Pro-RH Bill crowd at Ateneo de Manila during the Anti-RH Bill prayer rally at EDSA

From Ateneo Guidon:

DESPITE THE heavy rains, students in favor of House Bill No. 4244, commonly known as the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, gathered at Gate 2.5 to participate in the Pro-RH Bill noise barrage and prayer vigil last Monday, August 6.

Students chanted “Pass that bill!” and “Reproductive Health Bill, oras na ipasa!” while prompting passing vehicles to honk their horns in support of the measure.

Moses Albiento, one of the organizers of the prayer vigil and noise barrage, said that the mobilization was a response to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) own prayer vigil….

Now this interesting: the Jesuits of Loyola House of Studies led by Fr. Quilongquilong and seminarians of San Jose Seminary who went to the Anti-RH Bill on Aug. 8 did not make it to the Guidon news.  Here is the note from the LHS website:

Loyola School of Theology, through the Social Involvement and Advocacy Committee of the LST Student Council, is inviting its students to attend the Prayer Power Rally Against the RH Bill this Saturday, 4 August 2012, 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the EDSA Shrine.

Religious communities and lay students joining the LST delegation are requested to bring their own vehicles. Assembly will be at 12:30 pm at the lobby of Loyola House of Studies. The delegation will depart in convoy for the EDSA Shrine at 1:00 pm. All participants are requested to wear red. Priests and seminarians should please bring also their soutane/habit. A Holy Mass will be offered at 5:00 pm.

I can’t see the overall extent of the crowd at Ateneo Gate 2.5, because the pictures are too close to the faces. My best guess is that it is about 20 people. In my estimate, the crowd in the EDSA Anti-RH Bill prayer rally is about 45,000-60,000.

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Ateneo Guidon’s editorial on the “Life and Love” fair vs the Reproductive Health Bill

Ateneo Guidon Editorial March-April 2011

Gray Area

Last February, as a major graded requirement for Theology 131 class, some students held a “Life and Love” Fair: a week-long event where various moral issues, among them the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, were presented to the Loyola Schools community with the objective of promoting the pro-life stand of the Catholic Church.

During the same month,k students under Theology Professor Aguido Florence Jalin, Jr. from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) flooded the Akbayan Party-list Facebook fan page with “anti-RH Bill messages” in exchange for higher grades.  Professor Jalin mentioned in his comment on the Akbayan Youth WordPress site that the messages posted by his students “were not ill-formed decisions” but consistent with the contents of the July 26 Pastoral Letter of the CBCP.

The students who posted these maessages on FAcebook were naturally practicing their right to express their opinion regarding the RH Bill.  However, a more significant question must be raised–how are these opinions formed?  The manner by which universities influence their students to form their own stands should be in the context of a culture where academic discourse is encouraged.  In light of the RH Bill, this academic discourse involves the critical study of the issue, where students are driven towards forming their own stands, and not simply complying with what is told to them as right or wrong with the threat of a low grade. It is of value to remember this–that despite universities having their own opinions on relevant issues, it does not mean that students must be required to echo their sentiments on these matters as amoral automatons.

This dissonance in views can be illustrated by stands taken by various members of the Ateneo community.  Fr. Bienvenido Nebres mentioned in a memo last March 25 that the university will continue to stand in opposition of the RH Bill.  A few days prior to this, it was reported that over 200 faculty members from the ATeneo and the University of the Philippines called for teh passage of the RH Bill.  It is important to remember that this divergence of views may exist even in the microcosm that is the classroom–and that the students who participated in the “Life and Love” Fair may have simply been afraid to voice out their own personal opinions of the RH Bill in class and in public in fear of a low grade.

A critical stud of the RH Bill and other sensitive issues is best done when ideas from both sides are exchanged in debate.  The RH Bill cannot be seen in mere black and white; when this happens, people form stands either for or against the RH Bill that are not supported by the foundation of a through understanding of the issue.  In addition, it is important to strike the right balance between the simplification of the issue and the emphasis on the gray areas–both the bill’s very essence and its nitty gritty must be taken into consideration.

Being a Catholic university, the Ateneo will always be anchored to the Catholic faith it perpetuates.  However, it is also the unversity’s responsibility to form and inform consciences in order to help students make better decisions.  In the context of the RH Bill debate, the fulfillment of this responsibility entails the school’s engagement of its students in the critical study of the issue.

Ateneo Guidon: Physics prof draws flak over comments on ‘homosexual’ thesis

A colleague of mine called me up yesterday that he got copies of the recent issue of the Guidon, the official student publication of the Ateneo de Manila University.  He told me that I was featured there, so he asked me sign about 10 copies.  It’s for history’s sake, he said.  The article was entitled, “Physics prof draws flak over comments on ‘homosexual’ thesis.”  The article was about the comments I received in my blogpost: https://monkshobbit.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/ateneo-psychology-department-has-an-undergraduate-thesis-poster-exhibit-on-homosexuality/.  

Physics prof draws flak over comments on ‘homosexual’ thesis

by Katerina D. Francisco

A theoretical physicist who posted comments about a thesis poster exhibit on homosexuality drew angry comments from students, who called the professor out on his alleged homophobia.

Quirino Sugon Jr., Ph.D., an assistant professor from the physics department, wrote an entry in blog entitled “Ateneo Psychology Department has an undergraduate thesis poster exhibit on homosexuality.” The entry was posted last February 18.

His post contained a notice from the psychology department, which announced a poster exhibit featuring this year’s senior theses.  Two of the featured theses had themes related to homosexuality.

Sugon then commented that the Ateneo was being besieged by “homosexual propaganda,” a remark that drew the ire of one of the thesis groups he had pointed out.

Dark Ages?

The exhibit, held last February 21 to 24 at the MVP basement, showcased theses of senior psychology students presented in poster format.

The notice from the psychology department also contained a list of five nominees for the best undergraduate thesis.  In his comment, Sugon highlighted two of the theses for their topics on homosexuality.

“If Ateneo de Manila University does not defend its Catholic traditions against the siege of homosexual propaganda, Ateneo shall become a Catholic-In-Name-Only just like other Jesuit schools like Georgetown and Fordham who caved-in to homosexual ideology.  The Dark Ages are at hand,” Sugon said.

Such remarks did not sit well with Leia Erika Obias and Paolo Stephen Banaga.  They, along with Joy Albertine Mae Valenton, worked on a thesis entitled, “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It: An Interpretative Phenomenological Study of Filipino Homosexual Men in Mixed Orientation Unions.”

Obias clarified that not all of the theses in the exhibit were about homosexuality.  She also commented that Sugon’s note at the end implied that her group’s thesis was “homosexual propaganda.”

“This is what angered me… the most,” she addressed to Sugon in a reply to the blog post.  “You have made assumptions without first getting the facts.”

“I might not be Catholic and have verses from the Bible at hand to strengthen my point, but I’m sure that there must be something there that tells you not to discriminate against anyone, homosexuals included,” she added.

Obias found out about the entry when she saw a link to the blog site posted on Facebook.  Upon reading the entry, she informed here thesis partners and their adviser, Mendiola Ten-Calleja.  Banaga said the entry quickly gained notoriety in the department.

Obias explained that their thesis was about mixed orientation marriages, or marriages between homosexual men and heterosexual women.  Banaga said they decided to work on this topic because most studies have been devoted to studying unions between homosexuals.

“We wanted to open the eyes of the people that it’s a reality that’s out there.  We wanted to address it.  We wanted to give the views of both spouses [so] people will understand,” Banaga explained.

Asked for comment, Sugon said care must be taken in the things that one chooses to work on or publish.

“They have to [read] it very carefully, [because it is like] a precipice,” Sugon said regarding the student’s thesis. “[Once] you work on [or] study something that the Church calls sin, ultimately you [can be convinced] on the ideas and propositions of the [other ideology].”

“So without the guidance of the Church, it is perilous for an ordinary student to just [work on it] in a carefree way.”

He added that the things that one publishes become support for or against an ideology.

In the wake of the issue, the psychology department released an official statement on the undergraduate students’ research on homosexuality.

“Psychology is the scientific study of human behavior and mental processes.  As an empirical science, it seeks to describe, understand, and explain human phenomena, as these exist in society.  Homosexuality is one such phenomenon that can be subject matter of social scientific investigation.

With reports by Jam D. Paclibar