Philippine Knights of Columbus Organized Nationwide Rallies Against the Reproductive Health Bill

by Roy Lagarde

MANILA, March 21, 2009—As the battle over a ground-breaking reproductive health (RH) bill is heating up, thousands of people across the county protested its passage in simultaneous rallies held Saturday.

“No to abortion!” chanted some participants of “Walk for Life” in Tacloban City, some carrying placards. “We value life,” others answered.

“Reject RH bill!”

“Now!”

In Manila, opponents of the pending bill strongly disagreed on what its proponents will bring to the country. Church and lay leaders told the hundreds who attended the rally that lawmakers backing the proposed measure support a “culture of death.” Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo called on the faithful not to waver in their faith, prayers and activities to block the passage of the bill.

“We should advocate responsible and ethical population management and family planning,” Lagdameo said in his statement read by Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco.  “We oppose and shall oppose together with our people any law of the state that violate the conscience of the people and the supreme law of God about life and morality,” he said.

Culture of death

Saturday’s rally at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila was the first of its kind held in the country organized by the Knights of Columbus (KC) Philippines, the largest fraternal organization of Catholic men. The rally was preceded by a mass held at the San Agustin Church presided by Bishop Ongtioco, who also served as KC’s Luzon State chaplain.

In his homily, the bishop said chided lawmakers pushing for RH bill which seeks to promote the use of contraceptives in family planning such as condoms and pills and to control the country’s population. He said that it’s evident that the main problem is not the population but the greed of the people which results to corruption and hoarding of supplies.

“The problem is not in population but wrong appropriation of budget and sharing of resources,” he said.

Ongtioco said that reproductive health and family planning must be founded from the perspective of values. But because of “selfishness,” he said, instead of promoting life, some people and groups promote the “culture of death—death of what true happiness, joy, peace and all the good things we ling to have.”

“As concerned citizens and responsible Christians we seek to promote the culture of life for it is important for the future of humanity,” the bishop said.

Mayor Lim joins protests

After the mass, KC members marched along M. Orosa-TM Kalaw-Taft Avenue route until they reached the Bonifacio Shrine near Manila City Hall. They were also joined by Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim. In his speech, Lim said he too is against the passage of the RH bill. He assured the crowd that the City of Manila is pro-life. And if in case the bill would become a law, he said that his administration will not follow its provision wherein the local government units will buy contraceptives using taxpayers’ money.

Surveys

One of the speakers, Msgr. Pedro Quitorio cautioned the rallyists to go easy with the surveys that always post the assumption that majority of Filipinos are for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill which is anti-life.

“The empirical truth is that during the last elections, the most number of votes was garnered by the pro-life partylist “Buhay,” that took the highest number of seats in the House. On the other hand those that were openly anti-life, did not get peoples votes,” Quitorio said.

For her part, Human Life International-Asia Director Dr. Ligaya Acosta said that the Reproductive Health Bill is not about health. She encouraged Catholics to firmly make a stand against life.

“If we are Catholics we cannot be pro-choice,” she said.

Simultaneous

Protests have also been held in several Luzon areas, including San Pablo (Laguna), San Fernando (Pampanga), Cabatuan City, Isabela (Isabela), Tuguegarao City and Naga City. The rally in Cebu City was led by Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla also spearheaded the rally in Davao City attended by various KC Councils in Mindanao.

Natural birth control

Among the bill’s objectives is to provide government-funded family planning, contraceptives, and sex education for youth. Backers of the bill said it’s needed to prevent illegal abortions and help curb poverty by addressing overpopulation. But the church sees artificial birth control as immoral and has long foiled any efforts to provide government funding for such methods. The Catholic Church only supports “natural” birth control, such as the “rhythm method,” by which women avoid having sex on the most fertile days of their monthly cycle.

Source: Roy Lagarde, “RH bill rallies stretch across nation” in CBCP News (Manila, 21 March 2009)

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About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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