Aquino appeals to Philippine bishops amid civil disobedience threat
Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III urged recently the Catholic bishops to calm down and to await a planned dialogue, after the bishops had threatened to launch a civil disobedience campaign over the pending reproductive health bill.
The Palace said they will hold a dialogue with the powerful and influential Catholic church after it has consulted with lay leaders on R.H. bill 96, which is pending in Congress, GMA News said.
If passed, the bill will require sex education in primary and secondary public schools, and call for the purchase of contraceptives by state hospitals as part of its essential medicines and supplies, according to the CBCP website.
The Catholic church only permits natural methods of birth control and claims that artificial methods of birth control will promote promiscuity and increase abortions. Eighty percent of the Philippine population is Roman Catholic, GMA News reported.
The church went up in arms after Aquino (who is on a seven-day visit in the U.S.) said in a U.S. televised interview that determining the size of one’s family is a personal choice, the AFP said.
Aquino said, “The government is obligated to inform everybody of their responsibilities and their choices. At the end of the day, government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method,” the AFP reported.
Aquino added, “I believe the couple will be in the best position to determine what is best for the family, how to space (the births), what methods they can rely on and so forth. They face the responsibility for the children that they bring in and government is willing to assist them,” according to the AFP.
Civil disobedience threatened
Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said, “If the RH bill becomes law, we will advise Catholics not to follow it…the Church considers as non-negotiable its opposition to artificial contraception,” GMA News reported.
Iniguez blamed Aquino’s stance on artificial contraception on the fresh aid from the United States which includes a $434-million grant from the Millennium Challenge Corp., GMA News said.
In the CBCP website Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the bishops’ Commission on Family and Life said, “It’s no secret that the US and other foreign nations have tried to pressure the Philippine government for a more aggressive birth control program.”
In the past the bishops had often condemned the USAID, United Nations Population Fund and other international aid agencies which Castro said have been pressuring lawmakers to push the reproductive health (RH) bill, according to their website.
Castro expressed fear that with Aquino’s recent support for artificial contraception, the possible passage of the RH bill is further strengthened. He noted that while Aquino was always a strong advocate of the measure, he was relatively silent on the issue during the campaign period, the CBCP website said.
The Philippines estimates its 2010 population at 94.01 million, up from 76.5 million in the 2000 census and making it the 12th most populous nation in the world AFP.