RH that constitutes a culture of death. It is a culture characterized by a cabal of men, aging or not, presuming to have the right of dominion over women’s bodies, presuming to have the right to decree what happens to women’s bodies. Which is really what RH is all about: It is the fight of women to reclaim their own bodies. Above all from the one power that has held them captive over the centuries: the fundamentalist religious one. “Sila nga magbuntis nang magbuntis” (Let them be the ones to get pregnant all the time), an irate woman told me.

You know you’re looking at a culture of death when you hear a male religious leader— which is really a redundancy, all the major religious orders being patriarchal—pontificating on what the role of women should be, moralizing on how women should act and do. Presumably because that is what God wants them to be, presumably because that is what God wants them to do. When that is merely what they want women to be, that is merely what they want them to do. That is true whether the religion is Christianity or Islam, whether the religion is Judaism or Hinduism.

You know you are looking at the culture of death when you hear someone telling you what to do because that is the order of God.

When all they are hearing is an order of mami large and siopao special.

Sam Miguel
01-29-2013, 08:37 AM
Bishops treat anti-RH pols to lunch, but that’s all

By Jocelyn R. Uy

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:46 am | Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Who said “there’s no such thing as a free lunch?”

Not the Catholic bishops, who gathered anti-reproductive health (RH) bill lawmakers to a simple luncheon on Monday as a token of their appreciation for the latter’s standing by the Church from start to finish of the law process.

The bishops were quick to explain, however, that the move was not a political endorsement of the members of Congress who may be running in May, coming as it did during the election period.

“We tendered this luncheon as an appreciation of what they had done,” said Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma after the lunch, which was held on the last day of the bishops’ plenary assembly at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

Palma said the lawmakers’ move to support and fight for the position of the Church on the RH measure—which has been passed and was signed into law last month by President Aquino—and promote the sanctity of life and Filipino Christian values deserved recognition.

“This is not something that we have to take for granted [because] it [was] done for their great love for the country and what the values mean to them… the values of marriage, life and respect,” Palma told reporters in an interview.

Among the lawmakers in attendance were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Gregorio Honasan, and Representatives Imelda Marcos, Pablo Garcia, Arturo Yap, Amado Bagatsing, Lani Mercado and Milagros Magsaysay.

Palma said through that the bishops’ gratitude would not translate into endorsements for the May 13 balloting.

“We are not in anyway partisan. We do not tell the whole world who to vote for or name the right person to vote for,” said Palma.

As in previous elections, the CBCP would merely provide guidelines to the electorate based on the doctrines of the Church, said the prelate. “We trust in the discerning process of the people to choose for themselves,” he added.

Sam Miguel
01-29-2013, 08:44 AM
^^^ By inviting them, and only them, to lunch, to the exclusion of the other Catholic lawmakers who were in favor of the RH Law, You are partisan, Bishop Palma, and f--- you for denying it.

If the Philippine Catholic Province and its leaders such as you are truly taking care of the good and going after the bad then I dare you to publicly refuse communion to known public sinners, such as the Marcoses, Imelda (anti-RH) and Bongbong (pro-RH). Put your goddam money where your mouth is and refuse these and their ilk holy communion. If you cannot or will not, then please stop saying barefaced lies such as "We are not in anyway partisan."

01-29-2013, 12:58 PM
Since this is where all this started anyway...

Celdran's case: Freedom of speech vs religion

By Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at 01/28/2013 6:51 PM | Updated as of 01/28/2013 10:03 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) -- Tour guide and artist Carlos Celdran has gained fame anew -- or infamy, to some -- after receiving a guilty verdict based on what an international human rights group calls an “archaic” law.

The decision of a court finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt for “offending religious beliefs” could again catapult Celdran into celebrity-dom, with hashtags in Twitter gaining ground such as #FreeCarlosCeldran.

In an interview with ANC, however, Celdran said the issue has become “bigger than me. It’s become about people being able to question authorities” whether they are from the Church.

He said his case resonates with Filipinos, who tackle everyday issues involving freedoms. He cited, for example, the controversial Anti-Cybercrime Prevention Act, which is now being questioned before the Supreme Court for supposedly unconstitutional provisions such as the imposition of libel on statements made online.

The issue of freedom of speech will again take forefront if he decides to bring his case before the Supreme Court.

Celdran was found guilty for violating Article 133 of the RPC, which imposes a penalty on someone “who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

In a decision dated December 14, Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Pairing Judge Juan O. Bermejo Jr., ordered Celdran’s imprisonment for two months and 21 days up to one year, one month and 11 days.

This was after Celdran pulled a stunt in the Manila Cathedral in September 2010 against the Church’s intervention in people’s access to reproductive health.

In 2010, Celdran used a placard with the word “Damaso,” a character from Jose Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere," and held it up in an ecumenical program during a Mass. Damaso, as many who have read the book know, is one of the most notorious characters in the novel, which touches on the abuses of the Spanish friars during the 19th century.

Celdran was garbed in the same outfit he used during his stunt when he went to the court for his verdict on Monday: The boisterous personality was Jose Rizal.

Types of freedom

Lawyer Marlon Manuel told ABS-CBNnews.com that he and his client are looking at different legal options to overturn the decision, with Celdran claiming he would not back down anytime now knowing he is right.

Manuel said the legal option could be in the form of an appeal before the regional trial court or a direct petition before the SC.

One thing is for sure, that despite the “beyond reasonable doubt” finding of the lower court, they will not avail of the “probation” option for such kinds of cases.

Probation would mean his crime record will be erased and he will only report once in a while before the court. He can also work as was usual, except he could not disrupt religious rites.

But by appealing, the probation option will now be out of his reach.

“Applying for probation is not a main option, as it will be the acceptance of a verdict,” Manuel insisted.

Celdran also said: “I’m not going to take this sitting down.”

Even the international group Human Rights Watch has taken the cudgels for Celdran, noting: “[The decision] is a setback for free speech in the Philippines, which prides itself on being a democracy. This verdict should be reversed. Nobody should be jailed for voicing out an opinion or position, especially on a subject that concerns the lives of millions of Filipino women and mothers.”

Stakeholders now know where the case is going: Which is more paramount, freedom of speech or religious freedom?

In several instances, the SC said freedom of expression is the foundation of all rights. Still, it has insisted over time that it has its limits.

In an oft repeated case in the US by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, he said a person’s freedom of speech has limits depending on the circumstances.

"The most stringent protection of free speech…would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic,” he had said

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 08:57 AM
The arrogance of ‘Damaso’

By Rina Jimenez-David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:55 pm | Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Meriting a banner headline in one paper and front-page coverage in others was the conviction by a lower court of cultural gadfly, creative tour guide and reproductive health champion Carlos Celdran.

Deemed guilty of “offending religious feelings,” Celdran faces up to a year in prison if the sentence is upheld, though he said his lawyers are preparing an appeal.

The case stems from the “special appearance” in 2010 of Celdran, dressed in a costume that made him look like Jose Rizal, during an ecumenical rite at the Manila Cathedral. Celdran was then protesting what he deemed as the undue interference of the Catholic hierarchy in the then heated debates in Congress over the RH bill. The bill was recently signed into law.

Celdran has said that he was actually part of a pro-RH rally outside the cathedral when, seeking shelter from the rain, he entered the place of worship and saw it filled with bishops in all their finery. Moved perhaps by his participation in the protest, and maybe imbibing the spirit of Rizal, Celdran proceeded to march down the aisle and paused in front of the altar holding aloft a placard with a single word—or rather, name—“Damaso.”

It was just one word but it spoke volumes. “Damaso,” or Padre Damaso, is a character in the novel “Noli Me Tangere” by Jose Rizal. A portly, greedy and nefarious character who has since become a widely recognized symbol of clerical abuse, “Damaso” damns, and certainly the bishops, priests and laity present knew what Celdran meant and at whom his protest was targeted.

* * *

Celdran’s conviction ignited heated commentary, most prominently in social media, with the news becoming a “trending topic” locally.

The fate that awaits this prominent cultural worker has implications not just on the RH debate but also on freedom of speech and of expression. When religious sensibilities intersect with public speech and expression, where should the favor of the law fall? Is it really illegal to speak ill of any church personage or personages in or out of a church? If a parishioner finds the homily of the preacher offensive and walks out in the middle of Mass, is the act deemed offensive to religious sensitivities?

What of the relentless attacks on the Catholic Church and on its dogma waged by commentators in TV channels identified with certain sects? Whose right—to free speech and to religion—prevails?

The decision of Judge Juan Bermejo Jr. in Celdran’s case referred to, and indeed quoted liberally from, “People of the Philippines v. Baes,” a 1939 case in which a Catholic parish priest in Lumban, Laguna, sued a group belonging to the “Church of Christ” (Iglesia ni Kristo?) for passing through the church’s patio on their way to the cemetery to bury a member of their church. “Even in said case,” wrote lawyer and journalism teacher Marichu Lambino in her blog, “the justices, the fiscal, the lower courts, were all divided on what constitutes the offense [of ‘offending religious feelings’].”

To my mind, what Celdran was “attacking” was not the Catholic faith itself, nor even the bishops personally. His target was what he deemed the undue interference of the bishops in what was rightfully the domain of the state, which was legislation. His act of disrupting a religious service may have caused consternation and upset the equilibrium of celebrants and congregation. But did they feel their Catholicism attacked? Did it lead them to question their faith? Did it offend their morals?

* * *

Celdran has already apologized to the bishops for his rash action, and they have since publicly forgiven him, but they still pursued the case. As Celdran cheekily put it: “As far as they are concerned, I can go to heaven, but I have to go to jail first.”

This is all of a piece with the growing trend of intransigence and, may I say, arrogance of the Catholic leadership in the wake of social trends and political moves that are driving the Church to irrelevance.

Writing on the new book by American Catholic commentator Gary Wills (“Why Priests? A Failed Tradition”), New York Times columnist Frank Bruni quotes Wills on the dismaying tendency of Catholic authorities to resist any challenge to their authority.

“It can’t admit to error, the church hierarchy,” Bruni quotes Wills. “Any challenge to their prerogative is, in their eyes, a challenge to God. You can’t be any more arrogant than that.”

“We Catholics were taught not only that we must have priests but that they must be the right kind of priests,” Wills wrote in the book, which, says Bruni, argues that priests aren’t ultimately necessary. “What we were supposed to accept is that all priesthoods are invalid ones except the Roman Catholic.”

Comments Bruni: “That’s an awfully puffed-up position, and there’s a corresponding haughtiness in the fact that bishops can assign priests to parishes without any real obligation to get input or feedback from the parishioners those priests serve. This way of doing business in fact enabled church leaders to shuttle priests accused of molestation around, keeping them one step ahead of their crimes.

“It has also helped to turn many Catholics away from the church, while prompting others to regard its leaders as ornamental and somewhat irrelevant distractions. They cherish the essence and beauty of their religion. They just can’t abide the arrogance of many of its appointed caretakers.”

Can I just shout an “Amen!” to that? Or do I have to march down the aisle of the (currently closed) Manila Cathedral to get the attention of the bishops?

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 09:07 AM
^^^ Rina, the pure and only unadulterated fact in this entire case is simply that Carlos Celdran pulled this stunt in a Cathedral full of the Catholic faithful. If what he wanted was truly reasoned, informed, rational debate on the RH issue, then the last thing he should have pulled was getting in the faces of the most rabidly anti-RH force in this country, right in their homecourt (so to speak) and get in their collective faces. For godsakes, marching into the Manila Cathedral during a Church event, wearing a Rizal-like costume and carrying a easily readable placard with "Damaso" on it, you could not get any more in the Church's face than that. You could not declare any more loudly and clearly that you are showing nothing but utter disgust and disrespect toward the Church in their own house.

Imagine if you will if Celdran was not a friend of yours, and he walked into your house, in the middle of a family party, on say the birthday of your husband, and he carried a placard that read "Envelopmental Journalist" or "Leftist Hack" on it, and he was dressed in a pink Stalin or Mao commie suit. I can only imagine that at the very least you would have sued his arse and seen to his conviction just like the Church did in this "Damaso" case.

And in the end this all came down to him breaking a law. Yes Rina, there is a law, Article 133 of our Revised Penal Code if I recall. Are you not one of the most vociferous people shouting to the high heavens to throw the book at all those who break our laws? Celdran broke a law, why do you think the book should not have been thrown at him in this case, just because you are on the same side of the RH debate?

And just for your information,I am PRO-RH, just take a look at my posts here and you will see that clearly. But what Celdran did only cast us all in the worst light possible, that indeed we will cross any line, and that we think the law does not necessarily apply to us. Way to go Celdran, and way to go defending him Rina.

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 09:17 AM
With respect to faith

Cebu Daily News

8:10 am | Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

In one of its more famous passages, the author of the book of Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for everything and everything has its time.

Tour guide and performing artist Carlos Celdran should have been guided by this adage in determining whether or not to barge into the middle of a religious ceremony at the Manila Cathedral a year ago to protest what he felt was the interference of the Catholic Church on a matter of State, that is, the then Reproductive Health bill.

Otherwise Celdran before his sacrilegious intrusion should have at least been enlightened by his friends and fans among the self-styled culturati about the acceptability of faith-based opinion in the public square.

Note that not a single envoy branded Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at the general assembly of the United Nations a few years ago as ecclessiastical meddling into global civic affairs.

Even advocates of secularism like University of the Philippines sociology professor Randolph David agrees that persons of faith are entitled to publicly manifesting their opinion on pressing issues.

With the right counsel, Celdran would not have come to grief as he just did.

Sadly the thespian is just one among millions in this world who imagine a wedge between Church and State, as if these two realms cannot possibly converge in pursuit of the common good, as if they were worlds isolated from each other, incapable of mutual dialogue.

Such a mindset ignores for instance the parade of heroes in the history of nations who drew strength from their faith, from Buddhism’s Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar to Catholicism’s Lech Walesa of Poland.

One year ago, Celdran stepped into the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Intramuros. Posing as Dr. Jose Rizal, he stood in front of the church’s main altar and raised a placard with the name “Damaso,” a reference to the abusive Franciscan friar in Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere.”

This happened while members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and the non-Catholic Philippine Bible Society held a ceremony to launch a free Bible distribution project.

For his act, Celdran was convicted last Monday of disrupting worship and offending religious sensibilities in violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code. He was sentenced to up to a year in jail by Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Juan Bermejo Jr.

Celdran now claims that his conviction is the result of the vengefulness of modern-day Damasos in the Catholic Church who purportedly want to get back at him for his reproductive health advocacy.

But the man or woman on the street simply sees the case as a matter of basic decency and respect for peoples of faith, (virtues that inform our Constitution); a question of determining the correct place and time for, and way of airing one’s convictions.

Celdran knows very well that in this country, free speech and free expression on reproductive health or whatsoever issue are and will always be protected.

But he must not pretend that such protections constitute a license to screw up worship sessions and mock freedom of religion.

01-30-2013, 10:06 AM
One of my friends said that Carlos Celdran should try going to Mecca and put up a banner "TERRORISTS" and see how they go.

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 10:23 AM
^^^ LIKE!

Sam Miguel
01-31-2013, 08:17 AM

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:10 am | Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Of course I share the sentiments of most of the Tweeters, which are shock and outrage. That is on the jail sentence of Carlos Celdran for standing in front of the altar of the Manila Cathedral during a Mass dressed like Jose Rizal, shouting, and waving a placard that said “Damaso!” A Manila court gave him two months to a year of jail for it.

But I share even more the more nuanced sentiments of some of them. One said, “I like Celdran’s courageous act to fight for what he believes is right. But if we tolerate doing it inside the church, it isn’t all right at all.” Another said: “Celdran’s going to jail? He did disrupt a service in a church, he should be liable. However, imprisonment is too much.”

I said pretty much the same thing the first time I wrote about it. While I thought Celdran ought to be lauded for exposing how the Church had turned into the intrusive and oppressive power it was in times past, indeed for reminding us that we had a brilliant fellow by the name of Rizal who wrote the brilliant novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” I thought he also needed to be rapped for going overboard on it.

I have no problem with irreverence, I have no problem with outrageousness, I have no problem even with blasphemy and sacrilege. But I have a problem with violating other people’s rights.

The problem isn’t offending religious sensibilities. I have no problem with that, too, that is the natural, or professional, hazard of art. The problem is trampling over other people’s right to worship. Had Celdran mounted his protest outside the church—in the courtyard, even at the church’s very doorstep—I’d have no caveats with it. It would have been brilliant. Of course it would have offended the religious sensibilities of the more pious. In the same way that Mideo Cruz’s paintings that depicted revered Catholic images in a shocking way did. But it would have been perfectly defensible on grounds of freedom of expression, on grounds of artistic expression.

But interrupting a Mass to press the point is quite another matter. To begin with, the problem with a shotgun approach is that it hits not just its target, it hits everybody else within range of the scatter. Celdran’s act did not hit the people celebrating the Mass—it was a concelebration—it hit those attending it. It did not just hit the clergy, it hit the faithful. Why should the flock have to pay for the sins of their shepherd?

Far more importantly, it was a trespass on an act of worship. That’s what differentiates it from Mideo’s trespass, if indeed Mideo’s paintings were so. A painter is well within his rights to express how he sees the world, however it goes against the views of others, religious or otherwise. Even if the others constitute the majority. No one is within his rights to interrupt someone in his prayer, or while he is communing with his God, even if that someone constitutes the minority.

The first time I wrote about it was two years ago, and I asked what would happen if someone did something like this inside a mosque to protest the atrocities being done by the Abu Sayyaf to its victims. Not least the beheading of soldiers, not least the barbaric treatment of kidnapped men and women. Of course that worry has abated considerably with today’s peace process. But the point remains that you have to draw the line at violating places of worship, Islamic or Christian. You have to draw the line at messing around with rights, the right to worship chief of them. You have a right to your protest, other people have a right to their prayer.

But of course imprisonment, brief or long, is idiotic. Talk of going overboard, it is excessive, abusive, and oppressive. I join the others in railing against it, I join the others in demanding its remanding. It is also, not quite incidentally, completely counterproductive. It doesn’t draw attention to Celdran’s excess, it draws attention to the law’s excess. It does not correct a mistake, it foments an injustice.

There is in fact a parallel to this elsewhere in the world. Two years ago also, the punk group Pussy Riot stormed Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow in the middle of a service and launched into a profanity-laden performance of their song, “A Punk’s Prayer.” It was a prayer for the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out.” Which remained unanswered: Vladimir Putin won the elections anyway, his third term, and came down hard on the group.

The members of Pussy Riot were given two years in a penal colony, their leader, Masha Alyokhina, specifically slapped with solitary confinement. The harshness of the punishment, a throwback to gulag days, which showed how little Putin had advanced from his KGB roots, stoked angry protests all over the world, from human rights organizations to musicians, from bishops to politicians. A documentary on their plight recently won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award in Sundance.

The point is simple: You inflict a punishment that’s worlds beyond the offense, the offense will be forgotten, the punishment will be remembered. Arguably, a couple of months to a year in jail is more benign than two years of solitary confinement in a penal colony. But even more arguably, a stern reprimand or censure, along with a call for an apology, is even more benign than imprisonment, however brief. At the very least, what Celdran did was a little more dignified than bursting into a church and shouting obscenities at the congregation, however it might sound musical to a punkista’s ear. And he’s not named, well, Pussy Riot.

At the very most, it’s more enlightened. Jailing Celdran just deepens the impression that the courts, and not just the Church, continue to be haunted by the ghosts of the past. The ghost, specifically, of a Fray called: Damaso.

Sam Miguel
01-31-2013, 08:19 AM
^^^ Conrad, you always say GMA and her ilk all deserve to go to jail because they broke the law.

Carlos Celdran broke the law in this case. Are you saying we should not apply the law to him here?

Sam Miguel
02-01-2013, 08:13 AM
Notoriously offensive

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:25 pm | Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Who should go to prison for speaking his mind? In the modern democratic project, the answer is clear: No one. The conviction of social activist Carlos Celdran for the obscure crime of “offending the religious feelings,” then, raises many questions. Is the Philippines a modern democracy? Is freedom of speech a living civic virtue? Are religious feelings (not even religious beliefs or articles of faith, but the much more ambiguous notion of religious feelings) sufficient to block political dissent or free expression?

The crime, defined under Article 133 of the eight-decade-old Revised Penal Code (RPC), may be obscure, but it carries a serious penalty. By the count of Judge Juan O. Bermejo Jr. of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, Celdran’s act of disrupting an ecumenical service (not a Mass) inside the Manila Cathedral on Sept. 30, 2010 by brandishing a placard with the name of “Damaso” on it and shouting “You bishops, don’t meddle in politics,” carries a penalty of two months and 21 days “as minimum” to one year, one month and 11 days in prison, as maximum.

This is unduly harsh and, by the Catholic Church’s own precepts, unchristian. It is certainly counterdemocratic.

The RPC, which became law in 1930, contains many antiquated provisions; Article 133 metes jail time to “anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

This is simply wrong, and should be repealed. If religious feelings are notoriously offended, civil, not criminal, penalties should be applied. That is the real argument for Celdran’s freedom.

But in fact, on the merits of the case alone, the judge should have acquitted Celdran, too. The mixed testimony of the four witnesses for the prosecution should have been enough to create reasonable doubt in the judge’s mind.

In the first place, three of the four witnesses for the prosecution all initially thought Celdran’s placard-raising was part of the ecumenical service. One witness told the court she initially wondered whether it “was part of the activity or Bro. [Edgar] Tirona’s props.” (Tirona was reading a Bible passage at the time.) Another witness “wondered if it was part of the ecumenical prayer.” Fr. Oscar Alunday, SVD—in the judge’s reckoning the most credible witness—also first thought the “Damaso” placard was “part of the sharing.”

As it happens, the most important element of the obscure crime of “offending the religious feelings” is the requirement that the act be “notoriously offensive.” Any reasonable person may ask: How can Celdran’s alleged crime be notoriously offensive when three of the four hostile witnesses at first thought it was part of the ceremony?

The very authority the judge cites, Luis B. Reyes’ standard commentary on the RPC, held that “notoriously offensive” acts “must be directed at religious practice or dogma or ritual for the purpose of ridicule”—but not one of the four hostile witnesses testified that the purpose of Celdran’s act was ridicule.

Perhaps in the judge’s estimation, it was Celdran’s shouting that did it. But again, three of the prosecution’s witnesses testified that Celdran shouted only as he was being led away—the same testimony, incidentally, heard from the two witnesses for the defense. It was only the prosecutor’s fourth witness (Alunday again) who said Celdran shouted at the bishops seated inside the church while his placard was raised. Surely this is a major discrepancy in the narration of the facts, and should have a bearing on reasonable doubt. Of the total six witnesses, five said Celdran was waging a silent protest, and began to shout (and, this is an important detail, shouted only once) only when he was being led away.

What should a developing democracy do with Article 133? Consider its context. It is part of Book II of the RPC, under Title Two: “Crimes against the fundamental laws of the State.” In this title’s four chapters and 10 articles, every single crime defined is an act committed by “any public officer or employee”—except for Article 133.

Indeed, the fourth chapter, “Crimes against religious worship,” contains another article, 132, which protects any religious rite from state interference. Article 133 was an anomaly in 1930; it is a worse one today. Celdran’s case should prompt the next Congress to excise it out of the RPC.

Sam Miguel
02-04-2013, 07:45 AM
Of Padre Damaso and other things

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:27 pm | Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

The Celdran Case. Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code punishes “anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

There are two elements in the offense: (1) That the act or acts complained of are performed in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony; and (2) that the act or acts must be notoriously offensive to the feelings of believers.

When you strip the provision of its religious element, what you have is something similar to the offenses of violation of domicile (Article 128 ) or interruption of a meeting (Article 131). Both of these two offenses can also result in offended feelings, but feelings are not factored into these offenses. However, 128 and 131 can be violated only by public officers.

What has attracted attention to Article 133 is the religious element in the offense. Essentially, what is punished in Article 133 is speech, whether oral or symbolic, which offends the feelings of others because of its religious content or surrounding circumstance.

Hence, an important question that must be asked is whether Article 133 violates freedom of expression and free exercise or nonestablishment of religion, especially since the crime is listed among crimes against the fundamental law. Freedom of speech is violated when speech is restrained or punished even if the speech does not present a clear and present danger of a substantive evil which the state has the right to prevent. Free exercise of religion is violated when a person is prevented from or punished for externalizing his religious belief or is forced to do something contrary to his religious belief. Nonestablishment of religion is violated when the state shows preference for one religion over others or prefers religion to no religion.

Carlos Celdran is being ordered punished for offending the feelings of others by speaking, orally or symbolically, against religious values dearly held by others. In other words, he is being punished for religious speech. I thought that this kind of offense already disappeared after the events of 1902.

What about his disturbance of a religious gathering? If Celdran were a public officer, which he is not, you might hold him under Article 131 as a disturber of a peaceful meeting, an offense that is religion-free. Perhaps it is enough that Celdran is already apologetic.

Incidentally, the penal codes of, at least, California and New York, have provisions similar to our Article 133. But not everything American is worth imitating!

Finally, Article 133 also raises an intriguing question: When a priest or bishop castigates or consigns to the netherworld those who oppose the Reproductive Health Law in a sermon before a captive audience of churchgoers, should he be penalized by the State or canonically censured for offending religious feelings? After all, defenders of the RH Law also have feelings! What is good for the gander should also be good for the goose.

Comelec in eye of brewing storm. Elections are important. For that reason, the Comelec is given by the Constitution special powers during an election period (which this year started last Jan. 13 and ends on June 12). It says: “The Commission may, during the election period, supervise or regulate the enjoyment or utilization of all franchises or permits for the operation of transportation and other public utilities, media of communication or information…”

An important campaign tool used by politicians is speech in its various forms. Hence, during this period regulatory instruments used by the Comelec can come into conflict with the important and highly protected right of speech. However, according to the Supreme Court, the technical effect of the constitutional provision is that, when a Comelec regulation during the election period comes into conflict with the right of free speech, there is no presumption of invalidity. Until candidates or parties succeed in declaring the regulation invalid, it continues to be in effect. A few conflicts on this issue have gone to court and the Comelec has not won all of them.

With the increasing heat of the election season, conflicts are again bound to arise. The first hot one that has arisen is the recent requirement of prior approval by the Comelec for a candidate to guest on any bona fide newscast, bona fide news interview, bona fide news documentary. The Comelec regulation elaborates thus: “To determine whether the appearance or guesting in a program is bona fide, the broadcast stations or entities must show that: (1) prior approval of the Commission was secured; and (2) candidates and parties were afforded equal opportunities to promote their candidacy.”

On its face, the need for prior approval is a form of prior restraint, and it is. Normally it would be presumed to be invalid. But, as stated earlier, it stays in effect until a court declares it invalid because, under jurisprudence on the special power of the Comelec during the election period, it is presumed to be valid.

More conflicts may be coming before the end of the election period. If you are interested in the possible sources of conflict, look up Resolution No. 9616 on the Comelec website.

Sam Miguel
02-08-2013, 08:10 AM
Contentious battleground

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:27 pm | Thursday, February 7th, 2013

The passage of the controversial Reproductive Health Law was an epic struggle; wouldn’t it be tragic if, for lack of the necessary funds, or because of complacency among its varied coalition of supporters, the landmark legislative victory turned out to be merely Pyrrhic?

One of the main architects of that victory, Rep. Edcel Lagman, sounded the alarm only weeks after the measure became law. “Funding will always be a contentious battleground in the implementation of the RH Law. Without adequate appropriation, the RH Law will be reduced to a fossilized policy, a Jurassic shibboleth,” the bill’s primary sponsor in the House of Representatives said at a gathering in his honor organized last week by the Forum for Family Planning and Development.

We cannot pretend to know exactly what Lagman meant when he yoked together two concepts millions of years apart, but we get the gist. A “Jurassic shibboleth” of a law would be a legislative dinosaur, imposing in bulk but unable to move, for lack of the right amount of sustenance.

Inadequate appropriation for the RH Law: Is Lagman being merely melodramatic? The 2013 budget of the Department of Health contains a considerable amount of money that can be used to fund the purposes and programs of the RH Law. Section 25 of the law states the first and main source of appropriations: “The amounts appropriated in the current annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) for reproductive health and natural and artificial family planning and responsible parenthood under the DOH and other concerned agencies shall be allocated and utilized for the implementation of this Act.” The approved DOH budget includes, among others, an item for “family health and responsible parenting,” in the amount of P2.5 billion.

But that amount is provided for in the 2013 budget, passed by the same Congress that passed the RH Law. What about succeeding budgets? They will be where the next battle in the reproductive health war will be fought.

“It is our common concern to have pro-RH legislators elected to the House of Representatives and the Senate to assure a continuing and requisite appropriation for the RH Law,” Lagman said. “The threat of rejection at the polls must be obliterated by a positive campaign for electoral mandates for kindred and qualified candidates.”

In other words, the elections in May will help define the fate of the controversial but much-needed law.

It is a fate that remains very much in-the-making. The opposition to the law remains fierce, especially among those legislators and those local government officials who support the anti-RH stance of the Catholic Church.

There are the legal challenges, too; at least three have been filed with the Supreme Court. But we find it hard to imagine the much-debated measure being struck down for “grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction”—the only means provided by the 1987 Constitution for the high court to override the so-called political question doctrine, which gives the executive and legislative branches of government wide latitude to define policy. How could it be abuse of discretion, when it was the subject of interminable debate, heated discussion and hard-fought compromise in the halls of Congress?

So Lagman is quite right to focus on the funding, and on the circumstance on which it will depend: the election of enough RH Law supporters to approve adequate funds for the law in succeeding budgets.

The greatest danger to the new law is complacency, the tedium of the happy winner. Celebratory parties, laudatory print articles and TV profiles, congratulatory forums: They can all act as a natural narcotic, lulling the hard-scrabble coalition to a false sense of permanent victory.

That same coalition, both the networks of civil society groups and nongovernment organizations which came together and helped push for passage and the patchwork alliances among congressmen and senators which ended up voting for the law, must continue to work together. It must turn its attention, and its resources, to the coming battle: Ensure the return of enough pro-RH lawmakers, to fully fund the RH Law.

Sam Miguel
02-08-2013, 09:18 AM
Long road to passage

By Rina Jimenez-David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:26 pm | Thursday, February 7th, 2013

It might strike many, particularly supporters of the freedom of information bill, as mere “consuelo de bobo” (cold comfort) to say that the fate of this piece of legislation is but par for the course of many other bills making their way to enactment into law.

The FOI bill failed to make it in time for passage before the end of the 15th Congress, marking the second time the bill has been stalled in the House of Representatives. If you will recall, in the 14th Congress, the bill was passed by the Senate but was left in limbo in the House, despite a last-minute push. In the 15th Congress, supporters were initially optimistic, especially since P-Noy had come out publicly in support of this measure during the campaign. But there was a palpable softening of support on the part of the President eventually, with P-Noy citing the concerns of “the national security sector.” Despite calls from the bill’s sponsors, particularly Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada, the President refused to certify the bill as urgent, and showed what some critics described as “tepid support” at best for the measure.

Now the same sponsors, partymates of P-Noy, assure us that passage of the FOI bill can be expected in the next Congress. Representative Tañada even confidently declared that “we will see an FOI law before [the President] steps down.”

Frustrating it might be, but the FOI supporters should realize that it does take more than the life of one Congress to pass a bill into law.

* * *

At a recent recognition ceremony for Rep. Edcel Lagman, who was the main sponsor of the reproductive health bill in the last two (or was it three?) Congresses, former Sen. Leticia Ramos Shahani recalled that the RH bill was first filed in the eighth Congress.

This means that the RH bill took eight—count ’em—eight Congresses before finally being signed into law, the pace of enactment speeded up by a cliff-hanger certification from Malacañang.

Recall, too, that many times the RH bill could not even make it out of committee, with the executive and legislative leadership at various times intimidated by Catholic bishops and conservative groups who threatened hellfire and damnation should the RH bill progress. It was only in the 14th Congress, in fact, that the bill managed to be reported out of committee. But then Speaker Prospero Nograles, despite his promises to act promptly on the matter, proceeded to dilly-dally, constantly assuring Lagman of timely action; it turned out that then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had already instructed him to “kill” the bill.

If any of the reproductive health proponents, not just legislators but also NGOs, had thrown up their hands and given up on the passage of the RH measure, then we would probably still be a society quibbling over when life begins and whether contraceptives are abortifacients or not. Well, come to think of it, those debates are still being heard (most notably in the petitions filed in the Supreme Court), but we now have the RH Law that assures services for poor women who need them and sex education for young people, among other things.

* * *

As Sen. Pia Cayetano, who defended the RH bill at the Senate, told me, it was signed into law simply because “its time had come.” A function of the decades that passed since the first bill was introduced was that it gave enough time for public opinion to build up in support of the measure. Developments in information technology, such as e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter, made it easier and faster for proponents to share information and opinion, and for these to reach legislators and policymakers, while all sorts of creative protests and actions dramatized the issue before the public.

And maybe, too, it helped that public opinion had, since the 1980s, been solidly in support of family planning in particular and of reproductive health in general.

Maybe that’s what those pushing for the FOI bill need to do: study the lay of the land and determine if there is sufficient public-opinion support for the measure. In the first place, do ordinary people know what “freedom of information” is all about? Do they realize what it will mean to them in their day-to-day lives? If it is, as proponents say, a significant anticorruption measure, maybe they need to explain in detail how access to documents can “modify the greed” of politicians and officials.

* * *

Already, we are hearing good things from FOI champions in the House.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, likewise a champion of the RH bill, says that in the next Congress (assuming he and his ilk win reelection) they will work early to “enlist public support through a more aggressive information campaign to make people understand the bill and its relevance to their lives.”

And despite—or because—of their frustrations in the last two Congresses, Baguilat says they “have learned their lessons in legislative warfare.” One of these lessons is the need to “court the support of fellow legislators early and take control of the public information committee (under which the FOI bill falls) and its agenda.”

For Representative Tañada, belief in the afterlife is a necessity. Supporters, he said, should keep faith that the bill “will resurrect itself in the 16th Congress” and “advocates will be there to continue to push for FOI.”

Still, this doesn’t fully explain why P-Noy changed course after his swearing-in and turned half-hearted in his support for the FOI bill during the first half of his term. I’m curious to know what turned him around on the issue, and what reforms and amendments to the bill he would require before signing it into law. I hope he won’t play brinkmanship on FOI like he did with the RH Law.

02-09-2013, 09:29 AM
Missing the forest as well as the trees

By Raul C. Pangalangan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:55 pm | Friday, February 8th, 2013

The debate about the protest by Carlos Celdran exposes fault lines in the way Filipinos think. The reactions have been most telling: Filipinos still love their churches and their courts, however much and often they had been let down in the past.

The subliminal text is this: We Filipinos prefer form to substance. We love institutions and care less what they stand for. We revere organized religion, but ask not about spirituality, transcendence and communion with all beings and their earth. We defer to courts and the Revised Penal Code, but ask not about justice, fairness and righteousness.

The law punishes “acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful,” and the leading “annotators” (or authoritative jurists, in the old tradition) tell us that the act “must [have been] directed at religious practice or dogma or ritual for the purpose of ridicule.” In other words, it isn’t enough that an act be offensive; it must have been offensive in a religious way. It isn’t enough that a person be offended; he must have been offended as a religious believer. This is captured best in Oscar Tan’s metaphor about bringing lechon to a mosque (Inquirer, Jan. 31, 2013).

Perhaps Judge Juan O. Bermejo Jr. should have considered that the Supreme Court has been rather lenient on this point and has looked the other way when confronted with an Iglesia ni Cristo program accused by Catholics of having profaned the Blessed Virgin and a tabloid accused by Muslim clerics of having incredibly claimed that pork was sacred to Islam.

It is easy to say that those were civil cases, the first for an order to stop the broadcast and the second for damages. But that only reminds us that since Celdran faces criminal charges, the judge had the additional burden to find “mens rea” or criminal intent, and show that Celdran had meant to offend religiously.

Political, not religious

But how can Celdran be irreligious when his intent was merely to be impolitic? In other words, what we have here is not religious speech. It is political to the core. His intent was to protest the clergy’s opposition to the then reproductive health bill. His explicit message was that the Church should keep its hands off secular politics and respect the constitutional wall of separation. His symbolism, the bowler hat and funereal suit, came from Jose Rizal, and Damaso is from Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” that all students are required by law to read.

The Catholic clergy act like a political party when they disagree with officials elected by the people, and then ask to be protected like a religion when the people disagree disagreeably. They shouldn’t have their cake and eat it, too.

They have used the pulpit to lobby against the RH bill that they dislike, citing biblical and papal teachings. But when they preach to captive audiences during Sunday Mass, I know many churchgoers—myself included—who feel gravely offended at the intrusion into their contemplative space, however urbane and civilized the assault. Yet for me, the solution is merely to suffer the officious proselytizer, not to jail him.

Two strands

This brings us to the other approach, namely, constitutional law. There are two strands to the legal defenses for Celdran. The first is criminal law, to show how the “elements” of the crime are not present. It wasn’t “notoriously offensive” since the prosecution witnesses themselves initially thought it was innocuous at worst. It didn’t offend religious dogma, nor did it intrude into the sacrament of the Mass.

And surely, if the Catholic Church had been offended, then why has its highest officialdom deliberately stayed away from the case? After all, if on RH the clergy has positioned itself as the sole interpreter of what is religiously correct, shouldn’t the court take its bearings from them as the true interpreter of what is religiously offensive?

The second strand is constitutional law, for the court to strike down the specific provision because it privileges the religious over the secular. Professors Harry Roque and Florin Hilbay have compared this law to lese majeste (that punishes disrespect for the King as “God’s temporal embodiment,” says Hilbay) and which was thrown out by our courts during the American period.

It creates double standards that protect the religious but not the secular from those who disagree with them. If the shoe were on the other foot and, for instance, the Filipino Freethinkers felt affronted by a religious sect, can they file criminal cases against the sect? That is the double standard that offends two of the most important clauses in our Constitution. The Equal Protection clause ensures equal treatment to all and prevents the privileging of religious over secular belief. The Non-Establishment clause bars the use of governmental power to support religion, of allowing a church to rely upon the sword of Caesar to do its work.

‘Biyaheng langit’ via Bilibid

This dilemma is best captured by Celdran himself, author of the masterful Damaso meme, who summarizes the clergy’s position thus: “As far as they are concerned, I can go to heaven, but I have to go to jail first.” No penance needed but leave him to the mercy of his jailors.

Indeed, he has apologized and has been forgiven. The clergy’s official statement said: “While deeply disturbed by the incident, then Manila Archbishop Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales gave instructions for the Archdiocese to no longer pursue the case.” But, their spokesperson says, the court trial is for the state alone to decide. The timing is so way off. This is the strangest time suddenly to remind all of us about the separation of church and state, after a season when the clergy flexed its muscle to block the RH bill. But even worse, the clergy could wash its hands of the case because the law would allow individual believers to trigger off the process in its behalf. The wall of separation is kept intact through litigation by proxy. What’s the point of the admonition about keeping God and Caesar apart, when Caesar is only too willing to the bidding of God’s earthly centurions?

Finally, many commentators, before they defend Celdran, would first lament his irreverence. When it comes to freedom of speech, irreverence is irrelevant. Nice speech doesn’t need constitutional protection. Only offensive speech does. Chairman Mao said: “A revolution is not a dinner party … it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.” Given the deep injustices that the Damaso caper protested, including dark episodes in the Catholic Church’s own history, Celdran’s rant was far too genteel and civilized, and only exposes the gap between the worship that is performed in the temples and the transformative faith that we must live out in our lives.

Sam Miguel
02-11-2013, 12:56 PM
Jesuit thinkers warn 'theological bullying' driving away Catholics

Amanda Lago

GMA NewsFebruary 10, 2013 9:07am

As conservative Catholics continue to oppose what is now the RH Law, two leading Jesuit thinkers say the extended attacks are driving Catholics away from the church.

"The Catholic Church is in trouble – even in Catholic Philippines," Ateneo de Davao University president Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J. pronounced in a blog post last Thursday. "There ought to be great concern. People have been leaving the Catholic Church. People are about to leave the Church. What I am picking up is exasperation... People are tired of being treated as if they were younger than adolescents, of being scolded... People are tired of obstinate claims to absolute truth, when the thinking world continues to seek truth.

Tabora's own tone is exasperated: "The feeling is: people are being strangled by this truth. Their reaction: Stop the holier-than-thou discourse, the theological bullying, the magisterial declarations, not because what you have said may not have been important, but because what you have said, you have said over and over and over again. Now, you are a broken record.

"Give me now my chance to consider the arguments, think it over, and let me decide. Entrust me and my decision to my compassionate Father. I would rather entrust myself to him who can send me to hell, than to you with your stringent conditions for heaven!"

In another blog post, Tabora, who has a doctorate in Philosophy, also discussed the RH Law in detail, and said that he does not see anything about it that "prevents a good Catholic from being a good Catholic."

"For me it is remarkable with how much care the legislators of RA 10354 provide for our citizens’ fidelity to religious conviction," he wrote, citing several sections from the law.

Bernas weighs in

Meanwhile, another influential Jesuit priest and a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, Ateneo Law School dean emeritus Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., wrote in his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he was "rather disturbed by preachers who use their opposition to the law as a way of defeating electoral candidates who favor or have favored the law."

"Tactics are being used which can have the effect of driving Catholics away from the Catholic Church or at least from Sunday Masses where the preachers subject the audience to prolonged attacks on the RH law and to threats of damnation against those who favor the law," he said.

Bernas was also unimpressed by the arguments that question the RH Law's constitutionality, saying that they "can be reduced to one sentence: 'The law is unconstitutional because it does not hew closely to the teaching of the Catholic Church on contraception.'"

The two prominent Jesuits' candidness about the state of Catholicism in the Philippines, and the divisive effect anti-RH church conservatives have had on the flock, highlights the lack of consensus among the religious orders on the contentious law. The Dominicans who run the University of Santo Tomas have stood squarely behind the bishops on the RH issue, even abruptly postponing an election forum where pro-RH candidates were expected to attend.

Last September, a Catholic bishop called for an investigation of pro-RH Ateneo de Manila University faculty and threatened to call for their termination if they were teaching ideas not aligned with church teachings.

In the wake of a pro-RH statement by 192 Ateneo faculty, the university's president, Jose Villarin SJ, issued his own statement reiterating the school's official opposition to the RH bill but staunchly defended faculty members' academic freedom. “What our teachers have done is to stimulate critical thinking among our students," Villarin wrote.

Petition versus RH law

In January, six petitions were filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the RH Law. Among the petitioners were James Imbong and his wife Lovely-Ann. Imbong is the son of CBCP legal counsel Jo Aurea Imbong.

According to an earlier story, the Imbongs in their petition called the RH Law "unconstitutional" and said that it "mocks the nation's Filipino culture--noble and lofty in its values and holdings on life, motherhood and family life--now the fragile lifeblood of a treasures culture that today stands solitary but proud in contrast to other nations."

In a separate column, Bernas also spoke of the current case against Carlos Celdran where the activist is being accused of "offending religious feelings" when he protested in the middle of an ecumenical service in 2010.

Bernas pointed out that those who defend the RH Law also have feelings that are offended when priests speak against RH Law supporters in church.

"When a priest or bishop castigates or consigns to the netherworld those who oppose the Reproductive Health Law in a sermon before a captive audience of churchgoers, should he be penalized by the State or canonically censured for offending religious feelings?" Bernas wrote. – HS, GMA News

Sam Miguel
02-12-2013, 08:54 AM
No blessings from bishops for pro-RH candidates

By Jocelyn R. Uy

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:35 am | Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Some Catholic bishops have advised pro-reproductive health (RH) law candidates thinking of seeking their “blessings” as they begin their election campaigns Tuesday to “forget it.”

On the eve of the start of the 90-day campaign period for national positions, at least four prelates said they were not keen on laying their hands on candidates who supported the RH law should they ask for their blessing.

“I will not meet with them but I am not saying they won’t be welcome,” Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles told reporters.

“No, let them stay away from us,” said Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes in a separate interview. Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon expressed the same sentiment.

For his part, Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros said that if a candidate sought his blessing as a private individual, he would gladly give it. “But as a candidate, I will certainly not give my blessing to his or her candidacy because he or she supports a cause against the teachings of the Church,” he said.

But Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco has a different take on the matter. The prelate said he would welcome anyone who would ask him to bless his or her candidacy but, just the same, he would encourage people to vote for candidates based on their values and those who are pro-God, pro-life and pro-environment.

“Everybody is welcome. No discrimination. We are not partisan,” said Ongtioco.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said he saw no reason those candidates couldn’t be welcomed. “A pro-RH candidate is a child of God and a brother or sister to me. I can be very diplomatic and respectful toward him or her as a person,” he said.

Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said a “courtesy welcome is due a courtesy visit.”

Maasin Bishop Precioso Cantillas said he was willing to give his blessings to a candidate, even those who rabidly supported the RH law. However, this should not be construed as an endorsement.

He stressed that the Church, even in past elections, did not endorse candidates.

“As a pastor, I welcome anyone who would ask for God’s blessings. I would also proclaim to him or her God’s teachings and that of the Church,” Cantillas said.

Sam Miguel
02-15-2013, 08:09 AM
Tatad, indie Senate bet join fight against RH law

By Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:36 am | Friday, February 15th, 2013

An independent senatorial candidate has asked the Supreme Court to allow him to join the suit filed by various groups against Republic Act No. 10354—the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012—not for offending moral or religious beliefs but for restricting the freedom of speech.

In an 18-page petition for intervention, lawyer Samson Alcantara of the Social Justice Society, a political party, particularly assailed Section 23 (a) (1) of RA 10354 for restricting the freedom of speech, being too wide in scope, vagueness and violating the right to due process.

Two other petitions seeking to declare the RH law unconstitutional were also filed on Thursday by former Sen. Francisco Tatad, his wife, Fenny, and lawyer Alan Paguia, and by the Doctors for Life and Filipinos for Life. This brought to nine the number of petitions filed against the controversial law so far.

“The long and short of the debate about the so-called responsible parenthood act and the means and methods to achieve it is this: The government does not have all the answers and so must not impose the threat of punishment on those who entertain other or contrary ideas, labelling them as incorrect or the like,” Alcantara said in his petition.

Free play of ideas

“Governments and authorities through history have been proven wrong now and then. Therefore, government must allow for the free play of competing ideas in the marketplace as a better guarantee of arriving at the truth, or better alternatives instead of simply imposing its own predetermined concepts,” he said.

Section 23 (a) (1) punishes a health care service provider, whether public or private, that shall “knowingly withhold information or restrict the dissemination thereof, and/or intentionally provide incorrect information regarding reproductive health programs and services.” These include the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically safe, nonabortifacient and effective family planning


Violators of the provision face one to six months in jail or a fine of P10,000 to P100,000. If the offender is a public officer, he shall be suspended and may even be removed and his retirement benefits forfeited, depending on the gravity of the offense.

Six petitions

Six petitions against the RH law had been filed in the Supreme Court by James and Lovely Ann Imbong; the nonprofit group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc.; Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City; Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc.; Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines; and lawyer Expedito Bugarin.

The high court last week consolidated the petitions but did not issue a temporary restraining order against implementation of the RH law.

Congress passed the RH bill on Dec. 19, despite strong opposition from the local Catholic Church. Two days later President Aquino signed it into law.

According to Alcantara, Section 23 (a) (1) “violates the guarantee of freedom of expression in prohibiting and penalizing speech not in accordance with state-mandated speech.”

“With the preferred status given to the freedom of expression, it follows that it demands more from the government to justify any restriction placed on speech, such as the provision in the RH law prohibiting and penalizing, the dissemination of ideas or views which may be characterized as incorrect just because it does not conform to authorities’ ideas,” the lawyer said.

The high court has not acted on the earlier petitions for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the law, which is now being implemented. For the past two en banc sessions where the high court took up the petitions, it did not issue any TRO but merely consolidated the older petitions to the new ones and asked the Office of the Solicitor General to comment on the questions raised there.


“The RH law cannot co-exist with the Constitution. The Constitution must prevail by declaring the RH law stillborn,” said the Tatad couple and Paguia, in their petition for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction or TRO.

One of the arguments they raised in opposing the RH law was that the State cannot invade the privacy of married couples “in their exercise of their most intimate rights and duties to their respective spouses.”

In the second petition filed Thursday, the groups represented by lawyer Howard Calleja presented six arguments, which included that the law violated the Doctrine of Benevolent Neutrality under the Freedom of Religion Clause, which is under the Bill of Rights.

“Although no law should establish or promote any religion, the law should also accommodate the religious beliefs of individuals and not force them to act against their beliefs,” they said, noting the law disregarded the fact that majority of Filipinos were devout Catholics “who firmly believe in procreation and do not subscribe to the belief that pregnancies should be controlled or prevented.”

02-20-2013, 12:58 PM
I don't usually do Inquirer's Young Blood series because I just don't like it in general. In this case I will make an exception.

Filipino horror story

By Korina Ada D. Tanyu

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:39 pm | Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Nena rises at 4 a.m. to cook a pack of instant noodles for her four children. Her live-in partner, Jojo, has gone to ply his tricycle route. He makes only about P300 a day and is still paying for the loan he took out (at 5-6 rates) to buy the tricycle.

While cooking, Nena worries about her youngest, 5-year-old Jamjam. He has been losing weight, having recurring fever, and coughing incessantly for the past two months. Lagundi syrup is of no help. She took him to the health center, where he was given carbocisteine. Still, he continued to cough and lose weight. She also took him to the hilot, thinking of kulam. Nothing happened.

Three days ago, she noticed that Jamjam was having difficulty breathing and was relieved only by nebulizations at the center. She and Jojo decided to consult a physician, but they worried about how to get to a hospital. The nearest is privately owned, and the consultation fee is at least P500, aside from the costs of the lab tests. On the other hand, the nearest government hospital is in Manila. The fare from Cavite to Manila costs P100. They calculated that they needed P200 just for the fare. (Jamjam will sit on Nena’s lap so he can ride for free.)

Nena was so worried about her son that she borrowed P500 from the loan shark.

At 6 a.m., mother and son are on their way to the government hospital in Manila. At 8 a.m., they are in a queue at the pediatrics clinic counter. But the nurses tell Nena that the quota of 60 new patients per day has been filled. Nena begs the nurses to include Jamjam in the quota. We’re sorry, say the nurses. Our patients also came from far places. Come back tomorrow.

Nena sobs. She has only P400 left. If she takes Jamjam home, she will have only P300 for tomorrow, unless she borrows money again. They can stay overnight at the hospital, but where will they get food? And her family will worry if they don’t come home. She can try the nurses again, but then again…

In the waiting area, Nena notices an unguarded backpack. Patawarin sana ako ng Diyos(May God forgive me), she tells herself. But she decides against taking it.

A news report is blasted from the TV set in the waiting area: Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, nagbigay ng pera sa mga senador nung Pasko! The report says all senators, except four, got P1.6 million each for Christmas.

A doctor walks through the hallway of the clinic and surveys the row of patients in the waiting area. Her gaze falls upon Nena and Jamjam. She raises her eyebrows and quickly approaches them.

The dialogue, in Filipino, is quick:

“Ma’am, how many days has your son been having difficulty breathing?”

“Doktora, three days already.”

“No other symptoms like a cough?”

“It’s been two months since he began coughing and losing weight. He’s lost almost half of his weight. And there’s fever.”

The doctor examines Jamjam, then calls a nurse and asks for oxygen. She tells Nena that her son’s condition is worrisome and he has to be taken to the emergency room.

Nena asks the doktora what will happen to Jamjam, and begins to cry.

Jamjam is hooked to oxygen support and put on a wheelchair. Another doctor takes mother and son to the emergency room, where several other doctors attend to the boy. One attaches an IV drip on Jamjam’s arm. His blood pressure is taken—several times. The mother senses that something’s wrong.

“Doktora, what’s happening?”

“Nanay, we can’t find your son’s blood pressure. His breathing is bad. We need to put a tube in his lungs so he can breathe. Do you have money for the respirator? If none, you will serve as the machine that will help him breathe. Magbobomba kayo.”

To rent the machine, Nena needs at least P2,000. Jamjam also needs antibiotics. Some of the lab tests are free of charge, but the others are not. Nena thinks of the P400 she has left. She can’t call Jojo, she has no cell phone.

The doctors lead Nena to a social worker, who assists her. She manages to contact Jojo, who promises to bring the needed money before the day ends.

In Cavite, Jojo turns to his brother for help. But his brother, who has three children and another on the way, can lend him only P500. Jojo understands, and thanks his brother profusely. He looks at his watch, thinking that his prized possession will probably fetch another P500 from the loan shark. But the loan shark gives him P2,000: “Here. For your son. Pay me when he gets well.”

The father takes the money, knowing that this “generosity” comes with a stiff price. With P2,500 in his pocket, he heads to the hospital.

The doctors have inserted a tube in Jamjam’s mouth and down his trachea; one is helping him breathe with a bag. Blood extractions, as well as x-rays, have been done. Nena brings the blood samples to the lab and pays for the lab work with her P400. She still has to buy antibiotics and medication to raise Jamjam’s blood pressure, but her money has run out. She has to wait for Jojo to come. Unknown to her, the doctors have given Jamjam medication from donors.

The doctors tell Nena that Jamjam has tuberculosis complicated with severe pneumonia; the infection has spread through his blood. They ask her if anyone else in the family has TB. Nena has no idea. They tell her to have all the family members tested.

They also tell Nena that despite the medication, Jamjam still has very low blood pressure. They urge her to seek the help of local politicians. It’s the election period, after all.

But all these are a blur to Nena. Her mind is as chaotic as the emergency room. She is waiting for Jojo to come. Jojo will tell her what to do. Where is Jojo, anyway?

A doctor approaches Jamjam and listens to his chest and heart.

CODE! Doctors and nurses instantly surround Jamjam. A doctor pounds the child’s chest with a fist.

Another doctor tells Nena what is going on. Her son’s heart has stopped beating and they are trying to revive him. If his heart does not start beating again after 30 minutes, they will stop all efforts of resuscitation.

Nena suddenly feels that the weight of the world is upon her. She cries. She prays. Diyos ko! Ang anak ko! For the first time in her life, she shouts her prayers, hoping that from earth, her screams will be heard by God in heaven.

Thirty minutes pass. We’re sorry, the doctors say.

The nurses remove all the devices attached to Jamjam’s body. Nena embraces her child and shakes him, hoping he is just sleeping.

Just then Jojo runs into the emergency room, looking for Nena. He sees her crying. He sees a lifeless Jamjam. He breaks down and weeps.

A week later, Nena and Jojo bury Jamjam in the public cemetery. Along with their son, they bury all their hopes and dreams for him. And then they face the future buried in debt.

Korina Ada D. Tanyu, MD, 27, is a pediatrics resident at the Philippine General Hospital where, she says, she and her colleagues encounter similar stories every day. She wishes that such situations will not happen to anyone, but realizes that with the way things are, these will only disappear in her dreams.

Sam Miguel
02-21-2013, 09:18 AM
Give unto Caesar

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:28 am | Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The Iglesia ni Cristo will be a huge factor in these elections, say several people. Its leaders have just issued a circular that demands that the “unity vote” be strictly observed.

“With a tight race,” says Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, “the INC blessing and solid vote may play a role for those fighting for the last few slots in the magic 12 since vote differences between these slots can be as little as a few hundred thousand.” Tito Sotto agrees, saying the INC could produce a core base of 3 million votes, which could determine who the top three and last three senatorial candidates would be.

From the other end, the Catholic Church has been warning darkly about punishing the congressional and senatorial candidates who voted for RH. It first issued that warning last December, vowing to continue the fight against “the culture of death” at the polls. It has intermittently reiterated it.

The first question is: Can they?

Well, first the Catholic clout: It hasn’t been evident at all. Certainly, it hasn’t been evident in national elections, not even during the reign of fairly powerful, and popular, Church leaders like Jaime Cardinal Sin. Sin campaigned with Edsa-like fervor against Erap, portraying him as the No. 1 breaker of all the cardinal sins—specifically drunkenness, gluttony, and lust—and did nothing to dent him. It might even have made him more popular, coming off the unceasing diatribe as an endearing rogue.

Of course the Church has shown some clout in local elections, though selectively, though sporadically. RH, however, is not the Church’s best suit. Most of the faithful believe in it, most of the faithful find it the most reasonable—and moral—thing on earth. The Church insists on demonizing the candidates who voted for it, it might produce the opposite effect. It might make the voters sympathize with them more.

The INC is another story. Its clout is far more evident than that of the Catholic Church, which is why candidates woo it ardently. Quite curiously, and revealingly, it wielded tremendous power during Marcos’ and Gloria’s time, both tyrannical times. Of course it was pretty much a nonfactor in the last elections, but that doesn’t mean its clout is gone. It merely means that where the elections are far more “ideological,” or where the lines are more sharply drawn between candidates, such as in epic battles between right and wrong, decency and rottenness, good and evil, that clout isn’t there. But where the elections are far more traditional, or indeed trapo, where the differences between the candidates are blurred, where the choice is between the popular and the obscure, the exciting and the dull, the pogi and the pangit, that clout will be there.

Which is what the May elections are. They are not a fight between right and wrong, good and bad, they are a fight between mostly exchangeable personalities, between Jojo Binay and Mar Roxas. Can the INC shape their outcome? Oh, yes, it can. It can do wonders for the top three and last three senatorial candidates. That is quite apart from the representatives and candidates in the local elections. A “unity vote” of three million is one very big clout.

But which brings me to the second question, and a far more important one: Should we allow them to?

The Catholic case is borderline. The Church wants to vilify those who voted for RH, that is its business. It wants to cajole the faithful into not voting for them, that’s not just its business, though it remains arguable how far it violates the separation between church and state. It may not be condemnable legally, but it is certainly so morally. There’s something despotic about it. You wonder why a secular group doesn’t also launch a campaign calling on all Catholic Filipinos to boycott the priests and bishops who have been shrill in their opposition to RH, indeed who have been using the pulpit to disturb their peace, or torment them. The INC is not borderline at all; without a doubt it tramples on the principle of the separation of church and state. You may no more command a citizen, whatever his faith, to vote for a candidate as you, his religious superior, bid than you may command him to not owe allegiance to the flag on the ground that that diminishes his obedience to God. And yet the INC does it, and does it not just shamefully but shamelessly, not just furtively but openly, not just clandestinely but proudly. Hell, it advertises it. You want to win, come begging before the INC. You want to win big, come crawling to the INC. Of course that comes with a price tag, which you’ll have to pay later on.

It’s atrocious. We’re at pains to root out the practice of “one village, one vote” that often happens in Mindanao, and yet we’re powerless to do something about its equivalent, or worse, “one church, one vote” right in our midst. In fact, we’re not just powerless to do something about it, we tolerate it, we consent to it, we approve of it. Certainly, the candidates do, who troop to their temples that grandly proclaim the dawning of a “New Era”—a new era of what?—hat in hand.

I don’t know why nobody brings a legal challenge to it before the Supreme Court. The evidence is prima facie. It’s immoral, it goes against the very foundation of citizenship, which is the freedom to vote according to one’s conscience. One’s conscience cannot be held hostage to the preferences, or whims, of others in the name of religion. And it is illegal, by all the laws of God and man. The Constitution is clear on it: The church is the church and the state is the state, and ne’er the twain shall cross the line. And Jesus Christ, in whose name the Iglesia ni Cristo has been built, is even clearer on it.

Give unto Juan what is Juan’s, and to God what is God’s.

Sam Miguel
02-22-2013, 01:41 PM
Noy to give post to RH Law co-author

By Delon Porcalla

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 22, 2013 - 12:00am

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – President Aquino surprised local government officials here yesterday when he told Ilonggos about his plan to tap the expertise of Rep. Janette Garin – a co-author of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law – in the executive department.

“I’d like to ask permission from you to allow me to borrow Congresswoman Garin for the next three years and let her join us in the executive department,” he said at the provincial capitol here.

Garin, a doctor by profession who is on her third and last term as lawmaker, said she didn’t expect the President’s statement.

“I’m flattered,” she told reporters who covered the ceremonial signing of the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose II project here.

The lady legislator, now a deputy majority leader in the House of Representatives, was very instrumental, along with main author Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, in the passage of the RH law last December.

Garin said she and Aquino discussed the programs for the health sector, but stressed that she was not aware of any post that will be given her.

Garin, however, said she is willing to help the government in its health advocacies.

Aquino is not yet sure what portfolio he will give Garin.

“That would be in the health sector. But the specifics, we will still have to discuss it. There are two slots that we are eyeing and we will consult with both the health sector and Ms. Garin,” he said.

Aquino said he will give Garin “exactly the position she would want to assume.”

Sam Miguel
02-28-2013, 08:19 AM
Church won’t heed Comelec order on ‘Team Patay’ list

By Carla P. Gomez

Inquirer Visayas

11:35 pm | Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

A Catholic church in Bacolod has cut in half a tarpaulin that tells the faithful whom to vote for and whom to junk in the May senatorial elections (“Team Buhay, Team Patay”). The Commission on Elections says the 6-foot-by-10-foot tarpaulin violates the rule on campaign material sizes, prompting the church to cut it. Despite the cut, the two tarpaulins still do not meet the 2-foot-by-3-foot rule of the Omnibus Election Code.

BACOLOD CITY—Church leaders here defied a Commission on Elections (Comelec) deadline set on Monday for the removal of a tarpaulin listing senatorial candidates to reject and vote for in front of San Sebastian Cathedral.

The tarpaulin has been labeled “Team Patay, Team Buhay (Team of Death, Team of Life)” based on the candidates’ stands on the recently enacted reproductive health (RH) law.

The Bacolod diocese said it will not remove the tarpaulin because it is covered by the constitutional “guarantee of freedom of expression and conscience.”

Mavil Majarucon-Sia, Bacolod election officer, last Friday ordered the tarpaulin removed for being oversized, at 6 by 10 feet. Majarucon-Sia said the allowed size of campaign posters or streamers is 2 by 3 feet.

Lawyer Mitchelle Abella, the diocese’s legal counsel, on Monday asked the Comelec legal department to issue a definitive ruling on the tarpaulin.

Abella said the tarpaulin stays until the Comelec legal department has issued the ruling.

“The stand and the campaign of the diocese against the RH law are independent of any occasion, election or otherwise,” Abella said.

Abella said the mention of the candidates in the tarpaulin is merely incidental to the Church campaign against the RH law.

If the Comelec really wanted to enforce rules on campaign materials, Abella said it should start with more glaring violations being committed by candidates.

In Palo, Leyte, Church leaders there said they would not follow the example set by the Bacolod diocese.

Fr. Amadeo Alvero, media coordinator of the Palo archdiocese, said the Church, however, would support any group that will launch a campaign to select candidates based on their stand on the RH law.

“The faithful know that the Church has openly opposed the reproductive health law. It is up now to the faithful if they would not vote for the proponents of the RH law,” Alvero said.

Veronico Petalcorin, assistant Comelec regional director, said the Church has all the right to list down candidates to reject or vote for.

“The Church is considered a private group. They can also endorse. There is no prohibition there. That’s their right,” Petalcorin said.

Sam Miguel
02-28-2013, 08:22 AM
^^^ That is a barefaced lie, Atty Abella. This is not "independent of any occasion, election or otherwise" because your clients have stated on many occasions previous that they will campaign against pro-RH candidates.

That is of course their right, as with all citizens, but please don't give us any of that horseshit. It's getting old, and it's always been boring.

Sam Miguel
02-28-2013, 10:19 AM
Public consultations set on RH law implementing rules

(The Philippine Star)

| Updated February 28, 2013 - 1:00am

CORON, Palawan, Philippines – Public consultations on the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 will be held in Metro Manila, Davao and Cebu on March 5, 6 and 8.

Health Assistant Secretary Paulyn Ubial told The STAR the technical working group (TWG) will present to participants the draft of the IRR during the public consultations.

“We are required under the law to hold public fora so the TWG will be doing that next week,” she said. “We coordinated with our regional offices and in each meeting, we expect some 300 people to come.”

Representatives from non-governmental groups like the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines and Bishop’s Business Conference for Human Development Inc. helped in drafting the IRR, Ubial said.

The Department of Health hopes to come up with the IRR on March 15, the “self-imposed deadline” that Secretary Enrique Ona had set.

Under Republic Act 10354, the secretary of health or his representative shall serve as head of the committee that will formulate the IRR.

Members shall come from the Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Commission on Women, Philippine Health Insurance Corp., Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Economic and Development Authority, League of Provinces, League of Cities and League of Municipalities.

In an earlier interview, Ona said the IRR would strictly adhere to the provisions of the law.

“Everything is in the law and all we have to do is go into some details,” he said. The law mandates all accredited public health facilities to provide a “full range of family planning methods which shall include medical consultation, supplies and necessary and reasonable procedures for poor and marginalized couples having fertility issues who desire to have children.”

“No person shall be denied information and access to family planning services, whether natural or artificial, provided that minors will not be allowed access to modern methods of family planning without written consent from their parents or guardians, except when minor is already a parent or has had a miscarriage,” said the law.

Tarpaulins to remain in church

The tarpaulins proclaiming the senatorial candidates for “Team Buhay” and “Team Patay” will remain hanging from the façade of the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City until election day on May 13.

Fr. Felix Pasquin, vicar of the San Sebastian Cathedral, said the Catholic Church believes tarpaulins are not campaign materials.

“The main message of the Diocese of Bacolod is not really about the candidates in the May 2013 elections but about the rejection of the RH (Reproductive Health) Law, a piece of legislation which the diocese finds anti-life, anti-marriage, anti-family and inimical to the future of the nation,” he said.

Pasquin said the original 6 X 10 feet tarpaulin was cut into two, each measuring 2 X 3 feet to comply with the rules of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Two tarpaulins now hang from the cathedral’s facade, one bearing “Team Buhay” and the other “Team Patay.”

Pasquin said the lawyer of the Diocese of Bacolod had written the Comelec Legal Department in Manila to ask for the definitive ruling on campaign materials.

“The hanging of tarpaulin in our own private property should be covered by a broader constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression and conscience, and not by the limited rules and regulations of the Comelec,” he said.

Pending the Comelec reply and the availment of legal remedies available to the diocese, the tarpaulins should be allowed to remain on the cathedral’s façade, Pasquin said.

Four other Catholic dioceses will come out with their own “Team Patay” and “Team Buhay” candidates.

These are the Archdiocese of Lipa, Batangas under Archbishop Ramon Arguelles; Diocese of Tarlac under Bishop Florentino Cinense; Diocese of Sorsogon under Bishop Arturo Bastes; and the Diocese of Borongan, Samar under Bishop Crispin Varquez.

In an interview over Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas, Fr. Melvin Castro, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life executive secretary, said: “It is the right of the Diocese of Bacolod to do that (post tarpaulins) and it has been agreed that the Archdioceses of Lipa and Tarlac would do the same.” Sorsogon Bishop Bastes said the idea of the Diocese of Bacolod had inspired him. “We will do it. We will do it. It is the agenda of the diocese,” he said.

“We will mention those who voted ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ for RH bill. We will follow the lead of Bishop Navarra. I’m happy that the Diocese of Bacolod started the campaign.”

Bastes said displaying tarpaulins on how some candidates voted on the RH Law would not run contrary to the non partisan stand of the Catholic Church. –Sheila Crisostomo, Danny Dangcalan, Evelyn Macairan

Sam Miguel
03-01-2013, 08:08 AM
Against the law

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:59 pm | Thursday, February 28th, 2013

The decision of some members of the diocese of Bacolod, backed by their bishop, Vicente Navarra, to hang a giant election-related sign outside the San Sebastian Cathedral has again trained the spotlight on the Reproductive Health Law and the political role of the Catholic Church. The sign calls on the faithful to vote for six senatorial candidates and two partylist groups classified as “Team Buhay” and against seven candidates and four partylist groups they dubbed “Team Patay.”

The sign violates many laws, and should be taken down immediately.

It violates the election law, specifically the provision on “lawful election propaganda” in Commission on Elections Resolution No. 9615. “Posters made of cloth, paper, cardboard or any other material, whether framed or posted, [should have] an area not exceeding two feet (2’) by three feet (3’).” The Comelec has served notice to Bishop Navarra that the signs needed to be resized, but a lawyer for the diocese played for time by asking the Comelec whether the sign was in fact election propaganda. This tactic, to borrow a buzzword from the Corona impeachment trial, is mere “palusot.” The same Comelec resolution clearly defines “election campaign” and “partisan political activity” as “an act designed to promote or defeat a particular candidate or candidates to a public office,” such as “publishing or distributing campaign literature or materials designed to support or oppose the election of any candidate.” You do not need to be a lawyer to know that the sign clearly falls under these definitions.

The diocese has since cut the sign in two, separating the Team Buhay part from the Team Patay half—but this is not an act of compliance but, rather, of petulance, or even insolence, since each half is still clearly larger than the maximum allowed by the Comelec. Even if the diocese members responsible for the sign found it in their Christian hearts to abide by the unmistakable letter of the law and replaced it with signs measuring two feet by three, however, should the good bishop allow it? We hope not, because the content of the sign also violates other kinds of law.

It violates the moral law which governs all of us, whether Catholic or not, because it perpetuates a blatant lie, that the Reproductive Health Law promotes abortion. That is simply not true; every provision that could be misinterpreted as encouraging or allowing abortion has been removed from the law; indeed, the law reaffirms that abortion is illegal, and declares it state policy to be open to all methods of family planning that are, among other characteristics, “safe, legal, non-abortifacient.” So the sign reduces the complex debate over the controversial law to whether one agrees with the narrow Catholic view that the new measure promotes a generalized culture of death. The least the good bishop and his flock can do is acknowledge that many Catholic legislators voted for the new law precisely because they saw it as contributing to a culture of life—literally, since it will save many mothers and infants from an avoidable death.

It violates the law of self-preservation, because the diocese defends the posting of the sign as free speech—the very defense that the controversial reproductive-health activist Carlos Celdran invoked in the infamous Manila Cathedral case. While we believe that freedom of speech is a privileged right, the complainants in the “Damaso” case argued that offense to religious feelings trumped that privilege. Since Celdran has appealed his lower-court conviction to the Court of Appeals, he can now point to the Bacolod sign as an argument in his favor. To put it another way: What is to stop a parishioner in Bacolod from suing the administrators of the San Sebastian Cathedral, on the grounds that the sign offended his religious feelings?

It violates the law of equity. The lawyer for the diocese questioned the duty of the Comelec to enforce election laws, by saying it should start with “more glaring violations,” as the Inquirer report phrased it, of the candidates themselves. This betrays both a sense of entitlement, as though the diocese members behind the sign are exempt from the law, as well as a sense that if politics is dirty, the dirt must come from the politicians themselves, and certainly not from pious, church-going people.

What was it the Gospels taught all of us again, about the mote in our brother’s eye?

Sam Miguel
03-13-2013, 09:28 AM
Life and death

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:11 pm | Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

The efforts of the diocese in Bacolod to malign the senators who voted for the Reproductive Health bill have taken a bit of a comical turn. As most everyone knows by now, a month or so ago the San Sebastian Church in Bacolod City hung a tarpaulin on walls putting two groups of senators under the headings “Team Patay” and “Team Buhay.” After the Commission on Elections remonstrated with it for violating election rules on the size of posters—this one went well past the norm—the diocese decided to cut it in half though one still coming after the other, thereby emphasizing the divide all the more.

I always thought the Comelec was bothering with a small thing, and not quite incidentally giving the San Sebastian initiative no small amount of free advertising. It wouldn’t have gotten that much attention if the Comelec hadn’t decided to throw some its way. Quite apart from that, given that the RH was popular among the faithful—which explained the congressional vote favoring it—I didn’t know that the San Sebastian Church itself wasn’t giving free advertisement to the “Team Patay” candidates.

But comes now the comical twist that made my day last Monday. A poster suddenly sprouted on Facebook entitled, “The Team Damaso ang Tunay Na Patay,” that listed the clergy in Bacolod that had fathered children. They included Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, an archbishop, three bishops, one retired bishop and one priest. “Beware of these clowns,” the poster warned.

The initiators of the “Team Patay, Team Buhay” poster were taken aback, and whined. “These attacks are very unchristian,” said Bishop Navarra. “Some priests who have had indiscretions in the past have realized what they did, shown that they are repentant, reformed and have made amends.”

The defense is redolent with irony. Not least is that Navarra, who himself is accused of fathering a child, is the one doing the defending. He calls their collective transgression an “indiscretion” in contrast to the mortal sin of voting for RH, but the sheer number of the indiscretions and the extent to which it goes high up must suggest how this particular indiscretion seems to be a favorite pastime of the clergy. No wonder the other churches in Bacolod will have nothing to do with tacking the same tarpaulin on their walls. People who live in glass houses cannot afford throwing stones.

More than that, the question is how exactly the priests and (arch)bishops have shown repentance and made amends. By denying their indiscretions and hiding their offshoot, or offspring, from view? By disenfranchising the children of their inheritance, quite apart from their father’s name, particularly where the priest’s or bishop’s family is well-off? Leaving the offshoot, or offspring, to their mothers’ devices, quite apart from their shame—small communities tend to render cruel judgments—not all, or most, of them, coming from so-called “good families,” or buena familias?

The ultimate irony is that the tribe of children the clergy are leaving behind does not just reveal the hypocrisy of the Bacolod diocese’s position, it reveals the very wisdom and virtue and merit of the RH position. Which is that the wise, the responsible and the godly thing to do is to have only as much children as you are capable of supporting. Or in this case to have one only if you are willing to feed it, take care of it, hell, merely acknowledge it.

The way things are, the only thing you can really say for the priests, who give the word “Father” whole new dimensions, is that they practice what they preach. Which in this case you wish they wouldn’t. They may violate their vow of chastity with impunity, but they will not violate their imagined duty to make their tribe increase so. Which is really just compounding one sin with another. I’m not unsympathetic to priests having sex—it should give them better insights into life—I just wish they would practice RH.

In the end, I’m glad the Bacolod diocese came out with that poster on Team Patay and Team Buhay. It’s eye-opening in ways that the Church never contemplated. If it said “daang patay” and “daang buhay,” it could not have put the choice more starkly to the faithful.

Beyond elections, that is the choice that faces Catholics today, as a whole and in this country in particular, about their faith. It’s particularly timely that that choice is being presented to them even as the Vatican itself, the seat of Catholicism, is in the throes of a life-and-death struggle over it.

Which faith will you embrace, the Old Testament—one with its plagues and torments and punishments to visit those who go against a jealous God, or the New Testament—one with its spirit of forgiveness and tolerance and love filling the soul till it runneth over? The one that is about form rather than substance, about blind obedience rather than enlightened, tongues-of-fire choices, the one about saying three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and three Glory Bes to expunge the soul of indiscretions, or the one about learning to discern right and wrong, to plunge into the dark nights of the soul over bane and evil, but to revel as well in the laughter of life?

Which faith will you embrace? The one that tells you to value non-existent, phantasmagoric, hypothetical life and be contemptuous of the real, obdurate, flesh-and-blood one, or the other way around? The one that tells you to hear Mass, receive the sacraments, and follow your wayward shepherd to perdition, or hell just so you could enjoy salvation, and heaven, afterward, or the one that reminds you that Christ once said what you do to the least of your brethren you do to him? The one that says the Rock is in a perpetual state of decay or the one that says it is in a constant state of renewal?

Which faith will you embrace?

The patay or the buhay?

Sam Miguel
03-15-2013, 02:31 PM
The Catholic Church needs a sex talk

By Lisa Fullam, Mar 11, 2013 09:37 PM EDT

The Washington Post Published: March 12

Here in the papal interregnum, rumors fly about a shady cabal of Vatican officials who may—or may not—be subject to blackmail for sexual misbehavior. UK Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigns and admits to sexual misconduct. The church is reeling from a clergy sex abuse scandal that continues to unfold worldwide. America’s Catholic bishops continue to raise objection to HHS’ policy that requires employers to cover birth control.

It seems like every media mention of the Catholic Church involves sex, sexual abuse, or cover-ups of sexual abusers.

Yet most Catholics seem underwhelmed by church teaching on sex: the vast majority of Catholics reject or simply ignore church teaching against contraception. In vitro fertilization, even fertilization of a woman’s ova with her husband’s sperm, is forbidden by church teaching, yet Catholics pursue those procedures nonetheless. Catholic leaders fiercely oppose gay marriage and talk of homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered,” but now most Catholics now support marriage equality and say same-sex relationships are not always sinful. Catholics cohabitate before marriage, and far fewer Catholics are getting married in the church: there were 8.6 marriages per 1,000 U.S. Catholics in 1972 to 2.6 marriages per 1,000 Catholics in 2010 And it’s not just a lay issue: a 2002 LA Times poll found that only one-third of priests “’do not waver’ from their vow of celibacy, while 47 percent described celibacy as ‘an ongoing journey’ and 14 percent said they ‘do not always succeed in following’ it.” The report also found that two percent of priests admit they are not celibate.

Is it time for a new Catholic conversation about sex?

Current Church teaching on sex is clear: sexuality is a gift, but sex acts are only allowable between (heterosexually) married partners, and each act must be both loving and open to procreation. Any other sex act is seriously wrong. Whatever the merits of current church teaching, it simply seems not to resonate with most Catholics who often make their own decisions on sexual matters. And they have come to different conclusions than their bishops about sexual morality.

Why is that? One factor may be a shift in how we understand sexual issues generally. More than ever, sexuality is thought to be a matter of personal preference rather than morality. “As long as no one is hurt, who am I to say what’s right for somebody else?” seems to be the contemporary mantra regarding sex. To its credit, this view does draw a clear line between the horrific acts of sex abusers and people who simply choose to live according to sexual mores of which Catholic leaders disapprove.

But this “personal preference” model doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of guidance toward good—or even great—sexual relationships. And in contrast to the traditional views of the hierarchy, many contemporary Catholic theologians are moving toward a positive expression of values, virtues, goals and ideals that resonate with the complexities and delights of our sexual experiences. A critical appreciation for experience, cross-checked by fundamental Christian values like love of God, neighbor and self, and informed by the insights of contemporary biology, psychology, sociology and the arts, create a more resonant vision for sexual ethics. Still, church leadership seems far from poised to evolve its understanding of sexuality.

Could the church have gone down another path?

By 1963, according to priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley, fully half of American Catholics had decided that contraception was not always wrong. A commission to study the question, created by Pope John XXIII and expanded by Pope Paul VI, comprised married lay people, various experts and bishops, and concluded overwhelmingly that the church should allow contraception in some circumstances. A minority (which included the future Pope John Paul II,) contended that the church leadership must not change its teaching, in part that to do so would make church teaching an unreliable guide. (It is significant that a large part—but not all—of the minority’s concerns were not about contraception itself, but about teaching authority.) In the wake of the sweeping aggiornamento (updating) of Vatican II, and the leaking of the majority report, a change in church teaching was widely anticipated. Instead, in the encyclical Humanae Vitae, Paul VI insisted that contraception was a serious violation of God’s natural order, not even justifiable in light of the good of the relationship overall.

The reaction was immediate. Theologians objected to its reasoning, carefully parsing the teaching and finding it wanting on ecclesiological and methodological grounds. But by and large, the Catholic faithful simply shrugged. The teaching simply did not fit what they had come to believe about the matter. Catholics continued to practice contraception—but largely they discontinued confessing it as sin.

For church leaders, it’s a different story. One de facto criterion for their professional advancement is willingness to teach—or at least not to dissent from—sexual teachings that many priests and ministers and some bishops realize are irrelevant or even harmful to their parishioners’—and sometimes their own--lives.

The gulf between theory and experience, hierarchy and the laity, must be bridged for the Catholic Church to sustain itself. And for those of us in the pews, this is our moment: On sexuality, Catholics have to talk back to their leadership, and invite—then demand--response. There’s no lack of theological support. In fact, there is a robust literature of Catholic sexual ethics that engages ordinary experience as a primary (but not sole) source for moral reflection, stretching back decades.

But until ordinary Catholics—laypeople, priests and any bishops who dare—speak up, nothing will change in the church. We don’t have a vote in who gets to be the next pope. We don’t elect our bishops. But we can talk to them. We can invite priests to reflect on their own experience and on their pastoral experience. We can support public speakers on relevant topics, and we can start parish discussions that speak openly. We do have a “vote” with our presence in particular parishes and with how we allocate funds given to the church.

Ordinary Catholics need to finally have that adult conversation about sex. And even though sexual ethics is not the most important issue facing the church, it is emblematic of a more insidious silence on many issues, including women’s roles, how theologians who tread the boundaries of theological exploration are treated by leaders, how to respond to the flood of Catholics leaving and the high rate of clergy burnout.

Let’s start with sex. The gulf between teaching and practice is wide, the teachings themselves are in dispute or ignored by Catholics, the questions cut deep, and Catholic laity have a great deal to offer from our own experience of life and love.

Lisa Fullam is Associate Professor of Moral Theology at The Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.

03-16-2013, 08:59 AM
RH law implementing rules out

By Philip C. Tubeza

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:11 am | Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Calling it a “momentous event” in the history of health care in the country, the Department of Health on Friday approved the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the reproductive health law.

“This is just the beginning of our continuing effort to ensure that no woman will die while giving life,” said Health Secretary Enrique Ona.

The controversial law’s full implementation begins on Easter Sunday, the greatest feast of the Catholic Church, celebrating the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The Church remains adamantly against the RH law.

“That was unintended. We really did not see that. We were having a hearing when someone pointed it out and we were like, ‘Oops!,’” said DOH Assistant Secretary Madeleine Valera.

Ona said the signing of the IRR of the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law of 2012” was vital in the implementation of the government’s universal health care policy which aims to reduce maternal deaths and improve overall reproductive health.

“The (RH) law will empower women, through informed choice and voluntarism, improve access to information, facilities and services, increased stability and sustainability of health policy across national and local government,” Ona said in a statement.

“(It will) institutionalize the partnerships between national and local governments, and recognize the important roles and contribution of civil society organizations, basic sectors, academe and private sector,” he added.

Prolife groups have challenged the legality of the law before the Supreme Court while some Catholic dioceses are now actively campaigning against lawmaker candidates who voted for the law.

Valera said the IRR will be published in newspapers this weekend and will take effect on March 31, Easter Sunday.

She said representatives of the government, civil society and the Church had reached a consensus on two issues—including both artificial and natural family planning services in the coverage of PhilHealth and provisions on “conscientious objectors” to the law.

Ona pointed out the highlights of the IRR which include the enhancement of health service delivery, providing mobile health clinics in remote and depressed areas, improving PhilHealth coverage, hiring and training of skilled health professionals, and the continuous monitoring and review of reproductive health programs.

03-16-2013, 03:14 PM
RH rules approved; ‘Purple Vote’ to be launched

By Sheila Crisostomo

(The Philippine Star)

| Updated March 16, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) approved yesterday the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law of 2012, which will be fully implemented on Easter Sunday.

This developed as advocates who pushed for the enactment of the RH Law will launch next week a nationwide campaign dubbed “Purple Vote,” to encourage voters to choose pro-RH candidates in the midterm elections this May.

The IRR was scrutinized by a technical working group composed of 17 multi-sector organizations including the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference (BBC) for Human Development.

The implementing rules went through a series of deliberations and public consultations in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao last month.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the IRR is vital in “translating the government’s Universal Health Care or Kalusugan Pangkalahatan into an operational framework to reduce maternal death and improve overall reproductive health outcome.”

“The RH law will empower women, through informed choice and voluntarism; improve access to information, facilities and services; increase stability and sustainability of health policy across national and local governments; institutionalize the partnerships between national and local governments; and recognize the important roles and contribution of civil society organizations, basic sectors, the academe and private sector,” he said.

Ona said the IRR highlights the implementation of improved access to family planning services and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) coverage, “hiring and training of skilled health professionals and continuous monitoring and review of reproductive health programs.”

“This is just the beginning of our continuing efforts to ensure that no woman will die while giving life,” he said.

Contentious issues

DOH Assistant Secretary Madeleine Valera, who was tasked by Ona to head the technical working group that examined the implementing rules of the RH Law, assured the public that the IRR is in accordance with the provisions of the law.

“It was really scrutinized. I’ve been involved in several laws and this is one of the laws that has really been very thoroughly developed,” she said.

Valera said there were two contentious issues raised during their meetings but members were able to reach a consensus to settle these matters.

One of the issues was concerning the request of BBC to include the funding for natural methods of family planning in PhilHealth’s allocation.

“So how did we come up with a consensus on that? We said that even up to now, PhilHealth does not have a specific benefit on artificial family planning alone. It should be seen as a whole package. The law is very comprehensive so PhilHealth should look at it as a comprehensive package as well,” she said.

The other issue is concerning private and public healthcare providers whose belief might be against the promotion of artificial methods of family planning.

The technical working group has agreed that they will be the “conscientious objectors,” meaning, they will not be held liable if they do not promote these artificial methods.

Valera, however, said these healthcare providers or someone from the health center will have to refer those seeking information or service on family planning to other facilities.

“The law is very strong in making sure that access to reproductive health services will not be denied. That is the beauty of the law. If others will say that the law is promoting promiscuity, I would say ‘no’,” she said.

Purple Vote vs Team Patay

Meanwhile, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) will lead the launching of the Purple Vote campaign on March 20 in Quezon City.

The campaign is the answer of pro-RH groups to the Catholic Church’s “Team Patay” campaign against political candidates who pushed for the signing of the law.

“The Purple Vote campaigners will take to the campaign trail to encourage the public to vote for pro-RH candidates running for national or local posts in the mid-term elections in May,” the PLCPD said in a statement.

The pro-RH advocates will be wearing purple shirts with the words “Purple Voter Ako” and will be giving out purple ballots to voters on the street, the PLCPD said.

Former health secretary Esperanza Cabral and representatives from different civil society and religious groups are expected to attend the launching of the Purple Vote campaign.

Earlier, the Archdiocese of Bacolod posted a tarpaulin with a list of senatorial candidates called Team Patay who voted for the RH Law.

The same archdiocese also made public a list of pro-life senatorial candidates whom it wants the Catholic voters to support in the May elections.

Last week, the Supreme Court granted Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra’s request for a temporary restraining order, preventing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from removing the tarpaulin.

The court also set the case for oral arguments on March 19.

The Comelec warned the persons who permitted the posting of the tarpaulin to remove it immediately as it violates rules on the allowed sizes of campaign materials.

– With Helen Flores

Sam Miguel
03-18-2013, 09:37 AM
Lagman: Priests violating seal of confessional to hit RH law

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:17 am | Monday, March 18th, 2013

Catholic priests have taken to violating the seal of the confessional just to demonize the reproductive health (RH) law, according to one of its principal authors, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who deplored the “malevolent propaganda” against the law.

Lagman on Sunday twitted Fr. Melvin Castro, head of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, for saying that based on the observation of priests, many young people were aware of the sin of using artificial contraception because of the RH law, and were driven to confession because of it.

Lagman said a majority of Catholics in the country were supportive of the RH law, as repeatedly shown by surveys.

Castro said prelates had reason to thank Lagman for this surge of awareness.

Castro said some women had confessed to having an abortion, but added that he and other priests made sure not to violate the seal of the confessional, which made it mandatory for priests to maintain strict confidentiality when it came to the sins confessed to them.

Seal violated

But Castro’s statements did not sit well with Lagman, who contended that such claims betrayed the penitents who gave their confidence to men of the cloth.

“Some Catholic priests would even venture into violating the sacramental seal of confession to revive a lost campaign against the reproductive health law,” he said.

The lawmaker added that the “revelation of penitents’ confessions is a blatant violation of the centuries-old Church injunction for confessors not to betray or disclose both the subject of the confession and the identity of the penitents.”

Violating such a seal could be penalized with excommunication, Lagman said.

He noted that even the Philippine Rules of Court considered confessions absolute privilege communication.

Catholics for RH law

Based on “repeated national surveys,” many Catholics were in favor of the RH law that the Church staunchly opposes, Lagman said.

One feature of the law is contraception by choice, he noted.

Academics from Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University have said that supporting the RH measure is not inconsistent with being Catholic, since it adheres to the core principles of Catholic social teaching, Lagman pointed out.

These include the sanctity of human life, the dignity of the human person, the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, integral human development, human rights and the primacy of conscience.

Lagman cited a study by the UP Population Institute, which showed that 90 percent of Filipino youth believed the government should provide them with relevant family planning services, including contraceptives.

International studies

He also said that the United Nations Development Program, United Nations Population Fund and the World Health Organization’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research had unanimously declared that “it is universally recognized that contraception is the most effective intervention to prevent unintended pregnancy, abortion, child and maternal mortality and morbidity.”

“Empirical studies also show that the correct and regular use of contraceptives could reduce abortion rates by as much as 85 percent,” he added.

Church officials are against the RH law for requiring the government to provide contraceptives for free to those who may want it.

The Church believes that some of the artificial means of contraception induce abortion. Some opponents also contend that the RH law would promote promiscuity.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had been at the forefront of the bitter battle to defeat the RH bill in Congress. The bishops and anti-RH members of the House of Representatives and the Senate lost the battle.

President Aquino signed the RH measure into law last December. On March 15, the Department of Health approved the implementing rules and regulations of the RH law.

After its defeat, the CBCP is continuing the fight this election season by enticing voters not to support those who voted for the bill’s passage into law. Thus, the rise of “Team Patay (Death)” posters on church premises.

Sam Miguel
03-20-2013, 08:26 AM
Church hails SC ruling on RH: God is on our side

By Philip C. Tubeza

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:36 am | Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Catholic bishops welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court on Tuesday to suspend for 120 days the implementation of the controversial reproductive health (RH) law in order to hear 10 Church-backed petitions contesting its constitutionality.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said newly installed Pope Francis would be “very happy” with the tribunal’s order, pointing out that the former archbishop of Buenos Aires was against the distribution of free contraceptives in Argentina.

“That’s exactly the same as the RH law,” Bastes said. “I hope that in the end, that law will be abolished. I’m happy. To the lay people, let us continue our campaign against the RH law, particularly in the coming elections in May.”

Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te told reporters the tribunal voted 10-5 to issue the four-month freeze order against the law, which requires government health centers to hand out free condoms and schools to teach sex education.

Te did not comment on the merits of the case, saying only the court in an en banc session had issued the suspension to allow opponents of the law time to present their oral arguments on June 18.

The 10 who voted for the freeze—and a status quo ante—were Justices Martin Villarama, Teresita de Castro, Jose Perez, Diosdado Peralta, Presbitero Velasco, Bienvenido Reyes, Arturo Brion, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad and Jose Mendoza.

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Justices Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Marvic Leonen dissented.

“Praise the Lord. God is on our side. Our struggle against the RH law is correct,” Digos Bishop Guillermo Afable told Church-run Radio Veritas.

Palace reaction

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Malacañang would respect the court’s resolution.

“We are confident that the government will be able to defend the merits of the responsible parenthood law,” Lacierda said in a text message.

Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said the court’s move could affect the country’s efforts to comply with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

“This law was supposed to bring down maternal mortality. Ultimately, it will bring down levels of poverty in combination with other programs that we have,” he said.

“If we were able to wait for 14 years, then we are willing to wait some more but we hope it won’t be that long again because these are for our women,” Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said, referring to the period the population control bill had languished in Congress.

President Aquino’s intervention led to the passage of the long-pending bill late last year. Aquino signed the measure into law without fanfare last December amid a determined effort by the Church to contest it every step of the way.

The Department of Health had earlier planned to begin implementation of the law on Easter Sunday, but Tayag said that even if the court did not intervene the program could not be launched because the rules and regulations to carry it out had not been hammered out.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the RH law, said in a statement he believed that the court would eventually uphold the measure, pointing out that it did not “defile” the right to life enshrined in the Constitution.

“The RH law does not legalize abortion. In fact, it acknowledges that abortion is illegal and punishable and is not a family planning option or method,” he said.

“The accusation that the RH law is offensive to religious freedom is a patent aberration. The act is replete with provisions upholding freedom of religion and respecting religious convictions. The guarantee of freedom of informed choice is an assurance that no one would be compelled to violate the tenets of his religion or defy his religious convictions against his free will and own discernment of his faith,” Lagman said.

More mothers dying

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, coauthor of the law, warned: “Every day of delay means more mothers dying every day, more children being orphaned, and many Filipino families being deprived of their choice to have a better quality of life.”

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said he was disappointed. “Why wait until June for oral arguments to be heard when this has been one of the most debated laws in history of Congress? It could have been timed to hit pro-RH legislators in our (midterm election) campaign,” Baguilat said.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan said in a text message: “That’s good. The Supreme Court is showing signs of life.”

Sen. Tito Sotto, who mounted a spirited opposition to the law when it was being debated in the Senate, said that the court “knows what is best for the country.”

“Let them decide,” he said, reiterating his contention in three privilege speeches that the RH law “is against our prolife Constitution.”

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada described the court order as a “temporary victory for the Church and the anti-RH group.”

Sen. Francis Escudero said that while he disagreed with the ruling, “we should follow and respect it.”

‘The Lord is moving’

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez thanked God that the RH law was stopped, pointing out that the government had planned to fully implement it starting on Easter Sunday.

“The hand of the Lord is moving in the hearts of Supreme Court justices,” he said.

Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, urged the faithful to be vigilant, saying the court order was just a “temporary victory.”

“This just means that we should be more active against the RH law,” Castro said. “This is also a challenge to voters to elect candidates who support life and the family. The high court heard our prayers that any law that is questionable based on our Constitution should not be implemented.”

“This is a victory for the truth. We thank God for inspiring the justices to vote against the RH Law,” Fr. Amadeo Alvero, spokesman of the archdiocese of Palo, said in a text message.

“This has been our prayer that people may realize the evil of RH Law. It has been heard. And we are praying and hoping that it be soon declared as illegal,” he added.—With reports from Christine O. Avendaño, Michael Lim Ubac, Leila B. Salaverria and Cathy Yamsuan; and Joey A. Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas

Sam Miguel
03-21-2013, 09:48 AM
Lives are at stake

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:08 pm | Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

The order of the Supreme Court suspending the implementation of the controversial law on reproductive health was a real surprise, and not in a good way. Petition after petition against the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 was filed as soon as President Aquino signed it into law last December, but the high court declined to issue a restraining order. Less than two weeks before the law was to finally take effect, however, the tribunal suddenly decided to put it on hold.

There is no question that the Supreme Court acted within the scope of its responsibilities when it issued the status quo ante order. And yet we are flabbergasted just the same. The law was heavily debated in the political branches of government for over a decade; the intensity of the controversy in the last two years is a good gauge of how much discussion had been generated, how many compromises had been reached, how much political capital had been spent, in both the halls of Congress and the corridors of Malacañang. The Supreme Court should have used a higher standard, required a greater showing of rank unconstitutionality or alleged abuse of discretion on the part of either Congress or the Palace, before giving the petitions due course.

This was no stealth law, like the ill-conceived Cybercrime Prevention Act; this was a measure which, during its glacial progress through Congress, allowed for input from every interested party. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines may have already forgotten, but it engaged both Congress and Malacañang in the effort to cobble together an acceptable version. That in the end its supporters lost the legislative battle is not a reason to run crying to the high court.

We are especially concerned about the 120-day period the tribunal prescribed. We realize it used exactly the same tack in managing the case involving the Cybercrime Law, down to scheduling oral arguments about a month before the order expires. But there is a crucial difference. Lives are at stake, literally, in the suspension of the RH Law.

Depending on which source one uses, there may be as many as 14 mothers who die in the Philippines every day, from preventable pregnancy problems or complications from unsafe abortions. The RH Law was designed first and foremost to lower maternal mortality, by providing pregnant women, especially those who cannot afford it, adequate maternal care, and preventing the need for abortions. If we assume that because of the law’s suspension, at least one woman who could have been helped by it has instead passed away, we cannot escape the tragic conclusion: Many, many women will die from the high court’s leisurely approach to a life-or-death issue.

As we have asserted before, the arguments against the RH Law are essentially based on a sweeping interpretation of its provisions. A reading of the law should suffice to reassure the public that it does not promote a proabortion policy. In the words of principal sponsor Rep. Edcel Lagman: “The RH Law does not legalize abortion. In fact, it acknowledges that abortion is illegal and punishable and is not a family planning option or method.” So the abortion argument against the law disregards the plain meaning of its provisions, and seeks to impose an alarmist interpretation instead.

It is the same thing with the argument involving freedom of religion. A reading of the law should suffice to reassure the public that it does not forbid the exercise of religious conscience. Lagman again: “The act is replete with provisions upholding freedom of religion and respecting religious convictions. The guarantee of freedom of informed choice is an assurance that no one would be compelled to violate the tenets of his religion or defy his religious convictions against his free will and own discernment of his faith.” The petitioners’ argument from freedom of religion disregards the plain meaning of the provisions.

It is unfortunate that these arguments based on a breathtaking notion—that the provisions of a new law do not in fact mean what they say—have been given the proverbial day in court. It is a greater misfortune that that day is still many months, and lives, away.

Sam Miguel
03-26-2013, 10:13 AM
SC asked to lift TRO on RH law

By Edu Punay

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 26, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) was asked yesterday to lift its order temporarily stopping the government from implementing the controversial Republic Act No. 10354 or Reproductive Health (RH) law.

Senatorial bet and former Akbayan party-list Rep. Ana Theresia Hontiveros, an intervenor in the case, said the status quo ante order issued by the high court last week should immediately be lifted as it poses more harm than good.

“Contrary to the allegation of the petitioners, it is the suspension of the implementation of RA 10354 that is likely to cause lasting and permanent harm to a vulnerable segment of our population: mothers and their children,” she argued in a 24-page motion.

As proof, Hontiveros cited records from the Department of Health showing maternal mortality of 221 mothers for every 100,000 live births in the country in 2011. She said the DOH has found that the maternal deaths are “highly preventable if women have access to sufficient reproductive health care services.”

“The suspension can cause irreparable harm to a vulnerable section of our population. As reported by the Department of Health, lack of access to reproductive health services is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. This harm cannot be reversed,” she told reporters later in an interview.

She also said petitioners have not adequately shown that the measure’s implementation has entailed constitutional violation of the law.

“There should be a presumption of constitutionality since the law was duly enacted by Congress. The petitioners failed to show any actual violation of the Constitution and have not delivered any proof that such transgressions exist,” Hontiveros argued.

“The RH law is a product of rigorous debates in Congress for 15 years. After its enactment, its implementing rules and regulation also went through meticulous consultations with various stakeholders, including those that are known to be working with the anti-RH petitioners,” she added.

She was joined by 13 mothers in objecting to the high court’s order.

Justices voted 10-5 last March 19 to issue the status quo ante order.

The halt order takes effect for 120 days with the high court also resolving to set the consolidated petitions for oral argument on June 18.

A member of the high court explained to The STAR the majority in SC saw the need to issue the order “so as to prevent irreparable violations of constitutional rights raised in the petitions, especially if in the end these are established.”

The consolidated petitions were filed as early as January by couple James and Lovely-Ann Imbong, non-profit group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (ALFI), Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City, Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc., lawyer Expedito Bugarin, Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines, former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad and his wife Ma. Fenny and a group of doctors represented by lawyer Howard Calleja.

The group argued that the RH law “negates and frustrates the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino people as enshrined in the Constitution.”

They cited Article II Section 12 of the Constitution, which states: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of government.”

03-29-2013, 11:30 AM
We have the right of choice

By Peter Wallace

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:40 pm | Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I, quite simply, fail to understand the Philippine Catholic Church. It vehemently opposes the Reproductive Health Law. Fine, it has every right to. But what it doesn’t have a right to is to dictate its belief to others. The law will give Filipinos of all faiths, or none, the option to request family planning assistance, or not.

What’s wrong with that? If a devout Catholic agrees with the bishops—and, as I understand it, 70 percent, according to surveys, feel they do not have to if their conscience and pact with God differ—he or she can just not go to a family planning clinic, can just not use contraceptives, and can even have their children not learn about their own bodies. It’s all optional, all at your own discretion. Mind you, I’m told that the government coerces women to accept ligation or use an IUD. If that is true, that also must be stopped.

I am not against God, or a belief in him. I think everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to. What I object to is coercion, or denial of people’s right to be informed. As the heartwarming story of Malala graphically shows, religious bigotry is just totally unacceptable. Everyone, boy or girl, has the right to be educated. (Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot and almost killed by a Taliban gunman last October in the Swat Valley for advocating education for all children. Now based in the United Kingdom with her family, she is still under threat by the Taliban.-ED.) Corollary to that, everyone has the right to be informed about sexuality and family planning—and to make an informed decision according to their own conscience.

It’s this fundamental point that I’m up in arms about, not the other details of family planning clinics, where I support their role in helping women know their options and helping them should they choose an option. Also the right of children to know about their bodies. I can never accept ignorance. To say that parents can teach sex is laughable in the extreme: 1) They are not knowledgeable, and 2) they’d be too embarrassed.

What I object to is the Church trying to deny people information, knowledge upon which to decide. It can dictate from the pulpit if it wishes, but not dictate to the populace at large. And, yes, that is what it is trying to do using its massive influence. Read the article of Cherry Lee published in Young Blood (“The word of God,” 11/10/2012). Here are excerpts from what Ms. Lee wrote:

“Not too long ago, I went to church, and I immediately regretted going. Not because I didn’t want to hear Mass and not because I think I have better things to do. No, I regretted going because of what message the priests are conveying nowadays in their homilies.

“The homilies always start out with the Scripture, and suddenly, out of nowhere, become all about the reproductive health (RH) bill. As much as I want to tune this part out, it’s like watching a car crash; I can’t help not looking away and I can’t help not listening to every word being uttered.

“One priest would talk about the RH bill being the ploy of other countries to prevent our country from being as progressive as it could be without it. Another would equate the RH bill with murder. Another would say it’s against the word of the Lord.

“How could this possibly be? How could they know that for sure? Did God appear to them and specifically tell them that?

“Why then are the priests allowed to do this? Who gave them the right to dictate what we should or should not believe in? Even God Himself provided us the right to choose.

“People go to church to hear the word of the Lord, not the priests’ word. The more that the priests mention the RH bill in their homilies, the more that they drive people away from God. Is that really what they want?”

Admittedly, that’s within the confines of a church, so I can’t object, but I must wonder at the methods of the priests. Hardly, I think, how Christ would have done it.

I think that the Church and other religions do some wonderful things to help and instill strong moral values in people, and be a comfort to so many. Religions survive because of this, and so they should. But when they try and force their beliefs on others—try the Crusaders as a start, or the Taliban today—then I object.

I would like to believe that Christ encouraged people to seek their own guidance. That was the kind of life I was taught he followed. I trust that the Supreme Court justices will decide on what’s best for society, not what’s best for just one element (large though it may be) of it. As a non-Catholic, I believe I have a right to family planning if I want it. What right does the Church have to deny me?

Bishops, convince your flock through (I would hope) sound argument not to seek family planning guidance, not to use contraceptives, if that is your belief. If your arguments are strong enough, they will obey. To deny the option suggests you don’t have the confidence that your beliefs will be accepted, and so must resort to medieval practices. Sad.

I’ll repeat it: Access to family planning is an option you can choose, or not. It is not mandatory, so the Church has no justification in opposing it. Only insecure dictators do that. Where is their tolerance of others? This Holy Week is a good time for them to reflect on that. Impose your dictates on your believers if you feel you must, but leave us free to make our own choices. As Christians, you can do no less.

I feel enough has been said. Each side has made its arguments (for 14 long years now), and a decision has been reached.

All should live with that.

Sam Miguel
04-02-2013, 01:49 PM
The Supreme Court as religious enforcer

By Oscar Franklin Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:29 pm | Sunday, March 31st, 2013

The Supreme Court has always been the tempting last refuge for losers in a political arena. It is troubling that the consistent refugee of late is the Philippine Catholic Church.

We are alarmed by how the high court now throws out all the rules when bishops’ proxies come knocking. Most prominently, it issued a last-minute temporary restraining order on the Reproductive Health Law’s implementation. The critical problem is that the Constitution limits the high court’s jurisdiction only to “actual cases.” It is required to accept cases only when the facts and legal propositions are crystal-clear, in a concrete dispute argued by two sides with competing interests. Our justices have no electoral mandate, unlike legislators, so we limit their authority to make—or strike down—rules that bind the entire country. When the high court acts outside “actual cases,” it dramatically expands what should be limited judicial power. What then is the “actual case” that arises from a law that has not yet been implemented?

(The Supreme Court issued a similar TRO on the Cybercrime Law. There is a classic exception in “actual case” doctrine for a law that may unduly restrict free speech. There is no free speech issue against the RH Law.)

In addition, the high court issued a TRO on the Commission on Elections, after one of its officers asked the bishop of Bacolod to take down the “Team Patay/Team Buhay” tarps that violated poster-size limits. This was not religious prosecution but a simple poster-size issue. The critical problem is that the Constitution limits the high court’s review over the Comelec to the latter’s actual en banc decisions. A candidate warned by a lowly Comelec official of a violation cannot run to the high court without going through the normal Comelec process, yet the high court allowed precisely this for the bishop, complete with high-profile oral arguments.

Every Filipino, bishops included, has every right to seek a court process, yet we are alarmed by how the Church seems to always play by its own rules. Given a clear majority supporting the RH Law, it is even more important that those with concrete legal objections be heard. For example, one of my staunchest anti-RH friends is a doctor who reads encyclicals as light reading. He fears that “conscientious objectors” under the law may find it impractical to object. If, for example, a doctor is required to display a sign that he is a “conscientious objector,” it might stigmatize him to the point of curtailing his freedom of religion. These are perfectly valid concerns, but there are more orderly processes than an 11th-hour TRO on the entire law.

The anti-RH TRO is particularly questionable because the petitions’ claims are barely legal in nature. I gave the first petition as a midterm question because it gave rise to just about every textbook ground to dismiss a constitutional case. As Joaquin Bernas, SJ, wrote: “As to the constitutional arguments being used against the law, which are not impressive. The arguments I have seen can be reduced to one sentence: ’The law is unconstitutional because it does not hew closely to the teaching of the Catholic Church on contraception.’”

First, the petitions claim the RH Law violates Filipino “ideals and aspirations,” “morality,” or even natural law. These are vague concepts that cannot be judicially enforced, especially not if one is merely inserting one’s own definitions. Imagine if one can be jailed for destroying Filipino “ideals and aspirations”—how would one defend oneself?

Second, the petitions claim the RH Law is antilife and cite constitutional provisions against abortion or emphasizing the family’s importance. Our post-Edsa Constitution contains many sentences that are aspirational or that specifically require implementing legislation, such as those on freedom of information and political dynasties. It is thus problematic to stake an abstract anti-RH claim on such provisions. And if a petitioner is accusing the Department of Health of distributing abortion-inducing drugs in violation of the Constitution, one wonders how this accusation can be made even before the DOH decided how it would implement the RH Law. The same reasoning applies when anti-RH petitioners claim sex education curtails the freedom of parents to choose how to raise their children; the government had not drawn up plans for sex education when petitions were filed.

Third, the petitions cite population statistics and claim the RH Law’s implied goal is to control our population. Our courts, however, cannot process statistics and one should argue economic policy in Congress. There are no movies about lawyers dramatically whipping out reams of statistical data in court for a reason.

The most obnoxious argument holds that the RH Law violates religious freedom because its very existence is supposedly so offensive to Catholics that it is a violation of their religious freedom. I fail to understand how the free individual exercise of one’s religion violates the free exercise of another. Since the right is personal, anyone could similarly profess that one’s relationship with God must be strictly personal and should not be facilitated by organized religion. Under this belief, one could claim that the Catholic Church is an abomination and that the government must abolish it to protect that true believer’s freedom of religion.

The legendary retired justice and constitutional law professor Vicente V. Mendoza pounds into his students that justices should not enter the “political thicket” as they will inevitably be stung. The Supreme Court would be prudent to reconsider this freshman lesson.

Sam Miguel
04-03-2013, 08:07 AM
SC junks plea to lift suspension of RH law

By Edu Punay

(The Philippine Star) | Updated April 3, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The 120-day order stopping the government from implementing Republic Act No. 10354 – the Reproductive Health (RH) law – remains in effect.

Justices of the Supreme Court (SC) voted 10-4 yesterday to deny the motion of former lawmaker Risa Hontiveros to lift the status quo ante order issued last March 19.

They saw no merit in the argument of Hontiveros that the order would cause lasting and permanent harm to mothers and their children.

The SC will tackle the consolidated petitions questioning the constitutionality of the RH law in oral arguments on June 18.

Couple James and Lovely-Ann Imbong filed the consolidated petitions last January.

Joining them as petitioners were the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc., Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City, Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc., lawyer Expedito Bugarin, Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xyberspace Apostolate of the Philippines, former senator Francisco Tatad and his wife Ma. Fenny, and a group of doctors that lawyer Howard Calleja represented.

They argued that the RH law negates and frustrates the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino people as enshrined in the Constitution.

“The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of government,” they said, quoting the Constitution.

Petitioners said at least 11 provisions in RA 10354 supposedly allowing couples to choose to suppress life violate the Constitution.

The law violates the freedom of religion and expression of opponents and creates doubtful or spurious rights called reproductive health rights, they added.

Sam Miguel
05-17-2013, 01:27 PM
Hmm... Looks like writing on the wall for the Catholic Church on RH. Although, really, was there any way this blasted election was a single-issue election? Shit, in this country, it is still a no-issue election. - - -

94% of pro-RH bets winning

By Helen Flores

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 17, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The looming victory of local and national candidates who supported the Reproductive Health (RH) law only showed there is no Catholic vote, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) said yesterday.

“The victory of the pro-RH candidates in the recently concluded elections is an affirmation that leaders of the Roman Catholic Church cannot dictate the results of the elections,” PLCPD executive director Rom Dongeto said.

“There is no Catholic vote and no black propaganda of the church can steal victory from candidates who advocate reproductive health,” he added.

PLCPD said data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) partial tally showed 94 percent of more than a hundred pro-RH reelectionists are seen winning in their respective districts and party-list system.

“Six of the seven senatorial candidates endorsed by the Purple Vote, a movement launched by pro-RH groups, are not just winning but are actually front runners in the senatorial race: Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Sonny Angara and Bam Aquino,” Dongeto said.

The lawmakers who voted in favor of the RH law included Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, Dinagat Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Batanes Rep. Dina Abad, Bolet Banal (3rd District, Quezon City), Kimmy Cojuangco (5th District, Pangasinan), Jaye Lacson-Noel (Lone District, Malabon City), Sandy Ocampo (6th District, Manila), Susan Yap (2nd District, Tarlac), and Imelda Dimaporo (1st District, Lanao del Norte).

“The candidates at the local level faced excruciating campaign as their respective pastoral localities vocally campaigned against them,” Dongeto said.

“As we face a different form of struggle for the RH law at the Supreme Court and in Congress where there are threats of having the law repealed, we are counting on the support of these pro-RH legislators to help us through the arduous road ahead, which should lead to the unperturbed implementation of the RH law,” Dongeto said.

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), however, pointed out the emergence of anti-RH advocates in the Magic 12 senatorial candidates.

CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) executive secretary Fr. Melvin Castro said out of the 10 senatorial candidates endorsed by the White Vote Movement (WVM), those who made it to the Magic 12 were Senators Gregorio Honasan, Aquilino Pimentel III, Antonio Trillanes IV, San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, and neophyte Nancy Binay.

The WVM is a gathering of lay Catholic groups that include El Shaddai.

Apart from the 10 WVM selected candidates, the El Shaddai also endorsed two other candidates, Paolo “Bam” Benigno Aquino IV and former senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. but only Aquino made it to the Top 12.

Castro said the endorsement made by WVM was a sign that the Catholic vote worked in the elections.

Castro admitted the election results do not necessarily display a “solid” Catholic vote. He said the people should look beyond the 2013 elections.

“I think this should be sustained until 2016. Obviously the Filipinos are still person-oriented but I think that slowly we are going there and be issue-oriented, especially on the issue of family and life,” Castro said.

Castro believed the traditional media, not the social networking sites, played a crucial role in the campaign of a candidate. – Evelyn Macairan.

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 09:00 AM
Debating the ‘Church vote’

By Rina Jimenez-David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:38 pm | Monday, May 20th, 2013

As the saying goes: “Defeat is an orphan while victory has many fathers.”

This may explain why so many people are claiming the winners in the last senatorial elections as “proof” of the public support for or sentiment against the Reproductive Health Law, which is currently caught in the limbo of Supreme Court procedures.

But how is this possible? How could the same set of senators be for/against the same law? It all depends on the beholder, and the person interpreting the turnout.

Sen. Tito Sotto (still remember him?), who was staunchly against the RH bill during the Senate debates, said that Grace Poe’s clinching the top spot among the senatorial wannabes is “proof” that the so-called Catholic vote is “real.” He also said that the drop in the rankings of Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano, who had all voted in favor of the measure, “is strong evidence that there is a Catholic vote.” The Catholic vote, he added, also helped propel Koko Pimentel, Gringo Honasan, Cynthia Villar, Antonio Trillanes and JV Ejercito into the winning circle.

But last I looked, Poe—who has publicly declared her support for reproductive health—as well as Legarda, Escudero and Cayetano, occupy the top four slots in the senatorial tally. Sotto’s favored winners—Pimentel, Honasan, Villar, Trillanes and Ejercito—are caught in the bottom of the list, with Villar, Ejercito and Honasan taking the precarious last three slots.

This may be the reason the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, a key player in pushing for the passage of the RH Law, rejoiced over the election of pro-RH candidates, saying that “despite the black propaganda of the Church against senatorial candidates who have been supportive of the Reproductive Health Law, a good number of the pro-RH candidates won the recently concluded midterm elections.” This, the group said, is proof that “there is no Catholic vote, and [that] no black propaganda of the Church can steal victory from candidates who advocate reproductive health.”

* * *

To reiterate, six of the seven candidates endorsed by the “Purple Vote” movement are front-runners in the senatorial race, with Sonny Escudero and Bam Aquino joining the pro-RH group. Only Risa Hontiveros among the “Purple Seven” failed to join the winners, but then again, a fellow candidate in Team PNoy, former senator Jun Magsaysay, who is anti-RH, has failed to make it, too.

In the House of Representatives, among the successful reelectionists were staunch RH supporters: Teddy Baguilat (lone district, Ifugao), Kaka Bag-ao (Dinagat Islands), Dina Abad (lone district, Batanes), Bolet Banal (third district, Quezon City), Kimmy Cojuangco (fifth district, Pangasinan), Jaye Lacson-Noel (lone district, Malabon City), Sandy Ocampo (sixth district, Manila), Susan Yap (second district, Tarlac), and Imelda Dimaporo (first district, Lanao del Norte). They won despite the fact that “they faced excruciating campaigns as their respective pastoral localities vocally campaigned against them.”

In a report in the news website Rappler.com, Aries Rufo pointed out that the strength of the Catholic vote should have propelled the candidates of the party Ang Kapatiran, which had mounted a faith-based anti-RH campaign, to victory. But even in the Archdiocese of Lipa, which “unleashed” lay Catholic groups against pro-RH candidates, and across the nation, the Kapatiran contingent is among the bottom-dwellers.

Rufo wrote that in an interview, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles “admitted that creating the ‘Catholic vote’ is still a pipe dream. We are just starting to create a mindset for the Catholic voters,” he said.

So if Sotto says the Catholic vote is real, while Archbishop Arguelles says it is still a pipe dream, who are we to believe? Maybe we should ask “Tito Sen” what it is he’s smoking.

* * *

From Pangasinan comes news of the incredible, though not totally unexpected, victory of “Manay” Gina de Venecia as reelected representative of the fourth district comprising the towns of Mangaldan, San Fabian, San Jacinto, and Manaoag and Dagupan City.

“She did even better than I did!” exclaimed former Speaker Joe de Venecia, Gina’s husband who had represented the district for many years but whose votes were no match for his wife’s steamroller victory this year.

Gina won 92 percent of the votes in the municipalities and 75 percent in Dagupan over her main rival, Celia Lim. Thanking the province’s spiritual patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary of Manaoag, for the peaceful elections in Pangasinan, Gina cited the need for “strong legislation” to stop or mitigate “money politics” in the country. She added that she intends to reintroduce the movement for state subsidy for political parties initiated by her husband, “who is trying to promote it in Asia to reduce political corruption.”

Meanwhile, Gina is calling for prayers for the stricken Dagupan Mayor Benjie Lim, even as she predicted “wide-ranging reforms” under the new mayor, Belen Fernandez. She also suggested that after a year, defeated Liberal Party gubernatorial candidate Nani Braganza, former mayor of Alaminos City, would make a “dynamic, competent member of the Cabinet representing Pangasinan.” In the meantime, she said, Braganza could be “mobilized to help revitalize the peace talks with the CPP-NDF-NPA.”

Sam Miguel
05-24-2013, 09:48 AM
Cayetano asks SC to lift TRO on RH Law

By Edu Punay

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 24, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Pia Cayetano asked the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday to allow the implementation of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) law.

In a petition for intervention, Cayetano asked the high court to lift the status quo ante order it issued last February that indefinitely suspended the implementation of Republic Act 10354.

Cayetano, who sponsored the measure in the Senate, also asked the SC to dismiss the 10 consolidated petitions questioning the constitutionality of the law.

Through her counsel, UP law professor Harry Roque Jr., the senator said the RH law does not violate the constitutional freedom of choice and right to privacy.

She said under the law, adults are free to reject information relating to reproductive health provided by the government.

She said religious schools would not be compelled to accept what the state schools would teach their students.

“Contrary to what is envisaged under the constitutional duty of the state, spouses are divested of any ‘real’ or ‘informed’ choice in founding their families, since the petitioners ostensibly favor only the Roman Catholic-sanctioned natural family planning methods,” Cayetano’s petition said.

The senator filed the petition a few days after three former health secretaries – Esperanza Cabral, Jamie Galvez-Tan and Alberto Romualdez Jr. – filed a similar pleading.

Last April 2, the high tribunal dismissed for lack of merit a similar plea filed by former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros.

The high court is set to hear the case on June 18.

The consolidated petitions were filed in January by couple James and Lovely-Ann Imbong, lawyer Expedito Bugarin, Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines, former Sen. Francisco Tatad and wife Ma. Fenny, non-profit groups Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (ALFI), Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City, Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc., and a group of doctors represented by lawyer Howard Calleja.

The petitioners argued that the RH law negates and frustrates the ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino people as enshrined in the Constitution.

They said at least 11 provisions of RA 10354 violate the Constitution, particularly Article II Section 12.

They added that the RH law violates freedom of religion and expression of those who are against it and creates spurious rights called reproductive health rights.

Sam Miguel
05-27-2013, 03:45 PM
Church revenge: Buhay says Catholic vote was key

By Christian V. Esguerra, Philip C. Tubeza

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:02 am | Sunday, May 26th, 2013

A group of dejected Catholics filed out of the plenary hall of the House of Representatives one early morning last December. The legislators had just passed the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill on second reading, the beginning of the end for the faithful followers of the Catholic Church, who fought the proposal for 10 years.

The bill would eventually clear both houses of Congress and would be signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III four days before Christmas.

But Church leaders and their followers vowed revenge: The legislators who voted for the bill and who would run for reelection or other offices in the May midterm elections would fall at the polls.

The supporters of the bill scoffed at the threat. There was no such thing as a “Catholic vote” in the Philippines, they said.

They might have been right, as the winners of the senatorial race were a mix of supporters and opponents of the RH law.

But for incoming party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, it was the Catholic vote that carried Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) to victory in the party-list election.

Buhay, which campaigned against the RH law and other bills allegedly promoting a “culture of death,” finished the race at the head of the party-list winners. That, Atienza said, is proof that the Catholic vote is “alive and well.”

“The message is loud and clear; it’s a clear manifestation of the Catholic vote,” he told the Inquirer shortly after the Commission on Elections proclaimed his group’s victory on Friday.

Buhay polled more than 900,000 votes, assuring the group three seats in the House of Representatives.

El Shaddai clout

“That’s El Shaddai. They have the numbers [to carry Buhay to the head of the] party-list election,” a leader of the Catholic lay movement El Shaddai said Saturday.

The lay leader, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the group, said El Shaddai chief Bro. Mike Velarde mobilized the movement’s reported six million members in the country and two million members abroad to make sure Buhay made it to the top of the party-list election.

It did, proving once again the El Shaddai clout that makes the group, like the influential Iglesia ni Cristo sect, a regular stop on the campaign trail for politicians during elections.

But unlike Iglesia ni Cristo, whose followers vote as a bloc, El Shaddai’s influence is most palpable only in Buhay, the movement’s party-list organization.

The Buhay campaign concentrated on traditional strongholds, such as Metro Manila and Cebu. Metro Manila produced nearly half of the group’s total votes while Cebu delivered more than three times the 10,000 votes Buhay polled there in 2010.

Other provinces with strong Catholic influence also generated additional votes, according to Atienza, former mayor of Manila.

Atienza, who is making a political comeback as Buhay’s second nominee to the House, claimed part of the credit for Buhay’s strong showing.

“I presented myself to voters,” he said, noting that many other party-list organizations opted not to publicly disclose their nominees.

Besides Atienza, the other Buhay nominees are Velarde’s son, Michael Velarde, and William Tieng.

Double-edged strategy

The strategy was double-edged. In the RH debate, taking a stand was risky, even for a longtime politician like Atienza, who also served in the Cabinet of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and helped organize Buhay in 1999. It ran the risk of losing those on the other side of the RH debate.

Atienza said he had been with the prolife movement even before he joined politics in 1992. As mayor of Manila, he was roundly criticized by RH campaigners for refusing to provide free contraceptives. Instead, he campaigned strictly for natural family planning methods.

After the RH bill was passed into law came the perception that politicians who swam against the current had become unpopular. Buhay defied the perceived odds and Catholics came out in full force for a group whose name denoted “life.”

But the overwhelming victory of Buhay appeared to had come at the expense of allied party-list organizations far more active on the prolife front.

Among them was Ang Prolife, whose nominees consistently opposed the RH law. But its first attempt at representation turned out to be disappointing (it garnered only more than 100,000 votes), in part because of Buhay’s aggressive drive.

Running over others

The lay leader from El Shaddai said the political officers of Buhay became overzealous in the push for the top and campaigned as if the organization were running alone.

“In their drive to be No. 1, they ran over other groups, like Ang Prolife party-list, when the objective after the RH law was passed was to get as many prolife party-lists [elected to] Congress,” the lay leader said.

“There was no coordination in the campaign. When they campaigned in one place, it was like it was theirs already. They even approached an archbishop to ask that [he urge his province to go for Buhay only],” the lay leader said.

The leader said El Shaddai divided its mass base, with members in southern Manila being asked to vote for Buhay while those in northern Manila were asked to go for Pacyaw (Pilipino Association for Country-Urban Poor Youth Advancement and Welfare), whose first nominee was Buhay Rep. Rene Velarde, also a son of the movement’s leader.

“He is building a dynasty,” the lay leader said.

The political officers’ actions strained the relationship between El Shaddai and other prolife groups during the campaign, the source said.

“The election results could have been better [for the prolifers]. But because of what happened, our relationship is strained right now. But we’ve had differences like this before. We will be able to patch things up,” the source said.

“By 2016, you will see a more powerful and better coordinated movement that would champion the prolife cause,” the source added.

Aquino support

Activist priest Fr. Joe Dizon, a leader of the election watchdog Kontra Daya, said Buhay landed at the top probably because of support from the Aquino administration.

Dizon noted that Velarde endorsed two administration senatorial candidates, including a supporter of the RH law, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, President Aquino’s cousin.

“You can credit this to the political [acumen] of Mike Velarde. You can say they are a party-list of the administration,” Dizon said.

“Even during the time of [Arroyo], the government used other groups to sideline progressives in the party-list [election],” he added.

In a separate interview, John Carlos de los Reyes, president of the Ang Kapatiran Party, alleged that the Velarde campaign worked to corner three congressional seats, leaving other prolife groups with nothing.

De los Reyes, who lost the race for the Senate, recalled that the Archdiocese of Lipa in Batangas was asked to support only Buhay.

Velarde’s fielding of Pacyaw did not sit well with others in the prolife movement, as it was aimed at expanding Velarde’s clout in the House, De los Reyes said.

“If you’re prolife, you are prolife across the board. You are also against corruption, political patronage and political dynasties. And Mike Velarde isn’t like that. You can quote me on that,” De los Reyes told the Inquirer.

“The bottom line is greed for power to the detriment of principles,” he said.

Cracks acknowledged

Atienza acknowledged the cracks in the prolife movement.

“We fought as allies but the reality was we [divided] the vote,” he said, adding that Buhay could have doubled its votes had other prolife groups not run.

De los Reyes doubted the sincerity of Velarde’s group in promoting prolife legislation. During the voting for third reading on the RH law, he said Buhay representatives were “nowhere to be found.”

De los Reyes said he was also disappointed when the White Vote Movement (WVM), an umbrella organization cofounded by Velarde, endorsed only one of three Kapatiran candidates for the Senate.

Of the 33 senatorial aspirants, only the Kapatiran candidates fully met the criteria set by WVM, he said. But only lawyer Marwil Llasos got the call, leaving him and Rizalito David out, he said.

Sam Miguel
05-27-2013, 03:46 PM
^^^ (Cont'd )

Insult to injury

Adding insult to injury, he said, was Velarde’s decision to endorse two known backers of the RH law—Bam Aquino and Ramon Magsaysay Jr.—in addition to the 10 candidates previously endorsed by WVM.

Velarde and De los Reyes apparently have a history.

Three years ago when he ran for President, De los Reyes said he went to see Velarde to ask for El Shaddai’s support, a move he deemed right because El Shaddai was a Catholic group.

But he was rebuffed, ignored and insulted, he said.

“He did not even look at me and as he signed checks he even asked sarcastically why I [was] running,” De los Reyes said in an e-mail on Saturday, explaining why Kapatiran should skip a WVM gathering called by Velarde at his Amvel Complex in Parañaque City.

“He’s an arrogant demagogue,” he said.

Despite the knocks on it, Buhay has a solid legislative track record that dates back to 2001. Its proposals were among 11 important measures passed by the 13th and 14th Congresses. Among them were the Anti-Boso law, Tourism Act and Helmet Safety Act.

Pending bills

In the current 15th Congress, Buhay has four pending bills, including a proposal that would require drivers of public utility vehicles to take a seminar in driving and another one that would impose speed limits on drivers.

In the 16th Congress, Atienza said Buhay would work for enough numbers to amend or repeal the RH law.

He said the group would also block efforts to introduce divorce, same-sex marriage and euthanasia in the country.

“Our promise is to continue fighting against antilife measures,” he said.

Sam Miguel
05-27-2013, 03:51 PM

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:54 pm | Sunday, May 26th, 2013

The story found itself in Google and Yahoo. The Yahoo story came from AP. “Dan Brown’s description of Manila as ‘the gates of hell’ in the American novelist’s latest book has not gone down well with officials in the Philippine capital,” it said. And goes on to note MMDA chair Francis Tolentino’s protestations over it.

The Google story was written by someone who obviously hadn’t read the book, identifying the two main characters, Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks, as having experienced the ordeal. In fact, it was just Sienna. It quoted

Tolentino’s letter to Brown thus:

“While we are aware that yours is a work of fiction, we are greatly disappointed by your inaccurate portrayal of our beloved metropolis. We are displeased of how you have used Manila as a venue and source of a character’s breakdown and trauma, much more her disillusionment in humanity.” Manila isn’t “the gates of hell,” he said, it is the “entry to heaven.”

Brown hasn’t written Tolentino back if only to say that he is displeased with the latter for using “of” and not “with” after “displeased.” A minor lesson in needing to be a little more careful with grammar, particularly when berating an author even of pulp fiction.

I don’t know if Tolentino has read “Inferno” or if somebody merely drew his attention to its apparently offending, or offensive, passages. It did strike me as amusing that the head of the MMDA and not the tourism secretary took up the cudgels for the city, notwithstanding that it also involves traffic. Brown’s character’s experience of Manila is to be found in the latter part of the book:

“(W)hen the group settled in the city of Manila—the most densely populated city on earth—she could only gasp in horror. She had never seen poverty on this scale. For every one person Sienna fed, there were hundreds more who gazed at her with desolate eyes. Manila had six-hour traffic jams, suffocating pollution, and a horrifying sex trade whose workers consisted primarily of young children…. All around her she could see humanity overrun by its primal instinct for survival. When they face desperation… human beings become animals.

“‘I’ve run through the gates of hell.’”

Yes, I’ve read the book. I read everything from Dan Brown to David Mitchell and F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose “Cloud Atlas” and “The Great Gatsby” respectively have recently been turned into movies, as doubtless “Inferno” will be. I confess I was quite taken aback when I got to the part—it gets worse by the way. Some months ago, I had also read Neal Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon,” which is set in great part in Manila—the character is trying to set up a giant communications hub in Corregidor and lives in Manila Hotel—and has a more sympathetic view of the city amid its squalor. (Somebody told me Stephenson, a truly brilliant writer, was a denizen of Ermita while he was here).

But, well, that’s Brown’s view, and the way things are, it’s not an entirely skewed one, give or take an exaggeration or two—Manila’s traffic doesn’t get snarled for six hours, only five-and-a-half. I’ve described the slums in Manila along the same lines, paraphrasing Fitzgerald who said “the rich are different from you and me” by saying “the poor are different from you and me.” True enough, there are scales of deprivation that are as incomprehensible or inconceivable as the scales of plenitude. Look at the ratholes that pass for habitation in any of the slums of the city—and they’re right in the middle of us, they do not just exist in the fringes—and you’ll be horrified too. Look at the mass of huddled humanity begging outside the Quiapo Church, without light, without help, without hope, and you’ll recoil too.

The fact that we no longer do so, having become inured to it, only makes it worse. In fact, the fact that we are, well, displeased when others do so and attempt to conjure a vision of the pearly gates where others see only the sign “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” only makes it worse.

But the really more interesting thing here is this: I never quite thought Tolentino would be the first to object to the book, I thought the Catholic Church would. Brown has a way of stepping on its toes, and he’s done so this time around over something pretty close to its heart. Indeed over something the local Church has just been embroiled in. Which is RH.

I beg your indulgence for this bit of a spoiler, but the Inferno in this book is plain overpopulation. It’s been growing alarmingly exponentially over the last decades, which the kontrabida believes will wipe out humanity in the next 100 years. The extinction event will not come from a pandemic, or nuclear war, or a cataclysm, it will come from—people. More people than the planet can possibly support, a mass of humanity, their flesh entangled in confined space, weeping and teeth-gnashing, turning into animals in the face of hopelessness. A scene straight from Dante.

A thing that has become inevitable—or so the villain believes, though that will be attributed to Brown himself—not least because of religious institutions that will brook no impediment to going forth and multiplying.

Well, it’s just a couple of weeks since the book came out, that protest might soon be forthcoming.

Which in the end is rather silly. For crying out loud, “Inferno” is just a potboiler. It’s there to amuse—and supply a better guide to Florence, Venice and Istanbul than a brochure. Just strap yourself to the seat and enjoy the ride. It has more twists than a daang baluktot, plunging headlong at a pace that’s meant to not make you pause to think of plausibility and real life. I spent a sleepless night doing it last week, staggering up to real life next day having to write, the fumes of sleep still roiling in my head.

A real inferno, work.

Sam Miguel
05-31-2013, 09:53 AM
Family planning gets Gates backing

By Sheila Crisostomo

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 31, 2013 - 12:00am

KUALA LUMPUR – Melissa Gates has renewed her commitment to support programs on family planning.

Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation, addressed Wednesday’s 3rd World Deliver 2013, a global conference held in this Malaysian capital, which is focused on the health and rights of girls and women.

She said women have the courage to change the world but they don’t always have the support they needed to decide for themselves and their families. She was referring to access to family planning services and information.

The conference was organized by Women Deliver, a New York-based global organization that advocates maternal health and women empowerment.

Gates said almost a year had passed since the July 2012 London Summit on Family Planning and commitments, targets and activities should have already advanced.

“We are not interested in continuing to do what we have done before, where 200 million have no access to contraceptives. We have been working on a new approach to give women what they want: voluntary access to high-quality health education, health services and contraceptives,” she said.

During the London Summit, Gates announced that the foundation was increasing its investments in family planning by $560 million over the next eight years. The amount was double its current investment, bringing the total figure to more than $1 billion until 2020.

Gates rallied the donor community to support family planning programs. She gave assurance that the Gates Foundation is committed to be part of this discussion.

“It’s completely worth it because we are raising the voices of women and girls and that is the only way to build a safe and prosperous world,” she said.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona talked about the controversial Republic Act 10354 or the Reproductive Parenthood and Reproductive Health law, which was passed after 15 years and five Congresses.

“Family planning access is absolutely critical for us Filipinos. Unmet needs for family planning among our married women in the Philippines remain high at 19.3 percent, 10.5 percent for birth spacing and 8.8 percent for limiting births,” he said.

Ona said the total unmet need for family planning is substantially greater among women considered poor (25.8 percent) compared to non-poor women (16.6 percent).

He said with the law, the current reproductive health programs would be broadened and enhanced, and the country’s maternal and neo-natal mortality would be reduced.

He said the Department of Health (DOH) aims to increase the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) for modern methods and the CPR for all methods to 53 percent and 67 percent by 2015.

In 2011, the CPR was 48.9 percent, 36.9 percent of which were for modern methods.

Oral arguments on RA 10354

The DOH and the civil society groups are bracing for the oral arguments on RA 10354 on June 18 at the Supreme Court (SC).

Ona said they are coordinating with the Office of the Solicitor General, which would argue on behalf of the government.

“I am confident that this law would be pushed through and all these efforts to derail it at this point is not anymore feasible,” he said. – With Edu Punay

06-01-2013, 11:59 AM
Catholic group joins RH fray at Supreme Court

By Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

6:27 am | Saturday, June 1st, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—A group of Roman Catholics that uncustomarily supports the Reproductive Health Law on Friday asked the Supreme Court to be allowed to participate in the proceedings as the validity of the law is being questioned by various groups.

Officials of the Filipino Catholic Voices for RH and the Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood Inc., together with Pangasinan-based school administrator Emeliza Bayya Mones and Zahria Mapandi, executive director of the Al-Mujadillah Development Foundation Inc. filed a petition for intervention at the high court around noon Friday.

The petitioners’ counsels were led by lawyer Clara Rita Padilla, who drafted the very first version of the RH bill in December 2001 in consultancy with the Philippine Legislative Committee on Population and Development.

“The [suits] seeking to declare the RH Law unconstitutional based on the religious freedom of the [law’s opponents] and their misguided statements on the hazardous effects of contraceptives infringe on the religious freedom of others, the constitutional guarantees of nonestablishment of religion, equal protection of the law and freedom of speech and the rights to privacy, health and life,” the group said in their pleading.

The petitioners said the RH Law would reduce unintended pregnancies, save the lives of about 15 women who die each day from childbirth and pregnancy complications, and would contribute to better quality of life for poor Filipinos with large families, where many of the children end up eating only one meal a day and finish elementary or first year high school as their highest level of educational attainment.

“The Supreme Court is now being called upon to uphold the constitutionality of the RH Law to ensure women’s right to health and life and immediately dismiss the petitions which seek to establish religion in Philippine law,” they added.

Like the other RH supporters who filed petitions-for-intervention before the high court, the new batch of petitioners also said the law upheld the constitutional separation of the church and state, the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, equal protection of the law and the right to privacy.

06-02-2013, 08:21 AM
Pia Cayetano cited as RH hero by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

6:52 am | Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—An international women’s conference organized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last week gave Sen. Pia Cayetano its Rising Star Award for her efforts in the passage of the reproductive health (RH) law in the Philippines.

Cayetano was recognized for standing up for women’s health and rights at the 3rd Women Deliver Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which focused on promoting women’s well-being.

“Senator. Mom. Triathlete. That’s how Sen. Pia Cayetano of the Philippines describes herself on Twitter. There’s one thing missing: Hero,” wrote Gabrielle Fitzgerald, director of Global Program Advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Youngest senator

Fitzgerald wrote on the website of the Gates foundation that Cayetano took on the task of pushing for the RH bill—which had been languishing in the Philippine Congress for five years—when she became the youngest woman senator in 2001.

Fitzgerald cited Cayetano’s sponsorship of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act that was eventually passed in 2012.

The law “ensures all women and men in the Philippines can freely and responsibly decide the number and spacing of their children, and have the information and means to carry out their decisions.”

This is a highlight of the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which is recognized by almost all countries.

‘Agents of death’

“It’s a little hard to imagine, but this bill, which guarantees a pretty basic set of rights, was incredibly controversial in the Philippines. Proponents of the bill were publicly attacked and were called ‘agents of death,’” Fitzgerald wrote.

Fitzgerald interviewed Cayetano in a panel discussion during the Women Deliver conference and “the story she told was one of resolve in the face of adversity, abiding by scientific evidence and facts, and staying positive against an onslaught of personal attacks and misinformation.”

“Her training as a triathlete kept her going through difficult times—she knew she had the endurance to outlast her opponents and to keep the finish line in sight,” Fitzgerald said.

In the Senate, Cayetano was backed up by coauthor and senior lawmaker Miriam Defensor-Santiago. In the House of Representatives, Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay) and Janette Garin (Iloilo),among others, fought it out with allies of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines who are against giving women access to modern contraceptive devices.

Sam Miguel
06-17-2013, 08:45 AM
8.1 billion

Philippine Daily Inquirer

7:30 pm | Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Only a year and a half ago, the world crossed a historic threshold: Global population breached the 7-billion mark. The United Nations named Danica May, born at the Jose Fabella hospital in Manila, as the symbolic seventh-billion baby; there was no lack of other “claimants” around the world, but it was the United Nations which chose to name the baby born to parents Camille and Florante as Human No. 7,000,000,000. Some critics described the selection as ideologically driven (proof that developing economies like those of the Philippines needed to check its population growth), while the competition to name rival symbols—in

England, in India, in the United States, in Russia, as the Daily Mail reported at the time—proved that population was a complicated issue; growth had its champions too.

Last week, the United Nations updated its world population projections. Using its medium-variant model, it projected that global population would hit 8.1 billion by 2025. That is only 12 years from now—just a little over two presidential elections away, or right about the time the first cohort of students completed the entire K to 12 course.

The director of the UN’s Population Division, part of the organization’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the new numbers were a challenge, but not necessarily a cause for alarm. “The world has had a great experience of dealing with rapid population growth. World population doubled between 1960 and 2000, roughly. World food supply more than doubled over that time period,” John Wilmoth said at a news conference.

But growth at this rate raises crucial, indeed life-or-death, questions. How many Filipinos will there be in 2025? By the UN’s (medium-variant) estimate, 119.2 million. Will food supply—as well as access to clean water, sanitation, utilities, health care and so on—keep pace? The Philippine economy has been growing nonstop since 2001, and at substantial rates in recent quarters; there is reason to answer the basic-necessities question with optimism.

But we should also note that, in contrast, the Philippines’ mid-20th century twin, Thailand, would see its population grow to only 67.9 million by 2025. In sheer per capita terms, that means that the average Thai will become even better off than his Filipino counterpart.

To be sure, there is already evidence of some slowing down in population growth. It took the human race less than 13 years to grow from a population of 6 billion in 1999 to 7 billion in 2011; it will take us a little over 14 years to grow from 7 to 8 billion. And some of those countries already enduring the so-called demographic winter face severe testing. Japan, for instance, will see its population shrink by over 4 million from 127.3 million in 2010 to 123.2 million in 2025. (And indeed, the Philippines will overtake Japan in size of population between 2025 and 2030.)

But the source of much of the growth in population in the 21st century, at least according to the UN projections, is precisely those countries that have less current capacity to provide for their residents. The UN, for instance, estimates that from 8.1 billion in 2025, global population will grow to 9.6 billion in 2050—but of that 2050 estimate, fully 8.2 billion will hail from developing countries. In other words, there will be more people from developing countries in 2050 than the entire world population only 25 years previously.

Largely Catholic populations like ours might shrug and think: The Biblical injunction has always been to go forth and multiply. Surely the Lord of History will provide for his own. But this kind of thinking appropriates only part of the Bible narrative; believers are also tasked to look after each other, especially the least, the most vulnerable.

Global population growth rates may have slowed down, but there is no escaping the reality that every year, there will be more and more mouths to feed. The UN projects Philippine population to grow by about a million every year; in the 90 years between 2010 and 2100, Philippine population is estimated to double from 93 million to 187 million. It is no idle exercise to ask: At what point will the so-called demographic sweet spot we will enjoy in the coming years turn sour?

Sam Miguel
06-17-2013, 08:47 AM
There is no Catholic vote?

By Antonio Montalvan II

Philippine Daily Inquirer

7:26 pm | Sunday, June 16th, 2013

The hypothesis, nay, the generally favored conclusion, is that there was no Catholic vote in the last elections. The point has been belabored in several commentaries.

But what are the facts based on the election results? On this question, mainstream media have been mute. If this is a deliberate response, we can only let the facts speak.

If there was no Catholic vote in the last elections, why did six senatorial candidates who were against the Reproductive Health Law make it to the winning circle of 12? How explain this fact if the Catholic vote did not exist? Constituting half of this circle of winning senators, six is certainly not a bad number.

If there was no Catholic vote, why, despite the hard push for the candidacy of Risa Hontiveros, did she lose in the last elections—and it was a worse beating than in her previous run for the Senate three years ago? If her pro-RH position truly stood on solid Catholic teaching, why didn’t Catholic voters shower her with votes? Isn’t it possible that Hontiveros was junked by voters who wanted to uphold their Catholic beliefs and thus, theirs may have also been an expression of the Catholic vote?

To insist that there was no Catholic vote only invites more questions than answers. In fact, when we look at the election results, the claim that there was no Catholic vote seems to collapse even more as a hypothesis.

Consider, for instance, the results in the congressional elections. In the period following the voting in both houses of Congress on the RH bill, it was often said that both the proponents and the opposers would rally their constituents to their side. How did it go?

Assuming there indeed was no Catholic vote, why were there many winners among those who were anti-RH? In fact, 55 of them won. Count with me as I enumerate who they are.

1. Roman Romulo (Pasig) 2. Benjamin Asilo (Manila) 3. Naida Angping (Manila) 4. Trisha Bonoan David (Manila) 5. Amado Bagatsing (Manila) 6. Toby Tiangco (Navotas) 7. Maximo Dalog (Mountain Province) 8. Imelda Marcos (Ilocos Norte) 9. Pol Bataoil (Pangasinan) 10. Gina de Venecia (Pangasinan) 11. Randolph Ting (Cagayan) 12. Dax Cua (Quirino) 13. Albert Garcia (Bataan) 14. Joseph Violago (Nueva Ecija) 15. Czarina Umali (Nueva Ecija) 16. Sonny Collantes (Batangas) 17. Mark Mendoza (Batangas) 18. Isidro Rodriguez Jr. (Rizal) 19. Lani Revilla (Cavite) 20. Karlo Nograles (Davao City) 21. Budoy Madrona (Romblon) 22. Antonio Alvarez (Palawan; last termer, but his son won)

23. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) 24. Scott Lanete (Masbate) 25. Dato Arroyo (Camarines Sur) 26. Sal Fortuno (Camarines Sur) 27. Al Bichara (Albay) 28. Fernando Gonzales (Albay) 29. Cesar Sarmiento (Catanduanes) 30. Deogracias Ramos (Sorsogon) 31. Elmer Panotes (Camarines Norte) 32. Paolo Javier (Antique) 33. Arthur Robes 34. Arthur Yap (Bohol) 35. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu) 36. George Arnaiz (Negros Oriental) 37. Henry Teves (Negros Oriental) 38. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez (Leyte) 39. Lucy Torres Gomez (Leyte) 40. Boying Cari (Leyte) 41. Emil Ong (Northern Samar) 42. Rosendo Labadlabad (Zamboanga del Norte) 43. Jorge Almonte (Misamis Occidental) 44. Robert Puno (Antipolo) 45. Romeo Acop (Antipolo) 46. Peter Unabia (Misamis Oriental) 47. Pedro Romualdo (Camiguin; he passed away during the campaign, his grandson XJ Romualdo replaced him and won) 48. Thelma Almario (Davao Oriental) 49. Pedro Acharon 50. Manny Pacquiao (Sarangani) 51. Francisco Matugas (Surigao del Norte) 52. Guillermo Romarate Jr. (Surigao del Norte) 53. Florencio Garay (Surigao del Sur) 54. Tina Plaza (Agusan del Sur) 55. Bebs Mellana (Agusan del Sur).

Please note as well that of the anti-RH representatives, only nine didn’t make it. Still that makes for an 86-percent winning rate for those who voted against the RH bill. Would that not make for a Catholic vote?

Of the party-list groups that voted against the bill, eight easily made it. Of course, the top vote-getter on the list is Buhay of the Catholic group El Shaddai. The rest are Ako Bicol, Ating Koop, An Waray, A Teacher, 1-Care, Abamin, and LPGMA. Abamin—Abante Mindanao—swept the Northern Mindanao provinces and cities.

If there is no Catholic vote, then what is this?

Sam Miguel
06-17-2013, 08:53 AM
^^^ One could just as easily cite the fact that members of the so-called "Team Patay" also made it as winners in the last election.

This columnist engages us in a logical fallacy.

He is reducing to a single issue - stand on the RH Law - as the one and only indication of a "Catholic Vote", i.e. the politicians who were anti-RH / in league with the Catholic Church won therefore there must logically be a Catholic vote.

That friggin' RH Law meant close to nothing to the typical Filipino voter.

Pick out 10 people at random at say the bus station at Crossing-EDSA, or any bus station all along EDSA, and ask them if they know even the Top 10 salient points of the RH Law. I'd bet at least 9-out of-10 would just respond with a blank stare. If those be your typical voter, then the conclusion of this columnist is not only factually erroneous, but an obvious attempt to commit fraud and intellectual dishonesty.

Sam Miguel
06-24-2013, 10:57 AM
Portugal’s birthrate plummeting, a sign of more economic trouble ahead

By Anthony Faiola

Monday, June 24, 5:40 AM E-mail the writer


For an enterprise in the business of welcoming life, the birthing ward in Portugal’s largest maternity hospital is eerily quiet. On a recent morning, not a single expectant father nervously paced the orange laminated floors. Unhurried nurses pass rows of darkened rooms with empty beds, busying themselves with paperwork and a mere three women in labor.

Elsewhere in the hospital, signs of Europe’s crisis within a crisis are everywhere. Serving a country that was battling a low birthrate even before the region’s economy fell off a cliff, Alfredo da Costa Maternity Hospital delivered about 7,000 babies a year until recently. But with economic uncertainty causing young couples to rethink family plans or leave these shores for other countries, the number of births crashed last year to 4,500, leading the hospital to mothball an entire wing and slash 20 percent of the staff.

The recent fall in births across Portugal — to 89,841 babies in 2012, a 14 percent drop since 2008 — has been so acute that the national government is moving to close a slew of maternity wards nationwide. In an increasingly childless country, 239 schools are closing this year and sales of products such as baby diapers and children’s shampoos are plummeting.

At the same time, in the fast-graying interior, gas stations and motels are being converted into nursing homes even as stores selling toys and baby clothes shut their doors. Here in Lisbon, Alfredo da Costa — founded in 1932 when this once-great maritime nation still commanded a global empire — is on the chopping block, set for closure this year.

“We used to hear the best kind of cries in these halls, of babies,” said Teresa Tome, Alfredo da Costa’s head pediatrician, as she strode down the quiet birthing ward. She later added, “The recent decrease in births has been dramatic. This is because of the economic crisis, all the unemployment, all the uncertainty about the future. It is making a bad problem for the country worse.”

Portugal is at the forefront of Europe’s latest baby bust, one that is shorting the fuse on a time bomb of social costs in some of the world’s most rapidly aging societies.

As in many corners of the industrialized world, Europe has faced a gradual decline in birthrates since the 1960s. But in a number of the region’s hardest-hit countries, a modest rebound during the 2000s — when European governments welcomed immigrants and rolled out cash benefits for young couples starting families — has now gone into reverse.

Birthrates are falling again in several nations that are confronting massive unemployment, including Portugal, Spain, Greece, Ireland and Cyprus. The baby shortage, economists say, is set to pile on the woe for a swath of the continent that may already be facing a decade or more of economic fallout from the debt crisis that started in 2009.

By 2030, the retired population in Portugal, for instance, is expected to surge by 27.4 percent, with those older than 65 predicted to make up nearly one in every four residents. With fewer future workers and taxpayers being born, however, the Portuguese are confronting what could be an accelerated fiscal reckoning to provide for their aging population. Portugal is ahead of other nations in Europe in planning for those explosive costs. But some government officials here concede that far deeper cuts — as well as a push toward a united social security system within the European Union — may be needed to cope with what is turning out to be a worse-than-expected demographic crisis.

The diminishing number of young Portuguese could lead to a vacuum of dynamism and innovation in the years ahead, signaling what could be a long-term decline in the fortunes of nations in a region harboring some of the United States’ largest trading partners and closest political allies.

The U.S. birthrate has also come down sharply since the 1960s. But the United States is projected to witness a generous influx of immigrants in the years ahead while also maintaining a more robust birthrate than those European nations hit the hardest.

With deaths regularly outpacing births and both native-born Portuguese and immigrants from former colonies such as Brazil and Angola departing the country in large numbers, the population is falling. Some hold out hope that the birthrate will bounce back if and when the economy improves and young Portuguese feel more secure about their future.

But experts predict that the population loss ahead could be beyond even the worst-case predictions of nearly 1 million inhabitants fewer — or almost 10 percent of the current population of 10.56 million — by 2030. That has many here bemoaning the “disappearance” of a nation and asking: Who will be left to support a dying country of old men and women?

“This is one of the biggest problems we face as a nation,” said José Tavares, political economics professor at the Nova School of Business and Economics in Lisbon. “If we don’t find a way to fix this, we will be facing a disaster.”

Fearing for the future

Along the narrow, hilly streets of the inland municipality of Vila Velha de Rodao, Mafalda Diogo Sabino’s fame is already legendary. The local newspaper heralded her arrival in September with a half-page spread and a sycophantic goodie basket of oils and lotions delivered to her door. Every day since, seemingly everyone has wanted a piece of the fickle little celebrity, with her adoring fans shadowing her in the hopes of pinching an unsuspecting cheek or catching a glimpse of her now-fabled smile.

In this graying corner of the Iberian Peninsula, the 9-month-old’s claim to fame is merely being born.

Communities such as this one, a conglomeration of villages with a population of 3,600 — nearly half what it was in the 1970s — have become the ghost of Portugal’s future. Mafalda’s mother, Susana Diogo, 27, had to travel two hours by car in the summer heat to give birth at the nearest hospital able to handle an expectant mother with diabetes. Diogo and her husband, Mario Sabino, 32, worry about their daughter’s future in a town with only three other newborns and just one school.

“I wonder what Portugal will look like for both her and us by the time she gets older,” said Diogo, who lost her job when a nearby call center closed after she became pregnant.

Here, care for the elderly is the largest single public expenditure. Recent national cuts have reduced the number of seniors the town is able to help in its main adult day-care facility.

Local officials have sought to lure back young people, offering cash subsidies for new home buyers in an attempt to stem years of losses of working-age residents to inland cities and more prosperous countries. The town is providing preschool for next to nothing, using a corner of a nursing home for the children.

Seniors living at the home, such as Maria Jesus Rodrigues, 87, relish the contact with children during occasional mingling sessions.

“We used to have children everywhere when I was young. We never thought about the economic side; we just had them,” Rodrigues said. “But there are not so many now. Young people today are thinking more about how they will pay for children with so few jobs. I guess I understand.”

A few minutes later, Rodrigues, who moved to the home from her nearby village where the youngest resident is now 57, burst into a local folk song.

“I have to sing now,” she crooned, “because when I die, there will be no one left to sing for me.”

Catarina Martins contributed to this report.

Sam Miguel
07-04-2013, 02:49 PM
Church’s second best kept secret

By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:32 am | Thursday, July 4th, 2013

If the social teachings of the Catholic Church are sometimes considered its best kept secret, meaning that most Catholics do not know about them, or Church leaders have not made them known enough for members to live by them, what is its second best kept secret?

Not the scandals—sexual, financial or political—for these have occupied enough media space and air time. Not the hidden saintly lives worth emulating, for they come into the light sooner or later and gain following. Not the enormous wealth of the institution vis à vis the chosen poverty of those who wish to follow Jesus to the letter, for these sharp contrasts are obvious.

The Church’s “second best kept secret”—as those who wish to see it popularized and practiced impatiently call it—is the natural family planning (NFP) method. Second best kept secret because in spite of its supposed efficacy, not many know about it. Second best kept secret because those who should be advocating it (those fulminating against the recently passed Reproductive Health Law) are spending their energy badmouthing the RH advocates instead of buckling down to work to promote NFP. They are losing by default.

NFP is one of many means to plan family sizes or space births that the Catholic Church approves of, all the rest—contraceptives, abortion, vasectomy and tubal ligation—being anathema.

Two weeks ago I attended the daylong “Orientation to Population and Development” which tackled “challenges to the Filipino family today.” Among the event’s objectives was for participants to gain insight from the experiences in NFP of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro (CDO) and to engage Church people in a dialogue of faith on population and development issues. Also on the agenda was to explore areas of collaboration among Church and people’s groups in working for the wellbeing of Filipino families.

The organizers were from the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (Urban Missionaries, Women and Gender Concerns, and Center for Migrant Concerns) in partnership with the Philippine Center for Population and Development (PCPD). The gathering was an exercise in listening.

I came because I wanted to listen to CDO’s Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, the main speaker, who tackled pastoral perspectives on population and development and also shared his archdiocese’s experience in working with the PCPD. Yes, the PCPD, which does not hew to the Church’s blanket policy against artificial contraception but which includes NFP among the methods it supports—thus the PCPD-CDO archdiocese collaboration on NFP. Strange bedfellows? Not at all.

Just as enlightening was the talk of San Carlos University’s Dr. Socorro Gultiano who showed whether or not a country’s population is related to development. Felicitas C. Rixhon, executive director of PCPD, assured its support for NFP, as proven in the CDO archdiocese’s experience, but not NFP alone.

“Yes” to something. This is what Ledesma stressed in his talk, a departure from the nonstop “no” from anti-RH Law advocates who should be loudly saying “yes” to NFP.

Ledesma presented the three felt needs of couples in his archdiocese: They want family planning for family size and spacing; they prefer NFP plus adequate information on fertility awareness and NFP; they want to choose from among NFP methods to suit their own preferences.

In his paper titled “Promoting Natural Family Planning—Whose Move?” Ledesma said his pastoral experience included links with local government units and national government agencies over the past six years. Based on this, he has come up with recommendations for the government’s RH program.

These are: 1) The government, in promoting informed choice, should include NFP in its RH program. 2) In any government orientation on family planning, the first topic should be fertility awareness. 3) The government should provide information on all modern, scientifically tested NFP methods, including the simplified methods. 4) NFP requires values formation. 5) In its concern for maternal health, the government should give adequate information regarding the health risks of various kinds of contraceptives. 6) The government could set up a separate track for NFP promotion and provide support for faith-based organizations and their affiliated groups in promoting the values and methods of NFP.

On No. 2, Ledesma explained that fertility awareness entailed an understanding of human sexuality and nature’s way of regulating births through the fertility cycle of the human body. After the fertility awareness module, couples may be able to decide whether to go natural or use contraceptives. NFP methods are also called fertility-awareness-based methods, he said.

Many family life workers have told Ledesma that women who attended NFP seminars for the first time were not even aware that they had a natural cycle of fertile and infertile periods.

NFP is propoor, Ledesma stressed. “Once learned, there is no cost involved; it is sustainable across generations, with mothers passing on the method to their daughters.”

While speaking, Ledesma would often hold up a string of beads used in the Standard Days Method, supposedly the simplest. I asked if I could take a photo of him holding the beads and he said, sure. I said women would learn the method easily if they strung the beads themselves.

It is the local churches’ role, Ledesma said, to give information on all NFP methods (there are more than five) as a pastoral imperative, and that “proclamation more than denunciation” is the way to go, for Church leaders to be shepherds and companions, to lead with charity and compassion.

“You can’t simply condemn everyone who uses contraceptives,” he said.

Sam Miguel
07-08-2013, 08:37 AM
RH on trial: the real issues

By Oscar Franklin Tan

3:45 am | Monday, July 8th, 2013

The upcoming hearing on the Reproductive Health Act of 2012 has become a doctrinal chop suey. Hopefully, the country focuses on the two real issues: the limits of Supreme Court jurisdiction and an individual’s right to choose.

The doctrinal chop suey is the unwitting result of lawyers’ cavalier treatment of Supreme Court jurisdiction. The difference between a congressman and an unelected justice is that the latter may only act when he has a concrete case before him, and only to the extent demanded by that case’s resolution. When a judge acts outside a concrete case, he usurps legislative authority.

The key preliminary issue in the RH hearings is precisely whether there is a concrete case given that the law has not even been implemented. Where exactly are the alleged abortion-inducing items assailed even before the government drew up its list of contraceptives? How exactly were the religious beliefs of health workers violated by procedures assailed before they existed? A judge precisely cannot bind our society to rulings anchored on speculation and guesswork.

Heedless of the traditional “actual case” requirement, petitioners rushed to beg the high court to strike down the unimplemented law in the broadest and most general possible attacks. The lack of a concrete case to frame the issues and the high court’s eagerness to issue a restraining order invited the doctrinal chop suey. Amateur constitutionalists scoured the Constitution for every conceivable objection, down to word searches for the word “family.” Some petitioners discuss RH as a free-speech case, which is certainly strained. Finally, it was the most high-falutin’ argument that was repeatedly highlighted by the media, that the RH Act destroys the “ideals and aspirations” of the Filipino people, whatever that means.

The ultimate problem is not the doctrinal chop suey. In allowing the case to be framed so broadly and attacked from every conceivable angle all in the same proceeding, the high court has set up the possibility of a broad ruling. The recent US cases involving same-sex marriage demonstrate that a broad ruling is exactly what a supreme court should avoid in such a contentious issue. There, the US Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act but did not impose a national right to same-sex marriage. This leaves the question open at the state level and allows the United States to resolve the difficult issue through community consensus and continued debate, not judicial imposition. Should the Philippine Supreme Court rule broadly on the RH Act and on all the many issues raised, regardless of which side it upholds, a substantial segment of the citizenry will feel cheated out of a democratic outcome.

Going to the actual RH Act, the underlying issue is the right to choose (technically the core of what is called the right to privacy or right to make fundamental life decisions). So many less relevant discussions have confused the real issues. There is, for example, arguably no religious-freedom issue where a petitioner is actually claiming that the exercise of a right by other people violates that petitioner’s religious freedom. Similarly, because rights are individual, a judge should hesitate to restrict a right based on even the Constitution’s description—or a petitioner’s interpretation of a description—of what the family or another social institution is claimed to be. I would even consider arguably valid international law arguments raised by some petitioners to support the RH Act unfortunately confusing and dilutive. In short, the country should be objective over what is really a policy disagreement that should be in Congress and what is a genuine assertion of a human right that should be in the Supreme Court.

The right to choose is as fundamental as the freedoms of speech and religion. It has arguably been less explicit because large chunks deal with sexual relationships, including marriage and childbirth. The simple concept is that the Bill of Rights is distilled into a right to choose, a right to make fundamental decisions about one’s life without government interference. Corollary to this is whether the government should facilitate its citizens’ informed choices regarding parenting and childbearing. This underlying issue, I believe, really determines most of what is going to be debated over the RH Act.

The RH Act hearings are going to be fun to watch, and I recommend focusing on two parties. First, former health secretaries Esperanza Cabral, Jaime Galvez-Tan and Alberto Romualdez Jr. raise precisely the two cited issues. Their lawyers, Harry Roque and Elizabeth Pangalangan, are the leading University of the Philippines professors on international and family law, respectively.

Second, if a high-profile high-court hearing is a room of 800-pound gorillas, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza would clearly be Godzilla in that room. An undisputed ultraheavyweight and former international lawyer, a partner in one of the largest law firms, then general counsel of one of the largest conglomerates, Jardeleza deserves praise for taking the sometimes shotgun and slapdash petitions against the RH Act and synthesizing a single, comprehensive, impeccable reply. This is a repeat of the Office of the Solicitor General’s similar stellar performance during the Cybercrime Act hearings, and his team deserves praise for raising the bar of Philippine constitutional litigation.

Sam Miguel
07-09-2013, 08:16 AM
Showdown on RH law

High court hears arguments on Tuesday

By Jocelyn R. Uy, Christine O. Avendaño

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:00 am | Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Archbishop Socrates Villegas has resurrected the late Jaime Cardinal Sin’s policy of “critical collaboration,” saying prelates will attend as “conscience troublemakers” in Tuesday’s opening hearing in the Supreme Court on the controversial reproductive health (RH) law.

“We want to trouble consciences so every conscience listens to the voice of God,” said Villegas, Sin’s protégé who was elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Sunday.

“You must understand and accept that the Church is not a lobby group. The Church is not an NGO. The mission of the Church is truly spiritual so if we get involved in bills like the reproductive health, which is now a law, it is because our spiritual mission mandates us to do that,” Villegas told reporters on Monday at the close of the bishops’ three-day annual plenary.

Groups challenging the law will have the floor first in the Supreme Court hearing on the measure, which mandates the state to provide the poor access to contraceptive devices in a bid to control the country’s runaway growth rate.

The first five speakers include former Senators Francisco Tatad and Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Tatad will make a five-minute opening statement. Pimentel will argue why the law violates the autonomy of local governments and the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Lawyers Ma. Concepcion Noche will discuss the right to life, Luistro Liban will tackle freedom of religion and Luis Gil Gana will touch on implications of the measure in Muslim Mindanao.

Villegas, the incumbent CBCP vice president who will take over from Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma in December, disclosed that some bishops and priests would observe the opening hearing in the high tribunal on the petitions seeking to nullify the RH law not as a lobby group but as moral leaders.

To show the Church’s support for anti-RH advocates, Villegas said a Mass and a prayer vigil would be held Tuesday at Nuestra Señora de Guia Parish in Ermita, Manila, to be led by Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes.

“That’s our first support for the Supreme Court process … our first priority, our first contribution for social change is to show to the world that prayer has the power to change the world. We believe that one Mass, one sacrifice of Christ can change the entire cosmos and if it can change the entire cosmos, it can touch many consciences as well,” Villegas said.

The archbishop of Lingayen and Dagupan said that a blessing of the lay people who will argue the anti-RH position in the court would also be held following the Mass.

‘Critical collaboration’

The people should expect the Church to always speak up, Villegas said, when the rights of men and women are endangered, human dignities are violated or when the family is attacked, the poor suffer unjustly or the children at risk or abused.

“We are not against any political party, we are not against Gabriela. We are against anyone who would destroy the stability, solidity, integrity, and sanctity of the family,” he said.

Villegas said that the stand of the Catholic bishops was always to be in “critical collaboration” with the government, a kind of cooperation they have maintained even as early as the Marcos administration, although there were times they were more critical than collaborative and vice versa.

The Church will only be critical if it needs to be, he said, referring to the policy of Cardinal Sin, the late archbishop of Manila, during the martial law years under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“When common good is served by the government, you can count on the bishops to be in full collaboration [but] when [it] is compromised or when moral norms are violated, human dignity compromised, family attacked and human life becomes cheap, then necessarily and understandably you expect the bishops to be more critical,” Villegas stressed.

Not social troublemakers

Saying that the Church was sustaining its critical collaboration with the present administration, he said these things were not unique to the Philippines but was also happening worldwide.

This is the reason the Vatican has called on Christians across the world to ensure the protection of human dignity, he said.

“We are not a political group. We are neither the opposition nor administration. Our position is always the position of Christ,” Villegas added.

“Our work as Churchmen is not to be social troublemakers. We are conscience troublemakers because we want to trouble consciences so every conscience listens to the voice of God,” Villegas said.

“So please respect our identity as a Church and it is consciences we appeal to and it is morality that we stand on. So I hope this clarifies the position of the CBCP with regard to the RH law with the Supreme Court,” he added.

The Church becomes critical depending on the issue and not because it liked or disliked those sitting in government, said Manila Auxilliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, who appeared at the CBCP press conference along with Palma and Reyes.

“Our actions are guided not by what we like or what we don’t like but by social teachings of the Church,” Pabillo said.

No pass, no entry

Aware of the big interest in the suspended RH law, the Supreme Court is making sure it would be able to accommodate those who wish to listen to the oral arguments.

The court said it would strictly enforce a “no pass, no entry” policy in certain areas that it had designated for public viewing of the debates.

The oral arguments will be held in the main session hall, while monitors will be placed in three areas—the division hearing room and the main lobby, both in the main grounds, and the training room of the Centennial building.

The high court was supposed to hold the oral arguments on June 18 but reset it for Tuesday because it had acted on several other petitions for and against the law.

There are 15 petitions challenging the RH law while six intervenors are seeking to uphold its legality.

The six include Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, former Health Secretaries Esperanza Cabral, Jaime Galvez Tan and Alberto Romualdez, Joanne de Venecia et al., Sen. Pia Cayetano, the Filipino Catholic Voices for Reproductive Health Inc. and the Interfaith Partnership for Responsible Parenthood Inc.

Sam Miguel
07-09-2013, 09:42 AM
A ‘silent crisis’

By Rina Jimenez-David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:48 pm | Monday, July 8th, 2013

The numbers alone paint an alarming picture. Between the years 2000 and 2010, pointed out Carmelita Ericta, administrator of the National Statistics Office, the number of babies born to teenage mothers (aged 15-19 years) rose from 7.1 percent to 11.7 percent.

In the same period, the proportion of all maternal deaths among teenagers doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent, while around 18 percent of teenage girls reported experiencing physical and sexual violence.

That isn’t even the entire picture. Young mothers are having their babies and raising them in large part by themselves, or with the help of their parents or families. This is because the number of marriages has declined in the past decade, with the proportion of teenage couples currently standing at 1.8 percent.

It is a difficult enough situation for a teenager finding herself pregnant or responsible for a newborn, even as she struggles with issues of identity and autonomy. But add to this the “stigma” attached to premarital or premature pregnancy, and factors like lack of education, absence of employable skills or relationship troubles, and we have a life gone awry multiplied thousands of times.

“It’s about time this issue is discussed thoroughly,” said Percival Cendaña, a commissioner of the National Youth Commission, at the press conference organized by The Forum for Family Planning and Development Inc. “Teenage pregnancy is a ‘silent crisis’ in this country, for while the trend is waning in the rest of the world, in the Philippines the number of teenage pregnancies is on the rise.”

Getting pregnant in one’s teens, added Cendaña, can have lifelong consequences. While the Department of Education has already issued guidelines that pregnant public school students should not be penalized by suspension or expulsion, Cendaña said it’s another story with private schools, especially, I think, Catholic high schools. In many cases, the administrators would either expel a pregnant student outright (even if the father of her child is exempt from sanctions) or refuse permission for her to march during graduation. “This has an impact on the social mobility of young women,” Cendaña pointed out, “and affects their ability to find a job and nurture and educate their own children.”

Indeed, separate studies have shown that teenage pregnancy goes beyond a single lifetime, since the daughters and sons of adolescent parents “inherit” their lack of access to education and jobs and end up as teenage parents themselves.

* * *

In response, said Cendaña, schools, families and civil society groups (including Churches) should provide young people “comprehensive sexuality education.” This, he said, goes beyond “just” sex education, but also “values formation paired with scientific information” to help young people “make the right decisions.”

Global studies, he added, have long shown and determined that “young people who are made aware of the implications of sexual activity will postpone their sexual debut.”

In their visits around the country talking to young people in and outside school, added Cendaña, he has encountered many of the myths that prove “how lack of access to information has affected so many youth.”

For one, he said, so many teenagers “still believe that if a girl stands up right after sex, she will not get pregnant, or if she pees right after, her partner’s sperm will not be able to get her pregnant.” Laughable, true, but “with uninformed young people getting their information about sex from other, similarly uninformed young people,” the misconceptions tend to spread and persist.

Other reasons for the rising levels of adolescent pregnancy, said Cendaña, could be the “evolving nature of women’s bodies,” with menarche or the onset of menstruation occurring earlier in life and possibly before a girl could be properly oriented about this stage of life. Then there is “the changing social context,” with speedy and easily broken relationships becoming the norm, and “the high level of physical attraction” obtaining among young people.

* * *

Adolescent pregnancy happens to be the theme of World Population Day, which is observed worldwide on July 11 (Thursday).

In his message, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UN Population Fund, stressed that “Adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue, it is a development issue. It is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and forced marriage, power imbalances between adolescent girls and their male partners, lack of education, and the failure of systems and institutions to protect their rights.”

So it was serendipitous, too, that the press conference took place a day before the first hearings on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law, which will be discussed in the Supreme Court today.

Among the matters to be debated at the high tribunal is the right of young people to more and better sexuality education, which some of the petitioners have decried as a “violation” of parents’ right to exercise authority over their children, including their right to inform (or not) their children about their bodies, their sexuality and their responsibilities.

Survey after survey, including a recent one conducted by the Social Weather Stations and sponsored by The Forum, has shown that, by and large, young people believe in the importance of sexuality education and in fact clamor for it.

And as the experience of the past decade has shown, when we ignore our responsibilities as parents and adults, we abandon our children to unplanned, mistimed pregnancy and a life sentence of poverty and missed chances. We reap what we (fail to) sow.

Sam Miguel
07-09-2013, 09:48 AM
Pro, anti-RH law advocates face off today

By Edu Punay

(The Philippine Star) | Updated July 9, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Critics and advocates of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act will finally face off today in a debate before the Supreme Court (SC) on the legality of the controversial law.

Two former senators – Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Francisco Tatad – will lead the petitioners in challenging the constitutionality of Republic Act 10354.

Tatad, who was senator from 1992 to 2001, was tasked to give a five-minute statement for the 15 groups that have asked the high court to strike down the law for allegedly violating the fundamental freedom of religion and expression at the start of oral arguments.

Pimentel, a former Senate president and acknowledged as the father of the Local Government Code, will also face the justices of the SC to present arguments to prove that the law violates the autonomy of local governments and the equal protection clause under Article III Section 1 of the Constitution.

He is expected to assail portions of the law that tasks the local government units (LGUs) to hire nurses, midwives, and other skilled health workers; train village health workers in promoting reproductive health; remove barriers to reproductive health services for persons with disabilities; and lead a nationwide multimedia-campaign to raise awareness on reproductive health.

Pimentel will also contest portions of the law that limit free services to indigent women to reproductive health care providers only; and prioritizes the poor in the provisions of reproductive health care, information and supplies.

Another lawyer arguing against the law is Maria Concepcion Noche, who will try to convince the magistrates that the law violates the constitutional right to life and right to health.

Luisito Liban, on the other hand, will tackle how the law allegedly violates the right to religion, right to free speech, academic freedom, and “proscription on involuntary servitude.”

Lastly, Luis Gana is tasked to tackle how the law violates the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The 15 consolidated petitions were filed by couple James and Lovely-Ann Imbong, non-profit group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (ALFI), Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City, Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc., Expedito Bugarin, Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines, Philippine Alliance of Ex-Seminarians Inc., Reynaldo Echavez, Tatad and his wife Ma. Fenny, a group of doctors represented by lawyer Howard Calleja, Millenium Saint Foundation Inc., Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Inc., a group of Catholic students represented by the legal office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Catholic lay group Couples For Christ Foundation (CFC), and Almarim Centi Tillah and Abdul Hussein Kashim.

After all counsels for the petitioners have spoken, the respondents will be allowed to argue why the law is constitutional.

Named respondents in the petitions were Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

The six intervenors in the case will then present their arguments in support of the RH law.

They are former Akbayan party-list Rep.Risa Hontiveros, former health secretaries Esperanza Cabral, Jaime Galvez-Tan and Alberto Romualdez Jr.; the group of 2005 Bar topnotcher Joan de Venecia; Sen. Pia Cayetano, sponsor of the measure in the Senate; the Catholics for Reproductive Health and Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood Inc.; and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, author of the law in the House of Representatives.

Under the guidelines released by the SC last week, the magistrates led by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno would interpellate each counsel.

If the debate does not end today, it would continue in another oral argument on July 23, the SC advisory added.

The SC issued last March 19 a 120-day status quo ante order enjoining the government from implementing the assailed law.

The petitioners argued that the RH law “negates and frustrates the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino people as enshrined in the Constitution.”

They cited Article II Section 12 of the Constitution, which states: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of government.”

Petitioners said at least 11 provisions in RA 10354, which allow couples to choose to suppress life, violate this constitutional provision.

The intervenors, on the other hand, argued that the constitutional rights of couples would not be violated since they are not being compelled by the new law.

They said the RH law does not violate the constitutional freedom of choice and right to privacy.

The pro-RH groups further stressed that under the law, adults are still free to reject information relating to reproductive health provided by the government “for whatever personal reason which may or may not be related to their religious beliefs.”

Sam Miguel
07-09-2013, 09:49 AM
Teenage maternal deaths up – NSO

By Sheila Crisostomo

(The Philippine Star) | Updated July 9, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The number of teenage girls getting pregnant has risen while the number of underage marriages has decreased in the span of a decade.

National Statistics Office (NSO) administrator Carmelita Ericta said yesterday babies born to teenage mothers increased from seven to 11 percent from 2000 to 2010, despite the rising trend of maternal deaths among teenagers in the country.

Ericta, who spoke at a forum organized by the non-governmental organization Forum for Family Planning and Development, said the proportion of maternal deaths doubled from 5 to 10 percent between 2000 and 2010.

The NSO reported that 616 girls below 15 years old gave birth to their first baby in 2000 while 102,724 from the age group 15-19 became mothers.

Ten years later, the figures rose to 1,260 and 174,085, respectively.

Maternal deaths among those aged 15 to 19 rose from 96 to 164 from 2000 to 2010.

Ericta noted that while more teenage girls got pregnant, the number of married teenage couples had gone down from 12,790 to 8,473 during the period.

Forum president Benjamin de Leon cited the need for all sectors to work together to help address adolescent reproductive health issues and teen pregnancy because of their health and economic implications to the country.

“A high rate of teen pregnancy also means a high risk for maternal deaths among our young girls,” De Leon said.

Based on the 2011 Annual Report of the United Nations Population Fund-Philippines, teenage pregnancy in the country rose from 114,205 in 1999 to 195,662 in 2009.

Globally, 14 to 16 million girls between 15 and 19 give birth annually and pregnancy-related conditions are the primary cause of deaths for this age group.

“It is alarming that almost 10 percent of all Filipino women aged 15-19 have already given birth – a reality that we must address,” De Leon said.

He added that teenage pregnancy could be addressed through better policies, improved education and information campaigns and programs to reach adolescents in schools, communities or wherever they may be.

Sam Miguel
07-10-2013, 08:13 AM
SC: When does life begin?

Question dominates hearing on RH law

By Christine O. Avendaño

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:01 am | Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The age-old debate on when life begins unfolded in the Supreme Court on Tuesday at the start of a hearing on the constitutionality of the reproductive health (RH) law.

Justices asked petitioners against the now suspended law to explain their position that life begins with the union of the egg and the sperm and that this was why they wanted the court to stop the implementation of the measure that would allow the distribution of contraceptives.

The petitioners held that hormonal contraceptives specifically were abortifacients.

Lawyer Concepcion Noche found herself defending the position of the anti-RH petitioners that conception began in fertilization as against the contention of pro-RH advocates that life began when the fertilized egg embeded itself in the uterus of a woman.

But this early, some justices led by Antonio Carpio and Marvic Leonen expressed skepticism on the competence of the court to rule on the constitutionality of the RH law.

“It is now a question of when does conception occur—the time of fertilization or upon the implantation from the walls of the uterus. So, you are asking the 15 members of this court, none of whom are doctors, to decide when conception happens?” Carpio asked Noche, the first speaker in Tuesday’s proceedings.

Leonen said that the petitioners were giving an “awesome” responsibility to the magistrates to make such a determination, and not the 24 senators, the 200 members of Congress and the President who were elected, and in the process “making us a super-agency.”

Theological questions

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno said the high court was not there to answer “metaphysical” and “theological” questions but to balance the interests of the unborn child with other Constitutional values and objectives.

Sereno said the petitioners had put the high court whose members were not elected in a difficult position, especially because the Constitution did not define conception as fertilization.

Sereno, Carpio and Leonen were among five justices who voted against the issuance of the status quo ante order on the law’s implementation for 120 days on March 19.

The first hearing lasted five hours and heard mainly those opposing the legislation. The proceedings will resume on July 23.

Population control

As proponents and opponents of the RH law noisily held their separate programs outside the Supreme Court, the oral arguments kicked off with former Sen. Francisco Tatad contending that the RH law had not only divided the nation but threatened to divide the nation further.

Tatad is one of 15 petitioners challenging the law, which mandates the state to provide the poor with reproductive health services, including access to contraceptives and sex education to schoolchildren.

“The RH law is neither a responsible parenthood nor health measure but a planned parenthood and population control measure,” said Tatad, who was tasked to give the opening statement of the anti-RH petitioners.

The law imposes population control through government-mandated contraception and, among others, redefines the purpose of marriage and denies the basic right of couples to procreate on their own free will, he said.

By being a provider of contraceptives, Tatad said, the Aquino administration has violated not only the Constitution but also international laws such as the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, which the country ratified in 1950.

When life begins

Noche maintained that life began with the union of the sperm and the egg and that preventing this union through contraceptives violates the right of the unborn to life.

“The fertilized ovum has life and is human,” she said. IUDs and hormonal contraceptives are abortifacient and vasectomy is mutilation, she added.

Likewise, she noted that Section 12 Article 2 of the 1987 Constitution guaranteed that Congress and the Supreme Court would not pass any proabortion legislation and decisions.

“Let the voice of the unborn be heard in the august halls of the tribunal. Let their voice be you,” Noche said.

On Carpio’s questioning, Noche maintained that records of the 1986 Constitutional Commission were very clear that conception meant fertilization.

She also held that the intent of the commission was not to leave to Congress the question of when life begins.

Both Leonen and Sereno pointed out to Noche that the Constitution did not mention fertilized ovum but conception and what it meant, but Noche said the definition of conception was settled by the constitutional commission.

Protection of life

Leonen said the court was “not a political organ but a court of law.”

“We read what is produced, look at facts and the law and make it harmonious with the law,” he said.

Leonen asked Noche what was wrong if the state made available contraceptives to the public. Noche replied that her primary focus was “preserving and protecting the life of the unborn from the moment it exists.”

She said the state failed to provide “informed consent” to the people on available choices, adding that it was the government, not the people, who was making the choices for them.

Leonen also asked whether the issue on the RH law was “justiceable” when there was no actual controversy on the law. But Noche cited two rulings where she said that the mere enactment of a bill was a subject of court action.

Sam Miguel
07-11-2013, 08:58 AM
Questions, questions

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:42 pm | Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The first day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court, on the multiple petitions to declare the controversial Reproductive Health Law unconstitutional, turned out to be very instructive. The biggest lesson of all: Supreme Court justices are only too aware of the limits of their role.

The arguments began on a hysterical note, with former senator Francisco Tatad, one of the 15 petitioners, equating the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 with genocide. Fortunately, such shameless, overheated and ultimately empty rhetoric did not merit a closer look from the justices.

It was the first counsel for the petitioners, Concepcion Noche, who found herself the target of many of the justices’ pointed questions.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, for instance, quizzed Noche on the fundamental lack of conflict between the actual text of the law and the Constitution’s prolife provisions. Since the law protects fertilization, “same as your position,” Carpio asked, “then why are you here?”

As we have argued in this space, the main arguments of the anti-RH Law advocates are based on a willful mistrust of the law’s actual text, the notion that it does not in fact mean what it plainly says.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen joined Carpio in asserting the old axiom that the Court is not a trier of facts. Questioning Noche’s assumption that all the contraceptives referenced in the law are abortion-inducing, Leonen asked: “If we are to take a factual position that all contraceptives are abortifacient, don’t you think that it is irresponsible on our part?”

Carpio for his part demanded to know: “Where is the certification of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)? You should have gone first to the FDA and test [the contraceptives]. After you have gone to the FDA, if you disagree, you come here but not now … You are jumping the gun.”

As we have argued before, the leading opponents of the RH Law have an interesting relationship to the facts: They argue as if their worst fears about the effects of the new law (population decline, increase in number of abortions, rampant immorality) are not speculation but hard fact. But in Tuesday’s oral arguments, we heard the justices chide the petitioners for asking the Court, in effect, to verify their facts for them.

The most resonant interventions from the bench involved the Supreme Court’s role in policymaking—or, rather, the lack thereof.

Carpio approached the issue from competence: “It is now a question of when does conception occur—the time of fertilization or upon the implantation in the walls of the uterus. So, you are asking the 15 members of this court, none of whom are doctors, to decide when conception happens?”

Leonen saw the issue in political terms, and characterized the underlying thrust of the petitioners’ argument as an invalid attempt to make the Court exercise a political power it does not have. “The petition against the RH Law gives lawmaking power from the Executive and Legislative to the Supreme Court.” He also said: The Court is “not a political organ but a court of law.”

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno at first phrased her reservations in similar policy terms: “Are we in a position to supplant Congress in a policy direction?” But her main concern was philosophical: Unless there was manifest showing of grave abuse of discretion, the Supreme Court must adhere to the legal philosophy of judicial restraint: “This Court may exercise judicial restraint unless you have to show us a way out. You have to provide us tools.”

At one point, she even told Noche pointblank: “By your responses, it is clear that you are grappling with your answers, which make me think this Court might not be the right venue [for this case].”

As we have argued previously, the charge of grave abuse of discretion, the only exception to the so-called political-question doctrine, cannot be credibly raised against the RH Law. Its passage took a decade and a half; innumerable attempts at compromise, even with the Catholic Church; and then finally a close conscience vote in Congress. Without the charge, the petitions against the law have absolutely nothing to stand on.

And yet those who support the new law cannot afford to be complacent. After all, the Supreme Court voted 10-5 to hear the petitions in the first place; many of the questions that stumped Noche came from those justices who voted against. It’s a long way from oral arguments to favorable judgment.

Sam Miguel
07-15-2013, 09:21 AM
‘Conscientious objectors’ to RH

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:39 pm | Sunday, July 14th, 2013

The story is told—a true story, I am assured—of a priest in the staff of a seminary, who was feeling overwhelmed by the number of seminarians going to his room for confession. In self-defense he put up a sign outside his room saying, “Mortal Sins Only.” It effectively shortened the line of troubled penitents.

I would not consider this an example of a conscientious objector, but it is remotely analogous. The name “conscientious objector” is of military origin. It refers to people who refuse to go to war for religious reasons. Examples abound and they date back to as early as the 16th century wars, when William the Silent granted the Dutch Mennonites the right to refuse military service in exchange for a monetary payment. Since then many people have been executed, imprisoned, or otherwise penalized for acting according to their beliefs. But as Muhammad Ali put it, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong…. They never called me nigger.”

The implementation of the Reproductive Health Law does not involve warfare but it has occasioned intense skirmishing among various religious groups. In an earlier article, I wrote about the controversy as a war of religions. It is no surprise therefore that the concept “conscientious objector” has crept into the RH Law.

In the enumeration of punishable acts, Section 23(3) mentions: “(3) [Refusal] to extend quality health care services and information on account of the person’s marital status, gender, age, religious convictions, personal circumstances, or nature of work: Provided, That the conscientious objection of a health care service provider based on his/her ethical or religious beliefs shall be respected; however, the conscientious objector shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible . . .”

The rules and regulations for implementing this provision elaborate on penal provision. The rules make a distinction between “Private Skilled Health Professionals” who are conscientious objectors and “Public Skilled Health Professionals,” i.e., between private practitioners and government employees. For the private health practitioner, the rules and regulations allow him/her to put up a sign on the door to his/her office “enumerating the reproductive health services he or she refuses to provide.” The sign would be as effective as the “Mortal Sins Only” sign of the seminary priest.

For the public health professional, however, it is more complicated: “a) The skilled health professional shall explain to the client the limited range of services he/she can provide; b) Extraordinary diligence shall be exerted to refer the client seeking care to another skilled health professional or volunteer willing and capable of delivering the desired reproductive health care service within the same facility; c) If within the same health facility, there is no other skilled health professional or volunteer willing and capable of delivering the desired reproductive health care service, the conscientious objector shall refer the client to another specific health facility or provider that is conveniently accessible in consideration of the client’s travel arrangements and financial capacity; d) Written documentation of compliance with the preceding requirements.”

For some opponents of the RH Law this is definitely not enough. Aside from the fact that it can be a cumbersome procedure, the opponents also consider this equivalent to making them tell others where the sinful medical procedure can be accessed, aside from violating a person’s freedom not to say anything. Equivalently, they consider it telling a person to jump out of the frying pan into the fire!

If they really are so conscientious, how would they in conscience not provide for the health needs of those who cannot afford private health services? Is it not a fact that referrals to other doctors is common in the medical profession? If a doctor feels that he or she is not competent to handle a problem, it is normal for him or her to refer the patient to someone else more competent. Competence or incompetence, after all, is a very broad term. It can include religious incompetence.

But then, rejoice! The RH Law might be the occasion for the creation of more Filipino saints. Look at the possible penalties involved for the prohibited acts:

“SEC. 24. Penalties.—Any violation of this Act or commission of the foregoing prohibited acts shall be penalized by imprisonment ranging from one (1) month to six (6) months or a fine of Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) to One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00), or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the competent court: Provided, That, if the offender is a public officer, elected or appointed, he/she shall also suffer the penalty of suspension not exceeding one (1) year or removal and forfeiture of retirement benefits depending on the gravity of the offense after due notice and hearing by the appropriate body or agency.”

How many public functionaries in the health services can avail themselves of these opportunities for beatification? Although the possible penalties do not include beheading or burning at the stake, they are tough enough to make saints or blessed out of ordinary public servants.

You might say that they would be foolish to risk such punishment. But saints are fools for Christ, are they not?

Sam Miguel
07-17-2013, 10:01 AM
SC votes 8-7 to extend suspension of RH Law

By Edu Punay

(The Philippine Star) | Updated July 17, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Government efforts to address the country’s runaway population and rising maternal deaths have suffered another setback following a Supreme Court order extending its freeze on implementation of the Reproductive Health Law.

The High Tribunal voted 8-7 in session yesterday to extend the 120-day status quo ante order issued last March 19 and which is to expire today.

In a press conference, SC spokesman Theodore Te said the status quo ante order would remain in effect “until further orders from the court.” He did not reveal the details of the voting by the magistrates.

In the original status quo ante order, the SC magistrates voted 10-5. Malacañang called the SC order unfortunate.

After the oral arguments on the 15 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the RH law last July 9, two justices expressed belief that the law should now be implemented. Te declined to name the two justices.

The SC set the resumption of oral arguments on July 23.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez welcomed the decision, saying the SC justices should remain steadfast in opposing the RH Law to “protect the country from going into the abyss of the liberal society.”

“We laud the SC ruling extending the status quo ante order against the RH law,” Rodriguez told The STAR.

“All of us pro-life pray that they would stand firm and objective and in the final decision strike down the RH law for not only being destructive of our sacred moral values, but also for being violative of the Constitution,” he said.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III said the SC decision was “God answering the prayers of the faithful.”

He said the order was a strong indication that the high court would eventually declare the law unconstitutional.

He said the Constitution mandates that the state shall protect the founding of the family as well as the right to religion.


Senator Pia Cayetano expressed her disappointment over the SC decision, saying “it sends the wrong message to women of our country.”

Cayetano, the principal author and sponsor of the RH bill in the Senate, said that she was present during the oral arguments last week and found the presentations made by the petitioners “quite weak.”

“To me, it sends the wrong message to the women of our country. As we debate this, there are women who are sacrificing, dying, losing their children and being placed in a situation where they would undergo abortion,” Cayetano said.

She reiterated her appeal to critics from the religious sector to observe the principle of separation of church and state and let the people decide on the bill based on an objective presentation of facts.

She said the Catholic Church and other religious groups may have exerted pressure on the faithful.

“Remember, this is not an abortion law. This is a law providing access to reproductive health services and information. If at all it’s a law providing access to contraceptives, not abortion,” she said.

“So I am appealing to all those concerned to have an open mind and listen to the arguments because to stand in the way of one’s religious views would be contrary to our obligation to uphold the Constitution,” she added.

Cayetano pointed out that the Constitution provides for the separation of church and state and so personal religious beliefs should not influence policy-making decisions.

Opponents of the RH Law believe the law violates the right to life under Section 12, Article 2 of the Constitution as it introduces a new definition of conception, which is implantation or when the fertilized egg cell reaches the uterus. They said this is contrary to the true definition of conception, which is fertilization.

Lawyer Ma. Concepcion Noche, one of the petitioners representing the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, presented this argument before the SC in the previous oral argument. Some justices rebuffed her, saying the high court might not be the best venue to resolve an issue that even the medical profession has not conclusively resolved.

In the next hearing, lawyer Luisito Liban is expected to discuss how the law allegedly violates the rights to religion, free speech, and academic freedom, as well as the “proscription on involuntary servitude.” Another lawyer, Luis Gana, will try to convince the high court that the law violates the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr. has also submitted to the high court his arguments on how the law violates autonomy of local government units including ARMM.

The 15 consolidated petitions against the RH Law were filed by couple James and Lovely-Ann Imbong, non-profit group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (ALFI), Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City, Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc., lawyer Expedito Bugarin, Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xyberspace Apostolate of the Philippines, Philippine Alliance of Ex-Seminarians Inc., Dr. Reynaldo Echavez, former Sen. Tatad and his wife Ma. Fenny, a group of doctors represented by lawyer Howard Calleja, Millenium Saint Foundation Inc., Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Inc., a group of Catholic students represented by the legal office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Catholic lay group Couples For Christ Foundation (CFC) and Almarim Centi Tillah and Abdul Hussein Kashim.

After the petitioners finish presenting their arguments, the government through the Office of the Solicitor General will defend the RH law along with six intervenors in the case.

Named respondents in the case were Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

The six intervenors aside from Cayetano are former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, former Health secretaries Esperanza Cabral, Jaime Galvez-Tan and Alberto Romualdez Jr.; the group of 2005 Bar topnotcher Joan De Venecia; the Catholics for Reproductive Health and Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood Inc.; and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, author of the law in the House of Representative. – With Paolo Romero, Aurea Calica, Mayen Jaymalin, Marvin Sy

07-26-2013, 10:47 PM
RH Day 2: Referees throw punches
By Oscar Franklin Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10:09 pm | Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Two strong anti-RH arguments were buried under misrepresented doctrine and justices’ seeming anti-RH speeches last Tuesday, Day 2 of the oral arguments on the Reproductive Health Act at the Supreme Court.

Day 1 was a dismal failure. Former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad called the law genocide. Ma. Concepcion Noche declined to establish the Court’s jurisdiction, so multiple justices asked whether her political claims belonged in Congress. Her entire argument was that contraceptives cause abortion but was unable to respond when Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio asked her to specify the phrase she objects to given that the law prohibits abortifacients. There is no case to try if there is no objection.

Luisito Liban, senior partner of top firm SyCip Salazar whose head Rafael Morales was a prominent nominee for chief justice, opened Day 2 with the two most reasonable anti-RH claims. First, a Catholic health worker is forced to sin, in his view, when he is forced to refer a patient to another worker who may advise contraception. Second, mandatory sex education infringes on Catholic parents’ rights to raise their children.

Liban too weakly defended these. Carpio asked if marijuana may be used in a religious ceremony. Liban said “neutral” antidrug laws are valid, failing to raise retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s “benevolent accommodation” of religion. Justice Marvic Leonen argued he cannot prevent schools from teaching law because he wants to teach his daughter himself, and Liban declined to argue some parents may feel a school’s teaching conflicts with theirs. The lack of an “actual case” makes it difficult to visualize such tension. Justice Mariano del Castillo suggested that sanctions on health workers may be removed and parents may opt out of sex education, which Liban conceded.
Liban’s position was flawed. First, his two narrow claims do not support the broad chop suey attack—hardly all Catholics are health workers—and the premature challenge to the unimplemented RH Act means there are no facts.

Second, he misrepresented doctrine. He claimed that mandatory sex education in public but not private schools discriminates against public school students by burdening them with longer hours. Such a trivial discrimination claim was last seen when the Court nullified the proposed truth commission to investigate former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration because suspected corrupt officials from other administrations were excluded.

Carpio laughed and said many laws would be unconstitutional under Liban’s argument that the RH Act is nondiscriminatory only if it tries to cure all illnesses. Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno asked if Liban was truly serious in raising discrimination and advised him to focus on religious freedom.

Liban also invoked free speech, which does not cover the act of medical diagnosis. He argued that contraceptives cause everything from cancer to heart attack. He told Justice Presbitero Velasco he was expanding Noche’s stand to: All contraceptives are unconstitutional if distributed by the government for violation of the very abstract right to health. But he conceded to Carpio that the Court would likely not overrule Food and Drug Administration findings on contraceptives’ health risks for lack of medical competence.

He decried an aging population to Carpio because the Constitution upholds labor. His invocations degenerated to the point that Leonen asked him whether the Court has the power to police sex. He also claimed the poor are coerced to use contraceptives and that this is now a condition in the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program, but conceded the RH Act prohibits coercion by public officers and employers and that CCT is not in issue.

Justices’ seeming anti-RH speeches further diluted early points. Justice Roberto Abad opened questioning by asking whether prevention of implantation is abortion, which Liban did not discuss and Carpio noted was not in issue. He implied that contraceptives permanently impair women’s ovaries and cause physical deformities in babies. He most controversially raised “judicial notice”—the Court “needs only common sense, not medical evidence”—and read out the side effects detailed in an oral contraceptive.

Each year, evidence classes criticize how the Court declared former President Joseph Estrada resigned based on newspaper reports after the 2001 Edsa II rallies. Leonen read out another ominous list—enclosed with paracetamol—and noted all medicines have side effects.
Justice Jose Mendoza asked Liban if overpopulation is a “compelling interest.” Liban digressed into human capital’s role in the Industrial Revolution. Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe asked what the “compelling state interest” is in enabling the poor to have sex day and night. Justice Arturo Brion asked, “Is promiscuity a part of our culture?” and “Is the RH Law … consistent with ‘matuwid na daan?’” then asked Liban to produce statistical data on the RH Act’s “hidden costs.” Liban spoke of an assault by “Western-sponsored culture” where 12-year-olds engage in “multiple sex.” Carried away, he addressed Brion as “Lord.”

Many other emotional exchanges ranged from Liban labeling “a piece of legislation that has gone berserk” that “trumps the right of future generations to be conceived,” to Sereno criticizing him for outlining a “utopian society” to a Court that is “not the decision-maker on resource allocation.” Pro-RH Twitter underestimated Liban, but if this is as far as a SyCip senior partner can take the legal arguments, only divine intervention can strike down the RH Act.

Sam Miguel
07-29-2013, 01:26 PM
RH Law on center stage

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:58 pm | Sunday, July 28th, 2013

I have listened to more than 10 hours of oral arguments on the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law. No, I did not make a martyr of myself in the session hall of the Supreme Court. But thanks to the Supreme Court website, I was able to listen to two five hours of not exactly scintillating sessions through my computer, and at my leisure. More five-hour sessions are promised.

So far we have heard two lawyers both arguing against constitutionality. I admire the patience of the justices. First, I heard them bombarded with arguments heavily medical and biological in nature. They evoked the comment of one justice that perhaps they should first go to the Food and Drug Administration for an opinion on the safety of the drugs they were against. I did not hear the name of the drugs which are considered culprits.

Second, I heard arguments on freedom of speech, free exercise of religion heavily laced with arguments from moral theology. This one evoked the comment that perhaps the matter should be brought to the Congregation of the Faith in Rome.

The debate, of course, is by no means finished and it will go on with sustained intensity. The battle lines will continue to be drawn along moral fronts, often dependent on factual issues and where our people divide largely on the basis of religious belief, and of course along constitutional lines. I am also aware that people are often tempted to consider whatever they do not agree with as unconstitutional.

I have written about constitutional issues and so let me recall some that are being dealt with in the oral arguments and the background of the position I have taken on those issues.

An area of constitutional law which cannot be avoided is Article II titled, “Declaration of Principles and State Policies.” The “policies” referred to are found in Sections 7 to 28. Except for one or two of them, the sections do not contain commands that are ready for implementation. Unlike the provisions of the Bill of Rights, they await implementing legislation from Congress.

There is a wide range of options open for Congress to use in implementing them. In the process of choosing, there necessarily will be a wide room for debate to determine what is best for the welfare of the nation. In the debate, conflicting value judgments will come into play. But as the “Compendium on the Social Teaching of the Church” notes, “Those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority.”

Two provisions in Article II will play a starring role in the constitutional debate. They are Section 11 and Section 12. They have already surfaced in the ongoing oral arguments.

Section 11 says: “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” But this provision will not give the judiciary a handle for passing judgment on the constitutionality of the RH Law. It is a motherhood statement. And the supporters of the RH Law will simply say that this is precisely the reason why they have made an effort to make the law reflect this nondebatable value. But the opponents of the RH Law say that the law promotes a “contraceptive mentality” that leads to disrespect for human rights.

Section 12 has a little more to say. It says: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

The first sentence has been the subject of a number of Court decisions which clearly declare that how to protect the family is for Congress to decide. The Constitution makes no specific prescription.

As for the second sentence, the protection given to the unborn is “from conception,” that is, from the earliest moment of life. In my earlier writings I have taken the position that the earliest that life begins is at the moment of fertilization. This is enough to justify the prohibition of abortion clearly repeated in the RH Law. But it says nothing about what to prohibit before life begins.

This brings us to the use of contraceptive methods. There are those who argue that contraception kills life. That is true if the contraceptive methods used have the effect of expelling a fertilized ovum. You don’t kill life that does not yet exist. Those who argue that contraceptives currently in the market kill life must be able to point to the precise contraceptive devices that are abortive. A sweeping generalization is irresponsible.

Very much involved in the debate about contraception is the matter of religious liberty. We have to be aware of the fact that we live in a pluralist society where various religious groups disagree about the morality of artificial contraception.

Freedom of religion means more than just the freedom to believe. It also means the freedom to act or not to act according to what one believes. And this freedom is violated when one is compelled to act against one’s belief or is prevented from acting according to one’s belief.

I hope to say more about this later.

Sam Miguel
08-05-2013, 08:02 AM
Special treatment for anti-RH Catholics?

By Oscar Franklin Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:12 pm | Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Should we require special treatment for people whose religious beliefs we do not share? And may unelected judges order such special treatment instead of Congress? This, not claims that condoms cause cancer, is the issue that reproductive health advocates must address.

A man is supreme in his own conscience and democracy bends backward to accommodate religious belief. For example, we have special laws allowing Muslims to marry more than one woman and adjust their work hours during the fasting month of Ramadan. During the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali was one of many excused by the US Supreme Court from the draft because he was a “conscientious objector.” No one should be penalized for that most intimate part of his being he calls his religion.

Accommodating religion, however, inevitably results in special treatment. Imagine yourself judging court interpreter Soledad Escritor, accused of scandalously living and having a child with a married man (albeit separated). The couple were members of Jehovah’s Witnesses and, because they could not marry, lived under their sect’s prescribed “Declaration of Pledging Faithfulness.” You do not doubt their sincerity, but they are committing the crime of concubinage because our law does not recognize the declaration.

The 2003 Escritor case so split the justices that no majority ruling was formed. Then Chief Justice Reynato Puno and his group refused to punish Escritor. Sincere religious belief, Puno argued, may only be overridden by a “compelling state interest.” He could not see why society would turn inside out if the “Declaration of Pledging Faithfulness” was respected.

Puno prominently cited the classic US case Sherbert v. Verner. A member of the Seventh Day Adventists claimed unemployment benefits after being fired for refusing to work on Saturdays. The US court upheld the claim, finding no compelling state interest to penalize his religion’s choice of rest day.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and his group believed they had to suspend Escritor, as she was committing a crime the courts themselves enforce. Although Carpio was sympathetic, respected her church’s support, and acknowledged that no one was harmed by her conduct, he believed that only elected Congress should grant sensitive religious exemptions, which is the case with exemptions for Muslims.

Carpio cited the equally classic US case Employment Division v. Smith, where a Native American was fired after using the psychoactive plant peyote in a traditional ceremony. The US court stated it “never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate.”

Imagine your dilemma. If you order special treatment for Escritor, would you not encourage others to join Jehovah’s Witnesses to evade crime? Because the Constitution protects all religion and not just organized religion, theoretically, anyone can claim that a flying spaghetti monster appeared to him and told him to commit adultery and concubinage in its divine name. Yet, should these hypothetical concerns force you to punish the real woman in front of you for what her religion teaches is moral?

Ten years later, instead of Soledad Escritor, Carpio faces all Filipino women. Instead of disciplinary rules, he faces the RH Act. And instead of Puno, he faces Luisito Liban, senior partner of elite firm SyCip Salazar, arguing the RH Act’s invalidity.

Alluding to the Smith ruling that he cited against the now retired Puno, Carpio asked Liban if we may punish marijuana use in a religious ceremony. This was a sporting invitation from the senior justice for Liban to stand in for Puno in the unfinished duel. In the key moment pundits missed, Liban shockingly declined. He answered that “neutral” antidrug laws are valid, which was the Smith ruling, but in doing so adopted Carpio’s stricter—and not Puno’s more liberal—view on religious exemptions.

Every Filipino, pro or anti, must decide whether further religious exemption must be granted under the RH Act. If a health worker has ethical objections to advising a patient on contraception, the law states that he must direct the patient to another provider. Liban argued that this violates religious freedom because this limited participation is still complicity in sin under Catholic doctrine. This part of the RH Act, he claimed, forces a Catholic health worker to sin under pain of a jail term.

The default response is that the Supreme Court should respect how Congress already studied the objection and prioritized ensuring access to proper RH advice over further special treatment. (To Liban’s credit, he actually phrased his objections in legal terms, and one doubts if another lawyer could have done much better with the poorly set up anti-RH case.)

The reservation, however, is that a religious-freedom case must be viewed from the believer’s perspective. The pro-RH camp is not allowed to judge his belief, whether in Jesus or a flying spaghetti monster. It would be ironic if ultraconservative doctors protest that their freedom of choice is being curtailed by inflexible RH supporters and their bigoted beliefs from the dark ages.

Carpio has comfortably inherited the role of the renowned justice and professor Vicente V. Mendoza as the Supreme Court’s strict constitutionalist. One wonders who will be bold enough to claim Puno’s mantle when the approach to religious exemptions is debated once again. Ironically, the best chance for a modest victory by anti-RH ultraconservatives on this narrow point is to quote the liberal Protestant, Chief Justice Puno.

Sam Miguel
08-05-2013, 08:08 AM
Speech, religion and equal protection in the RH Law

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:04 pm | Sunday, August 4th, 2013

In the course of the Supreme Court oral arguments on the Reproductive Health Law, the first issue that came up was the meaning of “conception” in the constitutional provision which says “The State… shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” The view which, to mind, prevailed during the first day of oral arguments was that conception happens at fertilization and not at implantation in the uterus. This meaning is also implicit in the definition of abortion as the expulsion of a fetus anytime before its viability. Expulsion after viability is already infanticide, no longer abortion.

The other issues that have arisen are liberty of speech, of religion and equal protection.

I have been involved in the discussions of these issues even while the RH Law was still being debated in Congress, and I feel that it is my civic duty to continue my participation until the Supreme Court arrives at a decision. I propose to discuss the issues of speech, religion and equality as they have cropped up in the oral arguments.

Any student of constitutional law will immediately see that by their nature, the constitutional doctrines on speech and religion are closely intertwined. Freedom of speech includes not just the right to speak but also the right not to speak. Freedom of religion for its part involves not just the right to choose what to believe but also and especially the right to externalize or not to externalize one’s belief. Externalization of one’s belief is done through speech or other forms of communication, whether oral or symbolic. Freedom of religion is violated when one is either forced to speak or in any manner communicate his belief or when one is prevented from expressing his religious belief.

All these take place in a pluralistic society where government may not prefer one religion over other religions. It is against this background that I propose to discuss provisions of the RH Law which deal with speaking or not speaking about religion.

We must understand that the health workers under the RH Law have the public duty to implement its provisions for the common good and not just for the good of some religious adherents. Moreover, a public duty is a public trust to be exercised for the good of all and not for the good of the preferred religion of a majority. And since our government is under a democratic system which respects plurality of religions, and considering that the RH Law is about sexual practices over which our people are divided on whether they are moral or not, it is inevitable that some health workers may encounter duties which their religion do not allow them to do. This is recognized by the law and the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) contains a proviso on this matter, namely:

“Provided, That the conscientious objection of a health care service provider based on his/her ethical or religious beliefs shall be respected; however, the conscientious objector shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible…”

According to critics of the RH Law, however, for all its noble intention, this rule violates freedom of speech and freedom of religion resulting in a two-fold violence of the conscience of the health worker. First, by obliging the health worker to make a referral, the law is obliging him to speak contrary to his right not to speak. Second, by obliging the health worker to make the referral, the health worker is being obliged to send the patient to where she or he can sin thereby making the health worker who makes the referral a participant in the sin.

Indeed, if the health worker believes that these are sinful acts which he or she cannot perform without violating his or her conscience, he or she should not be forced to do so. His or her belief, whether right or wrong in the view of government, must be honored. But the next question is, considering that this inability to perform a legal duty strikes at the very heart of the purpose for which the health center exists, is it reasonable or even just for the person to cling to the job? In a labor law situation, when a laborer on strike refuses to follow a return to work order, he or she will not be forced to return to work, but he or she may have to look for another job. Or should we ask that such RH worker be retired as a pensionado martyr?

Another objection which RH Law critics bring up is against the provision on age appropriate sexual education in public and private schools. To evaluate this criticism intelligently it is necessary to see the provision on the subject. It should be noted that the law does not yet attempt to impose a specific program. Rather, it provides that a program be formulated following certain careful guidelines for the manner in which the program should be formulated. Since the law does not yet create the program itself, this is not yet the time to challenge this aspect of the RH Law. Wait until the program is formulated. Before that, there is no “case” to bring to Court.

I shall take this up again next time since I am running out of space.

Sam Miguel
08-08-2013, 02:40 PM
Setback for RH law opponents

by Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Posted on 08/07/2013 8:32 AM | Updated 08/07/2013 8:40 AM

The opponents of the reproductive health (RH) law met their strongest challengers yesterday, the third round of the oral argument, in the persons of Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and Justice Antonio Carpio.

Jardeleza emerged from his quiet demeanor and argued persuasively, proving to be a tough match to the torchbearer of the anti-RH justices, Roberto Abad. The solicitor general raised 2 compelling arguments that brought back the debate to core issues on the constitutionality of the landmark legislation.

First, Jardeleza said, the question is not when life begins, as the petitioners frame it, but whether or not Congress, in passing the RH law, “acted in grave abuse of discretion.”

“It’s not a matter of Congress being correct or not,” he argued, “but whether the members of this elected body made this judgment in good faith.”

Several times, throughout the 4 hours of interpellation, Jardeleza always returned to this point: It doesn’t matter what the justices believe—whether some contraceptives are abortifacients—but that a co-equal body made a “wisdom call” which was the product of “consensus” that is “embraced by the political process.”

The executive and legislative bodies have made a policy decision, he continued, and he asked the Court to “pay heed to the contemporary interpretation by the people of their Constitution. Upholding it [Constitution] is not on the courts alone but on the legislature and the executive.”

In narrating the story of the RH law, Jardeleza referred to records of Congress and provided much-needed context in the debate. In his lucid opening statement, he informed the Court that Congress was divided on the age-old question of when life begins thus they decided not to answer it. Instead, they put a safeguard in clear language: contraceptives must not induce abortion.

Congress then delegated the task of determining the safety of contraceptives to the Food and Drug Administration. At the moment, there are 59 contraceptives and 7 types of IUD available in the market.

Jardeleza also refreshed the memory of the Court. He cited deliberations of the Constitutional Commission in 1986 when, Bernardo Villegas, a member of the Opus Dei, argued that the issue of what are abortifacients is a “question of fact” that should be left to Congress and the courts to decide. “And that’s exactly what Congress did, they debated it and received evidence,” the solicitor general said.

“The Court should be cautious not to rewrite legislation,” said Jardeleza, begging the justices to “respect the outcome of a majoritarian process.”

Second, and this is a paraphrase, there is no basis for filing a case.

Jardeleza pointed out that no person has been prosecuted under the RH law and that no FDA certificate on any of the contraceptives is being questioned in the Court.

“You will have second pass [on this law],” he said, when someone, for example, questions the safety of a contraceptive before the lower court and which will most likely reach the highest court in the land.

‘Facial attack’

Carpio, for his part, brought light rather than heat to the interpellation (although he introduced the subject of the heat method of contraception), after Abad monopolized about an hour quarreling with the solicitor general, insisting that hormonal contraceptives induce abortion.

Carpio pulled back the discussion to the core issues, providing a startling moment of clarity. He called the anti-RH petition a “facial attack” since it was questioning the law simply “on its face.” After all, the law remains suspended, courtesy of the status quo ante order of the Court.

Addressing the solicitor general, Carpio said: “We presume the law to be constitutional. The petitioners should point to specific provisions being violated…It can’t be hypothetical.”

Facial attacks, he continued, have a very narrow window. The petitioners have to “prove that the law will be unconstitutional under all, or nearly all circumstances.”

Since the RH law provides a menu of contraceptive devices, he continued, it is up to the petitioners to prove that all of these prevent the fertilization of the ovum.

It was in this context that Carpio talked about a range of options like condom, vasectomy, basal gel and the heat method—“you heat the balls” to a certain temperature for the sperms to die—which are not abortifacients.

“The law can be constitutional in many instances,” he said. So here’s the big job for the anti-RH group: to prove the “possibility of abortion under all sets of facts.” And this requires a “high bar” for the petitioners.

In the past 2 oral arguments, however, they did not step up to this “high bar.” Carpio, in these sessions, already raised the issue that the anti-RH bloc should first have these contraceptives tested by the FDA and then question the results before the courts.

‘Compelling state interest’

The other weighty argument put forth by Carpio was the “compelling state interest” in the RH law. He cited the commitment of the Philippines to the Millenium Development Goals (MDG), specifically meeting the targets to reduce maternal and infant mortality. Almost 200 countries, including the Philippines, have adopted the MDG and have pursued—or continue to pursue—laws and programs to reduce mortality rates.

“Compelling state interest in attaining these goals should prevail over religious belief,” he stressed.

It would be hard for the Court to dismiss these arguments—unless, like Abad, they want to overreach and wade into the murky waters of judicial legislation. - [I]Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
08-08-2013, 02:46 PM
The first stone

by Patricia Evangelista

Posted on 07/27/2013 5:16 PM | Updated 07/29/2013 12:22 AM

The petitioner before the high court is a Catholic. He is a true Catholic, and represents all true Catholics. He is a man who claims that Catholicism requires absolute faith in the teachings of holy Mother Church. He believes that women who use contraceptives cannot claim to be Catholic.

Counsel, he is asked by the Chief Justice, are these women in sin, or are they in ignorance?

“Based on the teaching of the Catholic Church,” he says, “they are in sin.”

His name is Luisito Liban, counsel for the petitioner, questioning the constitutionality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.

He is puzzled, he says, that Congress was willing to waste the limited resources of the nation on an arbitrary law.

Women die, he admits. It is a true and unfortunate thing. He does not see why this government should mobilize its entire machinery, trample on fundamental rights and threaten sanctions for a handful of dead mothers.

Maternal deaths cannot be an excuse, he says. There are many other diseases, with thousands more deaths. Only about 160 women die at childbirth for every 100,000 live births.

“It is a mere point zero one six percent.”

The National Statistics Office registered 1,745,585 live births for the year 2009.

For that year alone, 2,827 women died at childbirth.

The sinner

Rowena is a mother. One day after she gave birth to her seventh child, she went to work with wads of cotton between her legs, and sold fish while her newborn slept under her wooden cart.

She was pregnant again one year later. Her husband was out of work, did not want to work, was happier not working. She promised herself this child would be the last.

It almost was. Rowena nearly died while giving birth. At the time there were precious few statistics available calculating maternal mortality, but she considered it a fortunate thing that she lived. A mother with eight children could not afford to die.

Rowena did not want a ninth child. She did not know she could limit her children. No doctor said it was possible. She was a married woman, and her husband was a large man.

When she found herself pregnant again, she asked a midwife for help. The midwife told her about catheters.

When you put it inside, said the midwife, you’ll bleed away the baby. Wait until it hurts so much you can’t take it anymore. That’s when you pull out the catheter.

So Rowena waited, and she bled and bled and bled, on the floor of a room with damp green walls and a pink plastic clock that ticked away to midnight. When she pulled out the catheter, it was like jerking a hose off a faucet. Everything went black, the mattress turned red. She screamed for help before she fainted, because she did not want to die. She woke up in a hospital, gave them her name and nothing more.

Rowena lived. She was there when her children stopped school. She was there when her husband gambled what money there was left. She was there to see one of her daughters pregnant at 17.

Her daughter’s name is Rosa. She worked for a beerhouse along Third Avenue in Manila. Her boyfriend was an addict who would beat her until she begged.

The same midwife who gave Rowena advice was there when Rowena’s daughter Rosa aborted her first child. Rowena held her daughter’s hand while Rosa screamed. Rowena held the hand of Rosa’s youngest daughter two decades later. The girl was 14, and she bled more than her mother.

The soldiers of Christ

The poor, says Liban, are actually the victims of the RH Law, “because they can’t do otherwise.”

Liban says the Reproductive Health Law is a violation of the freedom of religion.

Under the law, a health worker is required to offer the public contraceptive advice. Anyone who disagrees can refuse; they are called conscientious objectors. They do not violate the law, so long as the patient is referred to another physician. A Catholic surgeon in the Philippine General Hospital can refuse to perform ligation, for as long as he refers another doctor.

By Liban’s definition, that Catholic doctor is a heretic. The true Catholic doctor, the soldier of Christ, must be armed with a conscience willing to withhold medical truths from a woman, or even the opportunity for a woman to discover that medical truth. The cost may be death, but this is not particularly important.

A sin is a sin, says Liban. The doctrine is clear. By referring a patient to another doctor, the objector becomes a sinner. The law forces them into damnation.

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics says that contributing factors to maternal mortality include early marriage, early pregnancies, close intervals between pregnancies, pregnancies after the age of 40, frequent childbirth, illiteracy, malnutrition and lack of access to contraception.

A woman unaware of these factors without the means to control them is a candidate for maternal death.

Every two minutes, somewhere in the world, a woman dies at childbirth. In the Philippines, seven women die every day.

The greater sin

There is a pink clock on the wall of a house in Manila. An old woman sits beneath it.

The woman is a criminal. Her name may or may not be Rowena, because to name her is also to name her daughter and granddaughter. She is a bird of a woman, all wrinkles and sharp little bones inside a faded blue T-shirt.

She is fortunate, and so is her family. Had Rowena died during any of the eight times she gave birth, she would have been part of a statistic that is of little importance to Liban’s nation. Had she died in the attempt to abort the ninth, she would have been part of another statistic, the one Liban does not talk about.

Today she is only an old woman sitting under a clock, whose story is so impossible it is easier to believe her narrative is an attempt at a moral lesson.

In the Church of Liban, Rowena does not matter. Her daughter does not matter. Her granddaughter does not matter. Maybe it is because they are women, or maybe it is because they are sinners. Yet no matter how much the Magisterium may ignore their existence, this nation cannot.

Counsel, Liban is asked, are these women in sin, or are they in ignorance?

Based on the teaching of the Catholic Church, he says, they are in sin.

The men and women who are true Catholics believe that there is no price too high for their virtue. They will protect the imaginary unborn, but they will wash their hands when it comes to living women. Perhaps the choice to ignore the suffering is justified by the weight of the women’s sins.

The Lord may have mercy, and Christ may have mercy, but mercy may be beneath the congregation of Luisito Liban. – Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
08-12-2013, 10:40 AM
Speech, religion and equal protection in the RH Law (2)

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:27 pm | Sunday, August 11th, 2013

In my column last week I said that I would take up the Reproductive Health Law provision on age-appropriate education in public and private schools. I consider the subject very important since the concern of people about it is similar to the concern about religious instruction in public schools. I would not therefore consider it inappropriate for jurisprudence to look into the constitutional law on religious instruction in public schools. Sex education and religious instruction are closely related to morality education.

There are two constitutional provisions which should be considered.

First, Article II, Section 12 says: “The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.” This means that in the matter of education, the power of the State is merely auxiliary to the primary right of parents.

Second, Article XIV, Section 4(3) emphasizes even more the primary right of parents: “At the option expressed in writing by the parents or guardians, religion shall be allowed to be taught to their children or wards in public elementary and high schools within the regular class hours by instructors designated or approved by the religious authorities of the religion to which the children or wards belong, without additional cost to the Government.”

Considering that sexual morality is closely related to religion, the rule for religious instruction mutatis mutandis may analogously if not strictly apply to sexual education.

For the moment, however, all we have about sexual education are the guidelines to be followed by officials in formulating the curriculum. They are the following:

“Section 11.01 Age- and Development-Appropriate Reproductive Health Education. The State shall provide age- and development-appropriate responsible parenthood and reproductive health education to adolescents and school-age children which shall be taught by adequately trained teachers and educators in formal and non-formal educational system and integrated in relevant subjects . . . .:

“Provided, That flexibility in the formulation and adoption of appropriate course content, scope and methodology in each educational level or group shall be allowed only after consultations with parents-teachers-community associations, school officials, civil society organizations, and other interest groups.

“The Department of Education (DepEd) shall formulate a curriculum including concepts and messages on reproductive health, which shall be used by public schools. Private schools may adopt the DepEd curriculum or develop their own curriculum subject to approval by DepEd.”

I am confident that those charged with the responsibility of formulating the policies for age-appropriate education will have the integrity and wisdom to respect constitutional commands on education. Before making our judgment, therefore, let us wait. We have no right to presume that the critics of the RH Law are the only persons who have noble intentions about public welfare.

Let me move to the issue of equal protection.

The separate mention and separate provision for private schools in this matter have been criticized as a violation of equal protection. Even first year law students, however, know that equal protection is not an absolute rule. It allows for different treatment based on real differences. And there are substantial differences between public schools and private schools, especially religious schools, enough to allow different treatment of different schools. Jurisprudence has been doing this.

Another equal protection argument that has been brought up is that the state is being guilty of unconstitutional discrimination when it pays so much attention to and is ready to spend an enormous amount of money for reproductive health while not paying as much attention to other health issues. But in promoting the general welfare the state cannot be expected to attend to all problems at the same time. Prudence requires that the state prioritize which battles to fight and when.

I do not know what other major or minor arguments might be brought up by opponents of the RH Law. Whatever other issues may arise, one underlying principle that must be kept in mind is that the current Philippine government is a secular one. It is not governed by the Vatican nor by the Philippine hierarchy nor by the religious majority of our population. Saying that, however, does not mean saying that our government is immoral or amoral. It is merely saying that it is different and that we must recognize and respect differences. As the “Compendium on the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church” says, “Because of its historical and cultural ties to a nation, a religious community might be given special recognition on the part of the State. Such recognition must in no way create discrimination within the civil or social order for other religious groups” and “Those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority.”

Sam Miguel
08-14-2013, 09:27 AM

Pia Cayetano, Lagman defend RH law

By Christine O. Avendaño

Philippine Daily Inquirer

6:33 am | Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The two legislators who authored the reproductive health (RH) legislation pleaded Tuesday with the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the suspended law, with Sen. Pia Cayetano arguing, among other things, that those challenging it had a “low” regard for women.

At the resumption of oral arguments on Tuesday on the petitions against the implementation of the RH law, it was the turn of the intervenors in the petition to speak.

Cayetano and former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman appeared in court to defend the law’s passage and appeal to the high tribunal to uphold its constitutionality and ensure its implementation.

Various individuals identified with the Catholic Church and pro-choice groups have filed suit in the high court to stop the implementation of the RH law, or Republic Act No. 10354, which mandates the state to provide the poor with reproductive health services, including access to contraceptives and sex education for schoolchildren.

Lagman said the high court need not resolve the issue “on when life begins,” which the petitioners have raised in determining the law’s constitutionality.

“I strongly suggest that the issue on constitutionality raised by the petitioners can be resolved without adjudicating on when life begins…as this is a more on the debate on medical science,” said Lagman, the principal author of the RH bill in the House.

The 1987 Constitution was after all silent on the issue on when life begins, he told the high court.

RH law advocates contend that life begins when a fertilized ovum is implanted in a woman’s womb while those against the law argue that life begins during fertilization.

In his presentation, Lagman said the RH law protects the life of the unborn, is against abortion, and equally protects the life of the mother.

Lagman tangled with Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who in the past three sessions of oral arguments had peppered speakers for the RH law with questions, indicating his stand against the law.

Abad said the RH law will see half of the 23 million Filipinos of child-bearing age getting contraceptives and intra-uterine devices (IUDs) from the government to avoid maternal-related deaths. But he pointed out that contraceptives and IUDs have resulted in many complications for women like irregular bleeding.

But Lagman said the National Statistics Office has stated that 14 women die daily because of complications from pregnancy and childbirth, which are among the problems to be addressed by the RH law.

He also pointed out that contraceptives were included in the essential list of medicines of the World Health Organization, “which is the main health authority of the United Nations of which the Philippines is a member.”

Abad maintained that a natural form of contraception like withdrawal during sex was more effective than using artificial contraception, but Lagman argued that the RH law promotes all methods and gave couples the option to choose from these methods.

“No one will be compelled to use contraceptives,” Lagman said.

Abad also broached the prospect of adolescents being able to gain access to contraceptives because of the sex education that they will be getting.

“I think we are working on a wrong premise that adolescents, [as well as] adults, are inherently promiscuous. That should not be the assumption,” Lagman countered, noting that UN studies actually show that sex education would have “beneficial effects” on the young as it would instill in them the proper sex values, delay their engagement in sexual relations, and teach them to avoid having multiple sexual partners.

Abad also peppered Cayetano with questions on her position when it was the turn of the senator to present her case.

Abad argued that hormonal contraceptives have the highest possibility of causing cancer and that they can cause “Class I” cancer.

Cayetano countered that the Class I rank was actually the “lowest class” as it was similar to the risk of women getting sick from “microwaves and television.”

Sam Miguel
08-22-2013, 09:14 AM
RH Day 4: Abad doesn’t know human rights?

By Oscar Franklin Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:23 pm | Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Feminist stereotypes coalesced into the sight of older men grilling a progressive woman lawyer, Sen. Pia Cayetano, on Day 4 (Aug. 13) of the Supreme Court oral arguments on the Reproductive Health Act. Cayetano not only injected powerful, concrete images into the abstract debates, she also trapped Justice Roberto Abad, who questioned each pro-RH advocate at length, in his own wordplay.

Abad disbelieved that the poor cannot access RH education. Cayetano, who sponsored the RH bill in the Senate, insisted on age-appropriate RH education in schools after encountering “substitute spouses.” In families where the mother works abroad, a daughter fills her role, sometimes even sleeping with the father. Abad opined RH education should be done in the home, by parents. Cayetano emphasized that 10 million Filipinos work abroad; will an absent mother or abusive father educate the daughter? Abad said to just provide for such special circumstances. An underestimated Cayetano countered that with Abad’s question, “I have proven that the law is constitutional in this one circumstance.”

Previously, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza discussed how anti-RH petitioners may win only if they prove the RH Act is unconstitutional under all possible facts, as they chose to bring an abstract case before the law is implemented.

Cayetano used Abad’s pet term “IGM” against itself. She cited Manila, where former mayor Lito Atienza allowed only natural family planning and women who asked about RH were allegedly humiliated. Abad countered: “I-Google mo.” Cayetano quipped, “Depende kung may computer sila (That’s if they own a computer).” She added that a woman with eight children, half of whom cannot eat in the morning and half of whom cannot eat in the evening, cannot IGM.

Interestingly, she chose not to press two points. First, Abad referred to the constitutional right to privacy as “the right to be let alone.” The pro-RH might say he betrayed unfamiliarity. Arguing a right to informed choice, Jardeleza and Cayetano cited the context of making fundamental life decisions. The “let alone” formulation is from a completely different, irrelevant line of cases on private information, not “decisional privacy.”

Second, Justice Marvic Leonen asked about free speech, the last-ditch anti-RH argument. Cayetano did not stress the pro-RH position that medical consultation is action, not speech. A doctor should not evade malpractice sanctions by arguing free speech. She emphasized, however, that an objecting health worker who refers a patient to another worker but lectures on why contraception is evil might be unprofessional or unethical, but cannot be punished.

Their imagery proved complete contrasts. Abad argued 5,000 annual maternal deaths do not justify putting dangerous intrauterine devices in 23 million Filipino women of childbearing age. Cayetano emphasized that RH goes beyond sex and promotes women’s physical, mental and social health. In the hearing’s emotional peak, refuting Justice Teresita de Castro that contraceptives cannot be used for treatment, Cayetano shared that her fourth son was born with a chromosomal disorder, blind, deaf and with kidney tumors. He died nine months later. She could not bear to see another child and needed contraceptives to maintain emotional health. “Pregnancy is not an illness but it is a special condition that requires medical attention.” Abad asked Cayetano why the government competes with parents in forming character under the RH Act; she asked if it is a competition. On promiscuity, she argued that a seatbelt law does not make people drive fast. In the end, she asserted, “With all due respect, your understanding of the law is incorrect.”

Cayetano and House sponsor Edcel Lagman gave parallel speeches that upped the ante from Jardeleza’s, seeking to validate even the RH Act’s underlying policy goals. Cayetano said 15 maternal deaths per day is a mere statistic to petitioners. “No woman should die giving life.” She asked whether petitioners refuse to facilitate women’s right to health because it requires their empowerment or because they have such a low view of women, believing contraception will cause them to seek pleasurable sex with men other than their husbands.

Lagman recognized a “nexus between population and poverty.” He and Cayetano emphasized that if women decide to have less children, there will naturally be a reduction in population growth, but it is merely a result, not a goal. Both emphasized the RH Act is cost-effective compared to building more hospitals.

Abad claimed the RH Act declares contraceptives safe and non-abortifacient; Jardeleza’s written comment called this “a legislative finding of fact.” Lagman protested this is not a finding but a standard. Abad claimed the “finding” precludes doctors from challenging it.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno scored the day’s knockout when Lagman conceded the law’s Section 23(e) was unintelligibly missing a word. Abad drew the most laughter, even from justices, when he proposed abstinence as most successful in preventing pregnancy. Lagman later fired back, “Promiscuity has antedated contraceptives.”

Finally, Justice Jose Perez admitted the questions were becoming repetitive and the hearings should end. He also asked everyone to admit the RH Act is really a population control measure.

Sam Miguel
08-27-2013, 08:12 AM
Oral arguments on RH law resume Tuesday

By Christine O. Avendaño

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:29 am | Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court will resume Tuesday hearing the oral arguments on the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RH) law, which was suspended on Aug. 20 due to the bad weather brought by Tropical Storm “Maring.”

Senior State Solicitor Florin Hilbay of the Office of the Solicitor General will speak for the government in the fifth and last round of oral arguments on the RH law, otherwise known as Republic Act No. 10354.

The conclusion of Tuesday’s oral arguments will pave the way for deliberations by the high court on whether or not to declare the RH law constitutional and whether to lift the tribunal’s second order stopping the government from implementing it.

Since July 9, the 15-member Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has listened to and debated with speakers representing Catholic groups challenging the constitutionality of the RH law and those representing the government and private sector who support it.

The law, signed by President Aquino in December last year, allows the state to use public funds to educate the youth on RH matters, improve maternal health and provide couples who ask for it with contraceptives.

While the high court was listening to the oral arguments, it extended on July 17 its status quo ante (SQA) order preventing the government from implementing the RH law “until further orders.”

It first issued an SQA for 120 days on March 19.

An SQA is issued to preserve the last uncontested status before the litigation or filing of a petition.

Sam Miguel
08-28-2013, 10:28 AM
Anti-RH case flops at the SC

By Oscar Franklin Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:00 pm | Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

If you are outraged at how Janet Lim-Napoles allegedly stole your P10 billion, you should be outraged if your democracy is stolen at the Supreme Court.

The petitions against the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 must be decided within the strict restrictions on unelected justices, especially given the perception that some are openly taking sides. One rolled out his own prepared slides before debating Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza at length.

The case, if decided on purely legal merits, is a flop. Each claim either has no constitutional basis or affects only a narrow portion of the law. Each step to nullify a collective act of our elected President and Congress was tepidly argued.

Jurisdiction: The first, most fundamental step is that there must be an “actual case” for the Court to take jurisdiction over. Petitioner Ma. Concepcion Noche ignored this. She instead spent the first hearing arguing that life begins when an egg is fertilized, not when it is implanted. She could not respond when Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio pointed out that the law prohibits drugs that prevent implantation, so there is no conflict. RH Act sponsor Rep. Edcel Lagman emphasized the law was worded to preempt fears of abortion, however defined.

The Court is not a trier of facts. Jardeleza emphasized that evaluating contraceptives is the Food and Drug Administration’s work, and anyone may challenge FDA findings in the courts later on. Justice Roberto Abad argued “judicial notice” and “common sense” that contraceptives are poison. Carpio, however, emphasized there can be no “judicial notice” of findings doctors themselves are debating.

Finally, given the lack of facts, challengers must show an unimplemented law is unconstitutional under all possible facts. They conceded that some contraceptives such as condoms are clearly not abortifacient. They also failed to address the Philippine doctrine that this “facial challenge” is allowed only in a free speech case.

Legal claims? Next, the petitioners’ claims must be legal, not political. One set of claims invokes the Bill of Rights. However, these are limited to narrow segments of the law, on medical consultations and mandatory RH education, and cannot justify scrapping it altogether.

A second set invokes the Constitution’s policy statements outside the Bill of Rights, which are not “self-executory” and must be implemented by law. Petitioners pounded on a right to health and a right of the unborn, but never argued why these are “self executory.” These are, in short, policies and not quite rights.

A third set of claims are simply not legal—the RH Act will promote abortion even though its text prohibits abortion, contraceptives are poison and population growth must not be restricted—and proved frustrating distractions. The most highfalutin’ claim was that the RH Act violates Philippine “ideals and aspirations.” Thus, Carpio and Justice Marvic Leonen emphasized the justices are not doctors, scientists or religious elders. Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno told Noche that her solution is to elect more legislators who think like her.

Grave abuse: Jardeleza properly emphasized that justices may not strike down the RH Act if they disagree with it. The Constitution requires “grave abuse of discretion” but the petitioners spent more time arguing that there is a Western plot to export a “contraception culture” of 12-year-olds with multiple sex partners.

The RH Act grants health workers a religious exemption from discussing some RH options (such as contraception) but requires them to refer the patient to another worker. The strongest objection is that this is complicity in sin under Catholic doctrine. The point was weakly made given the lack of concrete facts (co-sponsor Sen. Pia Cayetano emphasized that, in Congress, no medical association voiced interest in the RH Act’s religious exemptions) and the government’s apparent readiness to be tolerant (it claims only malicious advice is punished). Petitioner Luisito Liban also declined to contest Carpio’s position that only a law may grant special religious exemptions. Some petitioners raised religious objections by health workers, yet they were not health workers, another jurisdictional defect.

Health workers’ free speech was not taken seriously, and the oppositors have a strong point in arguing medical consultation is action, not speech. A doctor should not invoke free speech to evade malpractice charges. Cayetano emphasized an objecting health worker may say anything so long as he refers a patient to another worker. The “due process” claim of a parent to educate a child himself and refuse mandatory RH education, finally, is weak given no Department of Education materials or any other facts were presented.

Decisional privacy. The greatest victory for the Filipino woman’s “informed choice” will come if the Court explicitly recognizes the right to decisional privacy or the right to make fundamental life decisions. This right is well established in US decisions on family relationships and was stressed by Jardeleza and Cayetano, though it was not necessary to refute the anti-RH case.

The rhetoric of choice is the pro-RH side’s most powerful; who would deny women autonomy in this modern age?

Sam Miguel
02-10-2014, 07:34 AM
Teenage pregnancies: Untangling cause and effect

by JC Punongbayan

Posted on 02/08/2014 9:53 AM | Updated 02/08/2014 10:37 AM

This week, a series of troubling health trends concerning the youth have been confirmed by a recently-concluded study.

First, the incidence of teenage childbirth has more than doubled over the past decade. That is, among girls aged 15 to 19, whereas only 6.3% were already mothers in 2002, by 2012 around 13.6% were already mothers.

Second (and expectedly), premarital sex among the youth is also on the rise: In 2002, only 23.2% of youth have engaged in premarital sex, but in 2013 this has increased to 32% (amounting to about 6.2 million youth).

Third, while both teenage males and females have become more likely to engage in premarital sex, the gap between the sexes has declined over the past decade.

And fourth, a whopping 78% of first instances of premarital sex were unprotected (not only against unwanted pregnancy but also sexually transmitted diseases). Surprisingly, girls were more likely to not use any form of protection during their first sexual encounters.

Not just about condoms

These grim statistics will expectedly be useful additions in the arsenal of arguments of RH law advocates, especially with the decision of the Supreme Court on the suspended RH law drawing nearer than ever.

Indeed, a common knee-jerk reaction to unintended pregnancies (whether among teenage or adult women) is to push for greater access to contraceptives and sex education.

While it is true that contraception (and learning how to use them) can dramatically reduce the risk of becoming pregnant, there seems to be more to the issue than meets the eye.

For instance, the World Health Organization reports that as many as 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year worldwide, and 95% of all those births occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Also, teenage pregnancies are more likely to come from poorer segments of society than richer ones, and this holds true whether in poor countries in Sub-Saharan Africa or in rich countries like the US. For instance, a teenage girl in Mississippi is said to be four times more likely to give birth than a similarly situated girl in New Hampshire (where inequality and poverty are much lower).

Thus, around the world there seems to be a fundamental link between income, poverty, and economic opportunities on the one hand, and teenage pregnancies and childbirth on the other. (This is despite the greater prevalence of contraceptive use and sex education.)

Symptom of poverty?

But of course, correlation does not imply causation. Thus, the link between teenage childbirth and poor economic conditions begs the important (but often neglected) question: Are teenage childbirths a symptom or a cause of poverty?

This question’s importance lies in its policy implications.

If it is found that teenage childbirth results in mothers’ poor life outcomes – such as dropping out of school or living in poverty – then society’s efforts should focus more toward preventing unintended pregnancies (in which case the RH law can help a lot through sex education and contraceptive access).

But if teenage childbirths are more of a symptom of mothers’ poor economic background, then society’s efforts should focus on more fundamental things like reducing poverty and expanding mothers’ educational and job opportunities (in which case the RH Law may have a more limited impact on the issue).

Cause and effect

Basically, one would like to know whether having a teenage pregnancy results in lower economic prospects for the mother. In practice, the direction of cause and effect is rather difficult to establish.

For one thing, simply comparing the life outcomes of women who gave and did not give birth as teenagers would be grossly misleading, since women who gave birth as teens may come from fundamentally different backgrounds (and have different traits) than those who do not give birth as teens.

(It’s like saying sunlight made plant A grow faster than plant B, when in fact the reason why plant B didn’t grow as fast is that you have neglected to give it water the whole time.)

Hence, to tease out the true impact of teen pregnancy, we want to study women who are virtually indistinguishable from one another in terms of background, but where some of them give birth as teens while others don’t due to some random factor.

In this regard, economists have come up with clever ways of achieving this ideal setup.

For instance, one study compared women of similar background, but where some successfully gave birth as teens while the rest were unlucky and had miscarriages. From this random setup, it turned out that the life outcomes of the two groups of mothers were not significantly different.

Another ideal setup is where two groups of women are similar in background, but some have earlier menstrual cycles, and hence have a greater risk of becoming teenage mothers. This time, the randomness comes from the genetic lottery, and in one study it turns out again that giving birth during teenage years doesn’t seem to cause inferior outcomes later in life.

These techniques, as summarized by one recent study, suggest that teen childbirth doesn’t categorically result in poorer life outcomes for teen moms and their children. Rather, a lot of the correlation between teenage childbirth and incomes results from fundamental differences between larger social issues (such as poverty and inequality) and the unequal opportunities and prospects faced by women who give birth as teens and those who don’t.

Deeper problems

Above all, economists love exploring questions on cause and effect. And in the case of countries like the Philippines – where poverty and inequality in opportunities remains rife – the rising incidence of teenage pregnancies may well turn out to be a symptom (rather than a cause) of worsening economic conditions.

To be sure, empirical studies and natural experiments have yet to be conducted to establish the causal link between teen pregnancy and inequality in the country.

But the way we address the alarming rise of teenage pregnancy depends largely on a clear understanding of such link. Because if teenage pregnancies make teen moms and their children worse-off later in life, then measures like the RH Law will definitely improve maternal and child welfare.

However, if it turns out that teenage pregnancies are merely symptoms of deeper problems such as poverty and inequality, then well-intended measures like the RH law may end up having a more limited impact than previously thought. - Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
02-17-2014, 10:28 AM
Who's screwing who?

by Ana P. Santos

Posted on 02/14/2014 1:04 PM | Updated 02/14/2014 4:25 PM

There are about 800,000 who have had f*ck buddies or friends with benefits, according to the recently released Young Adult Fertility Survey (YAFS4). Four in every 100 Filipino youth have had sex with someone they met online or through text messaging. For a vast majority of these sexual encounters, neither contraception nor protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were used.

The the premiere study on Filipino youth behaviors conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPPI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also revealed there are about 1.4 million girls between the ages 15 to19 who are now mothers.

The statistics certainly made the headlines, but was anybody really surprised at the level and frequency of sex young people are having?

Sex and youth have always been on the same side of the bed, one chasing after the other in a frenzied often confused dance of surrender and suppression.

During the time of our grandmothers, the remedy to this dilemma was to run away in the middle of the night and elope. When retold to their children and us, their grandchildren, it is a story of audacity and romance.

In the generation that followed, the empire cut wedding dress was the default fashion trend as brides with baby bumps walked (or waddled) down the aisle. Eloping was replaced by mandatory matrimony - it pretty much took care of the predicament of “getting pregnant out of wedlock.”

Today’s technology has speeded up the meeting, courtship, and relationship process. The ubiquity of mobile phones, our cultural penchant for texting, and the preoccupation with social media networks have blurred the lines between relationship stages. Today, the benefits of technology include ease of connectivity and a wide network of potential hook-ups.

The YAFS4 numbers were simply telling us what we already knew: that more and more young people are having sex. In my family alone, I am a five-time grand-aunt, thanks to nieces and nephews, the youngest of whom became a parent at 14.

Just about the only thing that hasn’t changed is the shock, the disdain of some adults who have clacked their tongues and tsk’d tsk’d their disapproval. They’re doing the exact same thing they’ve been doing for ages when it comes to youth and sex - condemn and forbid - but are expecting different results. This form of inaction is probably easier than admitting that young people are having more sex than they are.

In denial

Today’s youth have every opportunity to exchange in sex but there remains no corresponding measures to guide them to make informed decisions, give them access to services, and adequately educate them about positive sexuality and behavior.

As a result, many young people become a statistic as they live out the long-term ramification of our inaction, complacency, and denial. As teen parents, they are more likely to discontinue school and contribute to the drop-out rate.

As an underdeveloped human resource, their insufficient education and skills lead to low-paying jobs and they become an unemployed or migration statistic. Youth is abruptly cut short and so much is lost: time, hope, and optimism – replaced with its adult counterparts of responsibility and resignation.

Changing the message

In the process of writing this article, and as always when I am writing about this subject matter, my mind goes back to a public service announcement about teen pregnancy that I was exposed to growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

For me at least, it was so effective that I remember it to this day. The ad mixed wit and reality check, leaving out the preachy scare tactics that I probably would have resisted as a rebellious and invincible tween.

It was a simple ad, but it successfully acknowledged two things: (1) that teens can and will try to get frisky and (2) they need to be reminded of the possible consequences of the decisions they make. It’s like a grown up version of choose your own adventure or trying to find out what’s behind door number 3.

What would be so wrong with sending out messages about healthy relationships to young people in a language that they understand and is relevant to them? In parallel, we could communicate that abstinence is a choice and that contraception is a responsibility. Then, as they say “share” this information with them, bring it where they are: on social networks, on mobile SMS, in chat rooms or on an app.

We could use the same technology that gives them access and opportunity to casual sex and risky sexual behavior to give them information under the protection of privacy and anonymity.

What is so wrong about giving our young people proper information and entrusting them with the power to decide for themselves?

What if we start doing something different and acknowledge that we have a duty and an opportunity to equip our youth with proper information on sex and sexuality? Until we can do that, the young will just continue doing what they’ve been doing - screwing around - but in the end, it’s us as a nation who will be screwed. – Rappler.com

02-26-2014, 10:40 AM
Sex education for all, except in Catholic schools

by Elena Masilungan

Posted on 02/25/2014 3:05 PM | Updated 02/26/2014 10:25 AM

In this day of rising teenage pregnancies, HIV infections, and risky sexual behaviors among young people, it makes sense for schools to conduct classes on comprehensive sexuality education.

Not so for over a thousand Catholic schools nationwide. As far as the Catholic Church’s hierarchy is concerned, sexuality education has no place in Catholic schools even as their students are confronted with the same challenges as the rest of the country’s youth.

This view, however, is not shared by Catholic teachers and educators. They are instrumental in developing a teaching material on sexuality education that can be integrated in elementary, high school, and college curriculums.

Called the Population and Development Education Teaching Modules for Catholic Schools and released in 2009, it came out of their expressed need for learning resources on population and development, or popdev, and human sexuality that are consistent with Catholic teachings and values.

Unfortunately, Catholic schools have not been able to use it, despite it having obtained a nihil obstat (nothing hinders) status from Monsignor Adelito Abella, the archdiocesan censor of Cebu, and an imprimatur from its archbishop, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. All because the Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines reviewed it and decided that it could not be used by Catholic schools unless key portions are revised or omitted.

“I was disappointed by the decision,” recalls Dr. Connie Gultiano, a demographer from the University of San Carlos who was one of the main writers of the book.

“Our modules were rejected unless, they said, we made radical and extensive changes in its contents – an instruction we refused to follow since this would run counter to our scientific and academic approach to popdev education,” she adds. “Among other things, they wanted the book to state categorically that masturbation is a sin, that homosexuality is a sin, something that will compromise the book’s scientific accuracy and maybe even antagonize the students.”

Popdev and human sexuality

The idea for the book came about during forums on popdev for administrators and teachers of schools belonging to the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines. The forums were conducted by the Office of Population Studies of USC and the John J. Carroll Institute of Church and Social Issues of the Ateneo de Manila University. The Philippine Center for Population and Development funded this project.

“The participants were one in saying that they need a teaching guide that will help them fill the gaps in information and correct misconceptions about popdev and human sexuality,” explains Felicitas Rixhon, PCPD’s executive director. “PCPD then brought together stakeholders from the academe, civil society, government, and the Church to brainstorm and deliberate on the type and content of modules for elementary, high school, and college students.”

Two sets of modules were developed for the three educational levels. They are age-appropriate and structured in a way that would achieve cumulative learning for the students.

One set focuses on population and development, and the other on human sexuality and responsible parenthood. The modules are organized in a lesson-plan format to make it easier for teachers to use them.

“We were very academic in our approach. The writers were teachers from Catholic schools. The modules were guided by the basic competency for students established by the Department of Education. We had them pretested in Catholic and public schools. Everything was set up to ensure that they were of good quality, including having them evaluated,” explains Rixhon.

Through the modules, PCPD aims to provide young people with accurate information that they can use to make informed decisions and responsible choices with regard to their sexuality.

“The basic opposition of the commission that reviewed the material was on popdev. They wanted to remove popdev from the book because they equated it with population control,” adds Rixhon.

Interestingly, this misconception about popdev is not shared by Father Roderick Salazar, CEAP’s president when the book was published.

In his message in the book, he wrote that popdev “is about people and their relationships to their own bodies, with one another, with God, and with the earth and the entire universe.” He described the book as “an attempt to teach and guide our children about themselves and their responsibility for life and love.”

Public schools

The bishops’ rejection is not the end of the book, however.

“The Commission on Population, starting with its Popcom Region 8 and eventually picked up by other regions, found the modules a useful tool to advocate for sexuality education in public schools. It then partnered with DepEd regional or provincial officials to use them in teaching popdev and human sexuality in their schools,” relates Gultiano. “They also understood that the ‘Catholic values’ integrated in the modules were, in fact, universal values and could serve students of all religions…. They saw our popdeved modules not only as a sound approach to popdev and human sexuality education but also as a good compromise with the Catholic Church’s teachings.”

Rixhon refuses to let the bishops’ “rejection” get in the way of the modules being used by other schools and organizations that are providing sexuality education to young people.

“PCPD has developed a resource package based on the modules. We have asked the Knowledge Channel to translate them into a series of video stories called Kwentong Kartero. They are now shown in Knowledge Channel and disseminated in all Knowledge Channel partner schools. Together with Popcom and DepEd regional offices, we conduct training for teachers. We are also funding a summer certificate course for teachers at the University of San Carlos to deepen their knowledge and skills in teaching popdev,” she says.

To date, public school teachers from Metro Manila and eight of the country’s 13 regions have been provided training on how to integrate the modules in their lessons on science, health, social studies, and values formation.

It seems the bishops’ opposition is irrelevant, after all, except perhaps for the students in Catholic schools who are deprived of their right to sexuality education. - Rappler.com

Elena Masilungan is program officer of the Philippine Center for Population and Development, a grant-giving foundation supporting initiatives that aims to build a nation able to balance its population and resources that will result in an improved quality of life for Filipinos and their families.

Sam Miguel
03-19-2014, 11:06 AM
GMA Network to probe alleged 'pork' payoff to radio broadcaster

By Camille Diola

(philstar.com) | Updated March 19, 2014 - 10:39am

MANILA, Philippines — GMA Network vowed to investigate allegations that state-owned National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) bribed one of its broadcasters at the height of Janet Lim Napoles' alleged pork barrel scam.

News anchor Mike Enriquez, who heads the network's radio operations, said they will conduct a "thorough" probe on whether Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang, a news anchor for GMA-owned dzBB, received payment from Nabcor officials in the form of so-called advertising expenses.

"In accordance with standard procedure, we will conduct a thorough investigation of any allegations of violations. Due process will be observed and we will ensure that full sanctions will be applied if determined to be necessary," Enriquez said in a statement Tuesday.

Former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Vic Cacal, who recently submitted sworn statements to the Department of Justice and applied to becomes state witnesses on the pork scam probe, claimed that Magdurulang and Erwin Tulfo, another well known radio and television personality, were issued over P235,000 as secret payment from the Department of Agriculture in 2009.

The department was then headed by now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap.

Enriquez, meanwhile, said that violations of the network's core values and ethical standards are "taken very seriously."

"GMA Network places the utmost importance on the professional and ethical conduct of all its personnel, particularly those engaged in news and public affairs," he said.

Mendoza and Cacal also said that another unnamed broadcasting personality received payoffs, funds sourced from the lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Funds through Napoles' bogus non-government organizations.

04-13-2014, 07:11 AM
Autopsy of a Debacle: Clerical Extremists, Timid Liberals, and the RH Debate

By Walden Bello


12:18 am | Sunday, April 13th, 2014

The bishops should have realized it was only a matter of time. The surveys were unanimous in chronicling a steady rise in the majority supporting family planning and government support for it. More and more from all classes had come to accept that family size had a direct bearing on poverty and that medical science provided them with the means to do something about it, if they had financial assistance. And the spread of plural sources of belief and ethics that came with secularization was eroding the Church’s claim to a monopoly on morality.

The Church hierarchy should have taken notice of the lessons of Spain, Ireland, and other parts of Europe, where hard-line resistance to contraception, divorce, and gay rights, coupled with clerical child abuse resulted in a crushing loss of credibility and influence, a trend that the Economist characterized as “the near-collapse of Catholicism in some of its heartlands.”

Staking Everything on the RH Fight

Instead, the bishops chose to make a do-or-die stand on contraception and family planning. The conservatives in the hierarchy made a virtue of what others saw as a sign of backwardness: that the country was one of the few remaining countries in Asia with no comprehensive government-supported family planning program. The same attitude of drawing perverse pride from what others saw as reactionary was exhibited in the case of divorce, where they proclaimed to one and all our being blessed as the only country in the world not to allow divorce.

Caught up in their shrill rhetoric, the bishops did not notice the movement of opinion among the silent majority of Catholics and the spread, among the middle class, of resentment of their political influence in what was supposed to be a secular state.

In the early years of the Congressional debate on family planning in the late 1990’s, the bishops deployed the argument that artificial contraception was immoral because the only purpose of sex was to have children. This had, however, limited appeal, so they enlisted another argument, this one from the extreme left: that family planning was a tool promoted by the United States to keep third world populations down. Thus we had the incongruous spectacle of upper-class religious conservatives parading as anti-imperialists on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Outmaneuvered by the Women’s Movement

For a couple of years, armed with this bastard ideological formula of “anti-imperialism” and anti-contraception, the alliance between the bishops, religious conservatives in the House, and Malacanang blocked any movement on the legislative front, even as the rest of the country moved forward. What broke the political stalemate was the women’s movement, which, in the 2000s, reframed the issue as one of women’s reproductive rights and health. Women had the right to space their children and determine how many children they had. Women had the right to protect their family’s quality of life by limiting their offspring. Women had the right to family planning to preserve their health. It was a winning argument, one that was deployed with skill not only at the rational level but symbolically, through the strategic dissemination of the image of an all-male hierarchy and a predominantly male Congress controlling women’s choices.

By the 15th Congress, the hierarchy and its allies in Congress were bereft of viable arguments and forced into pushing two related arguments that came across to the general public as outrageous or silly: that condoms and other contraceptives were “abortifacients,” and that there was no conceptual or real difference between contraception and abortion. As one congressman from Manila put it, memorably, during the floor debates, “Contraception is abortion.” By this time, the hierarchy’s Woman in the Palace was gone, and with the new president declaring passage of the RH bill a priority, the Church defeat was sealed, though the bishops chose to go down fighting during the Senate and House plenary debates in 2012 and 2013.

The Silence of the Liberals

The liberals within the Church hierarchy probably saw the handwriting on the wall. They probably knew that although the measure might be defeated in the 15th Congress, the changing balance of forces at work in the nation would mean that the pro-RH side could only steadily gain in strength and eventually win. Yet they acquiesced in the conservatives’ strategy of making the anti-RH struggle an apocalyptic battle into which the Church would throw in all its resources, much like Hitler did against the Soviet Union in Stalingrad in 1942.

The liberals could have preached moderation to their colleagues. They and the more liberal religious orders could have been more vocal in rationally discussing, if not conditionally favoring the bill, instead of leaving Fr. Joaquin Bernas as the solitary Catholic cleric doing this in public. They could have adopted a strategy of symbolic, as opposed to active, political opposition, quietly acquiescing in the passage of RH as part of a broader program of theological reform that would have brought Catholic doctrine up to speed on a whole range of ethical issues. Yet they chose to stay quiet and allowed the extremists to call the shots.

During the long RH debate, in fact, we had the interesting spectacle of priests and nuns who would come up to proponents of the bill to whisper their support for it and apologize for not being able to publicly declare this. Moral cowardice is maybe too strong a word for this behavior, but it certainly was, to borrow from Kierkegaard, a case of “fear and trembling.”

A Setback Turns into a Rout

When RH became law, there was still a chance for the liberals to stem the erosion of Church credibility, by cautioning their colleagues from supporting the efforts of some die-hard lay people to get the Supreme Court to rule the law unconstitutional. But again, they deferred to the firebrands, who entertained the illusion that the appointees of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would compromise the integrity of the court by backing their incredible proposition that contraception was abortion and was therefore unconstitutional. This misreading turned what was a serious setback into a rout.

With the decision to wager all on the RH battle, the Church hierarchy’s credibility has been mortally wounded, enabling the easier passage of divorce and other laws that will finally, finally, make the Philippines a normal secular nation-state. A reformed, liberal Roman Catholic Church that had come to terms with secular realities and enjoying renewed respect form society was at one point in time a possibility. It is much less likely now owing to pig-headed extremism among the dominant forces in the hierarchy coupled with timidity on the part of Church liberals. A more likely outcome is what the Economist describes as the Catholic condition in Europe: a “church…losing whatever remains of its grip on society at an accelerating pace.”

04-13-2014, 07:26 AM
What’s next for RH?

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:38 am | Friday, April 11th, 2014

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the controversial Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law is “not unconstitutional,” save for eight provisions, what should pro-RH advocates do? There are legal, practical and political next steps to consider, but we think the immediate task is to spread a sense of affirmation: The great majority of Filipinos support the law. Everything else should proceed from that.

Should the advocates file a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court? As we argued yesterday, the striking down of those provisions in the law which imposed a limited responsibility on healthcare service providers who refuse to serve a patient for religious reasons to simply refer her to another health facility is deeply problematic. But is it enough to warrant a return to the Court?

Considering that the RH measure took a decade and a half to pass Congress, that it finally became law in December 2012, and that the Court stopped the government from implementing it over a year ago, a motion for reconsideration would not be in the best interests of the mothers and infants that the law seeks to serve. According to the UN Population Fund, 11 Filipino women die of pregnancy-related causes every day. Even if we were to estimate the positive impact of the RH Law at the lower range, that it would save only one pregnant woman per day from complications leading to death, we can readily see that the legal struggle to declare the law unconstitutional has already cost some 400 lives. It’s time to put the law into effect.

How can this be done with utmost efficiency? As we have also argued previously, soon after the law was passed, the national budget will be the next battleground for the RH wars. Advocates must ensure that there is adequate funding for the law’s provisions; unfortunately, we can expect the controversy over the government purchase of condoms to continue. But in reality, the law is much more than that.

Consider, out of many possible examples, something as below-the-radar as Section 8: “All [local government units], national and local government hospitals, and other public health units shall conduct an annual Maternal Death Review and Fetal and Infant Death Review in accordance with the guidelines set by the [Department of Health]. Such review should result in an evidence-based programming and budgeting process that would contribute to the development of more responsive reproductive health services to promote women’s health and safe motherhood.”

This seems like a belaboring of the obvious, but not all LGUs and hospitals are conducting these annual reviews. And yet these are baseline figures; the more comprehensive and more accurate they are, the more reliable the national estimates will be. To borrow a favorite mantra of management consultants: You cannot manage what you cannot measure. But it will need a serious push from the DOH, and serious money from the Department of Budget and Management, to comply with the provision.

Who can reinforce the political consensus behind the passage and implementation of the RH Law? It is possible that those against the law will find enough like-minded legislators in the 17th Congress, to be convened in July 2016, to repeal it. The next president may also prove less than supportive. The challenge for RH advocates then is to prepare for the 2016 election as if the future of the RH Law depends on it.

This will become easier to do once the benefits from the new law become a daily reality: Once more and more LGUs “hire an adequate number of nurses, midwives and other skilled health professionals for maternal health care and skilled birth attendance”; once a critical mass of LGUs manages to “establish or upgrade hospitals and facilities with adequate and qualified personnel, equipment and supplies to be able to provide emergency obstetric and newborn care”; once a good number of accredited public health facilities can provide “a full range of modern family planning methods, which shall also include medical consultations, supplies and necessary and reasonable procedures for poor and marginalized couples having infertility issues who desire to have children” (all the quotes are from the text of the law)—then it will become much harder for the law’s critics to wish it away.

But political preparation does not mean waiting for 2016. Among other things, it means filing bills in Congress right away, to fill the gap the Supreme Court created.

04-13-2014, 07:43 AM
Win or lose?

By Solita Collas-Monsod

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:10 am | Saturday, April 12th, 2014

This newspaper’s headline was “SC ruling on RH: Win-win,” based apparently on the reactions of both the pros and antis (“jubilation”) to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Reproductive Health Law, or to the announcement of the decision as read by Teddy Te. No copy of the decision was released then, only a reading of its dispositive portion. The pros thought they won because the high court gave its imprimatur to everything except eight items. The antis were jubilant because of the eight items, six of which had to do with alleged infringements on religious freedom; one dealing with the need to obtain spousal consent; and the eighth dealing with the need for parental consent. The striking down of these items rendered the law “toothless,” according to the antis, specifically Lito David of the Pro-Life Foundation.

I decided to wait until I could read the decision myself, penned by Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza (I am given to understand his brother is a priest/bishop. Isn’t there a conflict-of-interest issue somewhere?), as well as the opinions written by nine justices, four of whom wrote separate concurring opinions, with another four writing concurring and dissenting opinions, and the fifth (Associate Justice Marvic Leonen) writing a “separate dissent.”

Well, I read them all, and here’s my take, for all it is worth: On the face of it, it looks like the pros won, because the government is now mandated to provide and distribute free RH services and supplies, including procurement of family planning supplies by the Department of Health for distribution to local government units. Plus they can provide age- and development-appropriate RH education to adolescents in all schools. Beth Pangalangan was quoted as saying that “it is a historic step forward for all women in the Philippines….”

Hold on, though. The distribution of those services and supplies is to be done by healthcare providers and government officials and employees, right? Well, the Court’s decision essentially says that these people can refuse to support the programs, on religious or conscientious-objector grounds, and even refuse to refer their patients to others who may have no such qualms. And what’s more, because they are exercising religious freedom, they are not to be punished.

Remember Joey Lina (governor of Laguna), and Lito Atienza (mayor of Manila), who refused to fund any kind of RH program and got away with it. It is precisely to prevent that from happening again that the RH Law had those provisions penalizing those who might be Linas and Atienzas. But the Court has struck these down.

Women are now going to decide their reproductive fate? Not so. The Court struck that down, too. They cannot undergo RH procedures without spousal consent. All to protect the family.

Even something as simple as the requirement of 48 hours of pro bono (free) RH services as a condition for PhilHealth accreditation was also struck down by the Court, in the name of religious freedom.

And who says there will be sex education in schools? To the best of my understanding, the ponente Mendoza said discussing the issue was premature for “the Court to rule on its constitutionality or validity.”

The dissenters in the decision, especially Chief Justice Meilou Sereno (who has to be congratulated for writing her decision in Filipino—it’s about time someone did, although I agonized trying to understand it, but I am a dying breed) and Associate Justices Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Bernabe, ripped to shreds the arguments of the majority on some or all of the eight items.

Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s contribution (in three pages) to the written debate was to point out that the Court is simply not competent to decide the issue of when life begins (Mendoza did). It is a scientific and medical issue, which even the scientific and medical community has not solved.

But I reserve my last observations for Leonen’s 90-page dissent (the ponencia was 104 pages).

What drew my attention was his inclusion of some Church history (submitted by intervenors) on the Catholic Church’s “changing and inconsistent position regarding contraceptives, and the notion that every sexual act must be for a procreative purpose.”

Did you know that the notion denouncing sex without procreative intent cannot be found in the old or new testament? Apparently, it was not originally Christian, but borrowed from pagan Greek Stoics in the second century.

Also, the Pontifical Commission for the Study of Population, Family and Births created by Pope Paul VI in 1963 to recommend whether modern contraceptive methods could be permitted, concluded by a vote of 9 of the 12 bishops, 15 of the 19 theologians, and 30 of the 35 nonepiscopal members that “no natural law proscribed nonreproductive sex and no doctrinal, scientific, medical, social or other reason existed for the Church to continue prohibiting the use of modern birth control.” The Pope disregarded these findings (on the ground that there was disagreement!), which started a quiet revolt (licit dissent) among the bishops of the Netherlands, Austria, Brazil, Mexico, West Germany, Japan, France, Scandinavia, Switzerland and the United States. “But for the first time in memory, the bishops’ statements, while showing respect for the encyclical, told believers that they could act apart from it if they felt bound by conscience to do so.”

All these leading to Leonen’s position that the Court “cannot make any judicial determination to declare the Church’s position on contraceptives and sex.” In his view, the RH Law in its entirety should be fully implemented.

Read his dissent.

04-15-2014, 10:06 AM
Fascination over exceptions

By Edcel C. Lagman

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:10 am | Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Why be fascinated with the exceptions and fail to appreciate the general rule? The rule, as held by the Supreme Court, is that the Reproductive Health Law is constitutional, and the exceptions are some provisions which were voided to principally respect minority views.
Did the stricken provisions render the RH Law “toothless”? Not at all. The core provisions are intact, untouched by the judicial scalpel, foremost of which are the following:

1. The mandate for government to afford the marginalized sectors free access to family planning services and supplies (Sec. 3[c]).

2. The provision on the Philippine National Drug Formulary, which includes hormonal contraceptives, IUDs, injectables and other safe, legal, nonabortifacient and effective family planning devices and supplies, as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (Sec. 9).

3. The authority of the Department of Health to procure family planning supplies for distribution to local government units (LGUs) (Sec. 10).

4. The mandate for LGUs to assist in the implementation of the RH Law (Sections 5, 6, 8, 16 and 20).

5. The provision for RH education to adolescents in all schools (Sec. 14). Importantly, RH education is mandated for all schools, both public and private. The only difference is that the Department of Education shall formulate the curriculum for public schools, which may be adopted by private schools. Otherwise, private schools shall make their own curriculum, subject to the supervisory authority of the DepEd.

Section 14 does not distinguish whether an adolescent is enrolled in a public or private school. It would be a violation of the equal protection clause if adolescents in private schools are deprived of the benefits of RH education.

6. Government to pursue public awareness programs and nationwide multimedia campaign for reproductive health.

With the constitutionality of the foregoing salient provisions sustained, the voiding of a few provisions will not diminish the efficacy of the law and deter its full implementation.

The voided provisions can be categorized into the following groupings:

(a) Protection of the right of conscientious objectors: (i) hospitals owned by religious groups are not required to refer a patient needing reproductive health care to another hospital; (ii) an RH care provider who is a conscientious objector is not obliged to follow the referral requirement; (iii) a private RH care provider who is a conscientious objector is not required to render 40-hour a year pro bono service to indigent women for PhilHealth accreditation.

(b) Requirement of spousal and parental consent in the following cases: (i) spousal consent is needed for a married person to undergo ligation/vasectomy; (ii) parental consent for a minor to access modern contraceptives even if such minor had already a miscarriage;
(iii) parental consent for minors who would like to avail of nonelective surgical procedures.

(c) Any public official who refuses to implement the RH Law.

(d) Any healthcare provider “who fails and/or refuses to disseminate information regarding programs and services on reproductive health regardless of his/her religious beliefs.”

The foregoing situations cover exceptions to the rule, to wit:

(a) Conscientious objectors are more the exception than the rule. The vast majority of health providers, albeit Catholics, are RH advocates. Moreover, a conscientious objector must act in good faith. Conscientious objection is not an absolute license to violate the RH Law. Furthermore, a patient who is refused medical care will seek on his own another provider even without a referral.

(b) In most cases, spouses discuss and agree if one has to undergo ligation or vasectomy, especially when such a procedure is medically recommended or they have already children. Consequently, the need for spousal consent in case of disagreement is again the exception than the rule.

(c) Nonelective surgical procedures for minors where parental consent is required happen rarely.

(d) Public officials who refuse to support the RH program or hinder the implementation of the law constitute the exception because generally public functionaries will obey the law consistent with their oath of office.

However, a healthcare provider, whether public or private, who knowingly withholds information or intentionally provides incorrect information regarding programs and services on reproductive health is culpable, as held by the Supreme Court, because such prohibited acts “connote a sense of malice and ill motive to mislead or misrepresent the public as to the nature and effect of programs and services on reproductive health.”

Consequently, while refusal to disclose information or render service is exempt and nonactionable, knowingly giving misinformation about RH programs is penalized.

06-02-2014, 09:14 AM
The Supreme Court decision on the RH Law

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:11 am | Monday, June 2nd, 2014

After a long wait, the verdict of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law has been promulgated. It is a 106-page document exclusive of concurring and dissenting opinions. Not everyone will have the patience to read through it. But since I had been writing about the bill while it was being debated, I thought it might be useful for those interested if I were to break it down into a more easily accessible presentation.

The main issue in the case, of course, was the constitutionality of the law. A multiplicity of grounds for invalidation were brought to the Court by an army of opponents. The substantive objections to the law were: It was a violation of the right to life, the right to health and to protection against hazardous products, the right to religious freedom, right to equal protection of law, the right to free speech, the right to family privacy; of the rule on one subject/one bill; of natural law. And it usurped the autonomy of local governments and of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; constituted mandatory sex education and involuntary servitude; and failed to overcome the void-for-vagueness challenge.

What did the Supreme Court say about these multiple grievous sins against the Constitution? I shall try to give the Court’s answer as briefly and simply as I can to the more important objections.

Right to life. When does life begin? There are two views on this. One says life begins at the fertilization of the maternal ovum, that is, when sperm and ovum meet. The other says life begins at the implantation of the fertilized ovum in the ovary. The Court accepted the view that life begins at fertilization. Thus any attempt to terminate a fertilized ovum even before it reaches the ovary is already abortion explicitly prohibited by the RH Law. Hence, there is no offense against a living being.

Right to protection against hazardous objects. This objection was focused mainly against artificial contraceptive. The assumption was that any method of preventing conception is abortive. But Section 9 of the law requires certification by the Food and Drug Administration that no contraceptive device should be abortive. Consistent with the constitutional policy on the sanctity of life, the Court says that it is not enough that a device is not “primarily” abortive to merit prohibition. The use of the qualifier “primarily” will pave the way for approval of contraceptives which may harm or destroy a fertilized ovum. For a device to be prohibited it is not enough that it is not “primarily” abortive. Even those which only secondarily cause abortion are prohibited.

Right to health. To ensure that the availability of contraceptives will not be hazardous to health, the law requires that only contraceptives that are safe are made available to the public. The law says that “It shall be unlawful for any person, partnership, or corporation, to sell, dispense or otherwise distribute whether for or without consideration, any contraceptive drug or device, unless such sale, dispensation or distribution is by a duly licensed drug store or pharmaceutical company with the prescription of a qualified medical practitioner.”

Religious freedom and nonestablishment of religion. It is no secret that Filipinos hold different religious beliefs about the morality of contraception and the use of contraceptive devices. There are those who, because of their religious education and background, sincerely believe that contraceptives, whether abortifacient or not, are evil.

But must the Court constrain a legislative act that is not in conformity with the moral or religious belief of some? The Court’s answer to this question is the benevolent neutrality theory: “The benevolent neutrality theory believes that with respect to these governmental actions, accommodation of religion may be allowed, not to promote the government’s favored form of religion but to allow individuals and groups to exercise their religion without hindrance. The purpose of accommodation is to remove a burden on, or facilitate the exercise of, a person’s or institution’s religion. What is sought under the theory of accommodation is not a declaration of unconstitutionality of a facially neutral law, but an exemption from its application or its ‘burdensome effect,’ whether by the legislature or the courts.” It is not within the province of the Court to determine whether the use of contraceptives or one’s participation in the support of modern reproductive health measures is moral from a religious standpoint or whether the same is right or wrong according to one’s dogma or belief.

The Constitution limits what the government can do with religion. Conversely, it also limits what religious sects can or cannot do with the government. They can neither cause the government to adopt their particular doctrines as policy for everyone. To do so, in simple terms, would cause the State to adhere to a particular religion in violation of the nonestablishment clause. (To be continued)

Sam Miguel
01-08-2016, 02:26 PM
Legarda defends DOH’s P1B budget cut

By: Maila Ager



10:33 AM January 8th, 2016

Senator Loren Legarda defended the P1 billion cut for the Department of Health’s (DOH) budget for family planning commodities for 2016, saying it was done to augment the budget of other agencies such as the upgrading of air assets of the Department of National Defense (DND).

“The cut of P1 billion for the DOH’s family health and responsible parenting (FHRP) was a source for the increases in other agencies, including for DND air assets upgrading, which is timely and equally important given the West Philippine Sea issue, “ Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said in a statement.

“A portion of the P 1 billion was realigned within DOH to provide for the health facilities and medical assistance to indigent patients,” she said.

Legarda said the decision to cut the allocation for FHRP was done after assessing its possible impact on the program.

“We took note that as of June 2015 the DOH status of funds showed that of the P3.27 billion allocation, only P955 million has been obligated or 29%. For the remaining 6 months, 2.3 billion pesos or 71% has yet to be obligated,” she said.

“The unused 2015 budget is still available in 2016 and the agencies may augment deficient items from their savings,” the senator added.

Health Secretary Janette Garin and Senator Pia Cayetano, principal sponsor of the Reproductive Health (RH) Act, earlier expressed surprise over the budget cut.

“As the principal sponsor of the RH law, I am shocked that the RH budget was slashed by P1 billion,” Cayetano said in a separate statement Thursday.

“At every stage of the 2016 budget process, I had asked for details. This was work in progress and the detailed amendments were not readily available. Thus, we work on a basis of trust—that the chair of the finance committee would not make significant changes without informing the body, or in the case of RH, no major changes will be made without informing me, knowing that I sponsored the measure,” said Cayetano.

“As of this time, my office is looking into this because this is totally unacceptable,” she further said. RAM

Sam Miguel
01-08-2016, 02:26 PM
Legarda defends DOH’s P1B budget cut

By: Maila Ager



10:33 AM January 8th, 2016

Senator Loren Legarda defended the P1 billion cut for the Department of Health’s (DOH) budget for family planning commodities for 2016, saying it was done to augment the budget of other agencies such as the upgrading of air assets of the Department of National Defense (DND).

“The cut of P1 billion for the DOH’s family health and responsible parenting (FHRP) was a source for the increases in other agencies, including for DND air assets upgrading, which is timely and equally important given the West Philippine Sea issue, “ Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said in a statement.

“A portion of the P 1 billion was realigned within DOH to provide for the health facilities and medical assistance to indigent patients,” she said.

Legarda said the decision to cut the allocation for FHRP was done after assessing its possible impact on the program.

“We took note that as of June 2015 the DOH status of funds showed that of the P3.27 billion allocation, only P955 million has been obligated or 29%. For the remaining 6 months, 2.3 billion pesos or 71% has yet to be obligated,” she said.

“The unused 2015 budget is still available in 2016 and the agencies may augment deficient items from their savings,” the senator added.

Health Secretary Janette Garin and Senator Pia Cayetano, principal sponsor of the Reproductive Health (RH) Act, earlier expressed surprise over the budget cut.

“As the principal sponsor of the RH law, I am shocked that the RH budget was slashed by P1 billion,” Cayetano said in a separate statement Thursday.

“At every stage of the 2016 budget process, I had asked for details. This was work in progress and the detailed amendments were not readily available. Thus, we work on a basis of trust—that the chair of the finance committee would not make significant changes without informing the body, or in the case of RH, no major changes will be made without informing me, knowing that I sponsored the measure,” said Cayetano.

“As of this time, my office is looking into this because this is totally unacceptable,” she further said. RAM

Sam Miguel
01-08-2016, 02:29 PM
Santiago ‘appalled’ at P1B cut in RH allocations

By: Maila Ager



12:39 PM January 8th, 2016

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she was “appalled” at the P1 billion cut in the Reproductive Health (RH) allocations in the 2016 budget.

“When I am president, I shall work to fully and conscientiously implement the Reproductive Health Law,” Defensor-Santiago, who is running for president in May, said in a statement on Friday.

“I am therefore appalled at the cut on reproductive health allocations in the 2016 budget. It is irreconcilable that Congress, which enacted the RH Law after much hardship in 2012, would three years later render that same law inutile,” she said.

Defensor-Santiago said the said P1-billion budget cut “threatens to deprive some seven million women of reproductive health services.”

“This abandonment is immoral in a country where some 200 out of 100,000 women who give birth die,” she said.

“The enemies of reproductive health never sleep. We, too, must not rest in fighting for women’s health,” Defensor-Santiago added.

Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, earlier defended the budget cut, explaining that it was realigned to augment the budget of other agencies such for upgrading the air assets of the Department of National Defense’s and to raise the budget of state universities and colleges. RAM

Sam Miguel
01-08-2016, 02:29 PM
Santiago ‘appalled’ at P1B cut in RH allocations

By: Maila Ager



12:39 PM January 8th, 2016

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she was “appalled” at the P1 billion cut in the Reproductive Health (RH) allocations in the 2016 budget.

“When I am president, I shall work to fully and conscientiously implement the Reproductive Health Law,” Defensor-Santiago, who is running for president in May, said in a statement on Friday.

“I am therefore appalled at the cut on reproductive health allocations in the 2016 budget. It is irreconcilable that Congress, which enacted the RH Law after much hardship in 2012, would three years later render that same law inutile,” she said.

Defensor-Santiago said the said P1-billion budget cut “threatens to deprive some seven million women of reproductive health services.”

“This abandonment is immoral in a country where some 200 out of 100,000 women who give birth die,” she said.

“The enemies of reproductive health never sleep. We, too, must not rest in fighting for women’s health,” Defensor-Santiago added.

Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, earlier defended the budget cut, explaining that it was realigned to augment the budget of other agencies such for upgrading the air assets of the Department of National Defense’s and to raise the budget of state universities and colleges. RAM

Sam Miguel
01-12-2016, 09:10 AM
WHO: PH has fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world

WHO country representative Julie Hall says the Philippines needs to have a 'bigger response' to bring the epidemic under control

Jee Y. Geronimo


Published 9:36 PM, May 20, 2015

Updated 10:29 PM, May 20, 2015

MANILA, Philippines – On the heels of the Philippines' first National HIV Testing Week, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged the country to ramp up its response to put the alarming HIV situation under control.

"We're seeing a response happening now, but it needs to be bigger," WHO Representative in the Philippines Julie Hall told Rappler in an interview.

The Philippines has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, according to Hall.

Last March 2015, the health department recorded 667 new cases, bringing to 24,376 the cumulative cases since 1984. (READ: New HIV cases in PH hit all-time high – DOH)

The number of new cases recorded daily has risen from 17 in 2014 to 21 in 2015, but, despite this alarming numbers, Hall lamented that "there probably isn’t enough action right now."

"The window of opportunity is fairly small and there's a few years, really, where intensive work needs to be done to bring this outbreak into control. Otherwise, it simply gets bigger and bigger, more and more costly, more and more difficult to bring it under control," she added.

More testing, condoms

Hall said the country will need to conduct the National HIV Week about 2 to 3 times a year, since testing rates are still currently very low, especially in rural areas. (READ: 'Stop the spread of HIV')

More funding also needs to go into testing, and the availability of free treatment, counseling, and condoms. The health department's National HIV/STI Prevention Program has a 2015 budget of about P500 million ($11.21 million), 60% of which will go to the treatment of patients.

With the implementation of the reproductive health (RH) law, Hall said schools must now begin giving sex education to young people at an age before they start exploring sexually.

The national HIV prevalence in the Philippines remains low at 0.1%, but prevalence rates are "rapidly expanding" in key affected populations, such as males who have sex with males, and injecting drug users.

"The rates have taken off, the doubling of the cases. The way in which we see more and more cases, the speed with which this is now growing, is faster than what we've seen in other countries in the world," Hall said.

Time to act

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) earlier said the Philippines will not be able to meet the HIV/AIDS target in the 2015 Millennium Development Goals:

- Halt by 2015 and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
- Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it

Hall said "now is the time to act" if the country wants to reduce its HIV infections like India, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand.

These 4 countries in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific account for a large number of people living with HIV, but they have already reduced new infections by more than 50%.

For the Philippines, the National HIV Testing Week is a start. Hall said it was a "big success" in terms of awareness, but whether more people really got tested remains to be seen. – Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
01-12-2016, 10:11 AM
The ‘castrated’ RH budget

By: Rina Jimenez-David


Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:32 AM January 12th, 2016

AS IS all too common with government programs, it’s the poor—particularly poor women—who have little voice, small presence and even a lot less power, who become the biggest losers when money is scarce and there are competing claims for it.

This seems to be the case with the P1-billion cut from the budget for the purchase of family planning supplies of the Department of Health. Reports have it that the amount was removed from the DOH budget by senators sitting in the bicameral conference committee that approved the national budget.

I wonder if the news would have been met with the same disconcerting silence if the P1 billion was cut from defense, agriculture or even education. Is it because contraceptives are not considered “essential”? Not a necessity?

“It is a disservice to the poor,” commented former President Fidel V. Ramos, adding his voice to a growing chorus led by Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor Santiago who spearheaded the charge, as it were, for the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law. The budget cut, of a not-minor amount, effectively castrates (if you can use such a term for a piece of repro health legislation) the program, as protesters proclaim. This is because, contrary to popular misconception, family planning supplies are not “luxuries,” but rather essential commodities, essential to the health of women, men and babies.

Already, health commentators are saying the budget cut imperils not just family planning, but even the fight against HIV/AIDS, since condoms are part of the parcel of supplies that would have been made available by the cut. The country is facing a huge HIV/AIDS crisis, with the number of new cases, bucking a worldwide trend, increasing in these parts.

* * *

RAMOS added that the budget cut “will now affect the ability of the Department of Health to provide life-saving services that benefit the poor.” But the former president said a solution is at hand since it could still be remedied “by a supplemental budget by the 16th Congress and/or a more generous budget for RH by the next president and the 17th Congress.”

Benjamin de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, on which FVR serves as an “eminent person,” observed that the budget has always been to “serve the poor particularly in direct-service oriented departments like the DOH, DepEd, or DSWD.” So removing such a huge amount from the DOH budget “is tantamount to reducing and limiting access to health services (for) the poor who are the biggest users and recipients of public services.” The rich, said De Leon, are unaffected because they could always afford the services they need and want. But the poor, he noted, “are hardest hit by this move that clearly lacks good judgment and better decision-making.”

In reaction to the adverse reactions to the budget allocation, Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said that contrary to assertions of other senators, all information about the national budget were made available to both houses of Congress before it was enacted into law. “All senators were given a copy of the bicameral conference committee report before they voted to ratify,” said Legarda. “The first page of the report shows both the increases and decreases in the budget of all agencies including the Department of Health.”

The process of deliberating on the budget of government departments is an annual procedure that every one of them undergoes, said Legarda. But couldn’t Legarda have taken a more proactive stance in behalf of women who will suffer the most when they lose access to contraception?

* * *

I DON’T know if this would have prevented the contraceptives budget cut, or even directly improve the status of Filipino women, but the year has begun with a “strong campaign”—led by some 48 governments, led by Colombia’s female ambassador to the United Nations, and by NGOs led by women experts on the UN—to elect the first woman secretary general of the UN.

An online report explains that the “UN remains the world’s top global body for peace and security,” while the secretary general “sets and implements the UN’s priorities under agreement from member governments and is the most powerful civil servant in the world.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s term ends in December.

“Already there are a half dozen women actively vying for the job,” the report says. Of the official declared campaigns, four Easter European governments have put forward names; two of them women. Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, director general of Unesco, enjoys an early lead, staking out her issues as “civil and political rights, mutual respect, knowledge about each other, promotion of freedom of expression as part of peace, good governance, and human rights.”

* * *

ANOTHER candidate is Vesna Pusic, foreign minister of Croatia, while Western Europe has many high-level women candidates—presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers.

Also mentioned as in the running is Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and head of the UN Development Program. But while often mentioned as the “dream candidate,” observers say they do not think German Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to leave domestic politics at this stage.

But governments from Latin America are also canvassing for “one of their own” as the next UN secreteray general, including Susana Malcorra, Argentina’s new foreign minister; Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen of Costa Rica, who led the “contentious” climate change negotiations; Colombia’s foreign minister Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar, who is now leading the negotiations with the FARC guerrillas; and former president and head of UN Women (and recent Philippine visitor) Michelle Bachelet.

Sam Miguel
01-12-2016, 10:11 AM
The ‘castrated’ RH budget

By: Rina Jimenez-David


Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:32 AM January 12th, 2016

AS IS all too common with government programs, it’s the poor—particularly poor women—who have little voice, small presence and even a lot less power, who become the biggest losers when money is scarce and there are competing claims for it.

This seems to be the case with the P1-billion cut from the budget for the purchase of family planning supplies of the Department of Health. Reports have it that the amount was removed from the DOH budget by senators sitting in the bicameral conference committee that approved the national budget.

I wonder if the news would have been met with the same disconcerting silence if the P1 billion was cut from defense, agriculture or even education. Is it because contraceptives are not considered “essential”? Not a necessity?

“It is a disservice to the poor,” commented former President Fidel V. Ramos, adding his voice to a growing chorus led by Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor Santiago who spearheaded the charge, as it were, for the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law. The budget cut, of a not-minor amount, effectively castrates (if you can use such a term for a piece of repro health legislation) the program, as protesters proclaim. This is because, contrary to popular misconception, family planning supplies are not “luxuries,” but rather essential commodities, essential to the health of women, men and babies.

Already, health commentators are saying the budget cut imperils not just family planning, but even the fight against HIV/AIDS, since condoms are part of the parcel of supplies that would have been made available by the cut. The country is facing a huge HIV/AIDS crisis, with the number of new cases, bucking a worldwide trend, increasing in these parts.

* * *

RAMOS added that the budget cut “will now affect the ability of the Department of Health to provide life-sa