What the Church failed to do: Kill bill


By Ludy A. Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Sadly, and it has been traced to almost 14 years since, the passage of the Reproduction Health Bill (RH) in the Philippines has been one of defiance and obstruction by the “Bishops.”

The “Bishops” is the term ascribed to representatives of the Catholic Church in that island archipelago who pressured the Philippine laity to protest the RH bill, using fear as their instrument of reprisal on the Catholic population.

Why? This is the pressing question on the minds of those who have been vehement supporters of the bill that has just been ratified by the Philippine Congress.

As The FilAm goes to press, the ratified bill awaits the signature of President Benigno Aquino III, a strong advocate of reproductive health.

To any clear-thinking Filipino citizen, the RH Bill is meant to save lives. Going farther, when the role of the mother is discussed, “mothers who die daily from child birth complications, as brought out by surveys: 20 infants per l,000 live births who die before the age of 5.” Thus, it has been proven that the tragedies have taken place because of ‘no access to assistance; families who are in dire poverty are too poor to feed their brood.’

Yet, despite the aforementioned statistics, the priorities of the Roman Catholic Church took precedence over and above the needs of the majority of Filipinos.

The essence of the proposed RH law is that it “will provide free or subsidized birth control to poor people as well as require sex education in schools and mandate training in family planning for community health workers.”

Ironically, despite 80 percent of the country’s population is Catholic, birth control has long been ‘available’ to those who seek it, as long as they could pay.

With their religious convictions under discussion, mothers-to-be have the right to be informed of their options. They can make their own decisions in line with the dictates of their own conscience. Why would the “Bishops interfere with their decisions? They have no right to dictate to their ‘flock.’

The question has been raised: “What is the difference between a Catholic bishop who would force his flock to stop thinking and follow what he wants them to do and a Taliban, who would defy the Taliban?”

Owing to name-calling, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda called on all concerned to put a halt to the action, as he called on opponents of the RH bill to present ‘rational and principled debates on the measure.’ Lacierda cried ‘foul’ on the comparison reportedly made by Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles between President Aquino and Adam Lanza, the shooter behind the school massacre of 26 lives that included 20 five- and six-year-olds and six staff members in Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.

While Lanza shot those mortals in merciless fashion, the same Archbishop Arguelles was heard to claim, President Aquino “might kill millions of children when he signs the RH measure into law.”

The same spokesman said: “I think that is a very unfair allusion to the Connecticut shooting. That is a very unfortunate tragedy and it should not be wished on any community. It is a grossly malicious statement. The Arguelles attack on the Philippine Chief Executive was also ‘unbefitting’ a bishop, the prelate should just pray for the victims of the Connecticut tragedy.”

Why anti-RH bill advocates have descended to the level of name-calling in the debate on the measure has been perplexing to those who sided with the bill’s ratification. The consensus among those who have heard the egregious name-calling: “We have a
marketplace of ideas. Let’s debate on the issues. Let’s debate on the principles. Let’s not descend to the level of name-calling which many oppositionists have done repeatedly.”

It is ironic that lay members of the Catholic faith need to address the “Bishops,” to plead to them to cease and desist, they who are supposed to be models of superior deportment and behavior as representatives of the Church that invokes peace.

Although it is accepted that Church leaders are entitled to their views, it is their job to stay within their boundaries. They must not inflict emotional pain on their followers just because they have openly chosen to support the RH measure.

Over time, birth control has been totally opposed by the Catholic Church. Yet, most sectors of the nation’s population differ with Roman Catholic teaching. Statistics offer the information: More than 70 percent of Filipinos support the RH measure.

The Church leaders say they haven’t given up their fight; theirs is a continuous vow to fight the RH Bill in the Supreme Court. The same obstinacy is resorted to by the “Bishops,” who say they will ‘sermonize against it to their flocks.’


  1. Paula wrote:

    Simple but very accurate information. Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!

  2. Marvin wrote:

    “The Church leaders say they haven’t given up their fight; theirs is a continuous vow to fight the RH Bill in the Supreme Court. The same obstinacy is resorted to by the “Bishops,” who say they will ‘sermonize against it to their flocks.’”

    Another interesting closing statement. Yes, you can count on the Bishops to do that. They would be a disservice to their vocation, to the Catholic Church, and, most importantly, to Jesus Christ who died on the cross, if they would cave in to articles like this.

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