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           The criminal complaint of the Archdiocese of Manila which caused the prolonged detention of RH activist Carlos Celdran in a police cell smacks of intolerance and unchristian conduct by the Catholic hierarchy.

           It is stretching too far the church’s opposition to the reproductive health bill because the ejection of Celdran from the Manila Cathedral premises was sufficient and his incarceration at the time when prosecutory and judicial offices were closed was unnecessary and unwarranted.

           Celdran is being charged with violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code on “Offending the religious feelings”, which is of an archaic and colonial vestige.

           Celdran’s display of a placard on which was written the name “DAMASO” is an apt reminder to Church officials of the abuses and inequities of the clergy during the Spanish colonial regime when the Church wantonly interfered in secular activities and dictated on civilian authorities.

           The message of Celdran is that “Father Damasos” have survived the Spanish era and continue to bedevil government up to today.

           The protest of Celdran is even of a lesser degree than the clergy’s using the pulpit to repeatedly lambast and defame RH advocates in lieu of a homily on the gospel for the day, which malicious tirades also offend the religious feelings of the faithful who go to church to participate in a solemn mass.

 

           The threat of excommunication against President Benigno Aquino III for endorsing voluntary contraceptive use is an antediluvian method of compelling adherence to Church doctrines.

           The imposition of excommunication contradicts the Church’s principle on free will and defies freedom of informed choice which is the central advocacy of the reproductive health bill.

           If the basis for excommunication is the distribution and use of contraceptives, then the Church will lose its congregation since a great majority of Catholics favor the enactment of an RH law and the government’s funding the procurement and distribution of contraceptives to willing acceptors of family planning.

           Millions of Filipino Catholics will be candidates for excommunication under this policy of the Church even as Ateneo University professors maintain that people can be good Catholics even if they use contraceptives.

           Contraceptives which are “legal, medically-safe and effective” as prescribed in the RH bill are not abortifacients.

           Contraceptives prevent ovulation and/or fertilization so much so that there is no embryo or fetus to be aborted.

           Contrary to the claims of its critics, the RH bill is definitely pro-life because studies conducted by the UNFPA and WHO all conclude that correct and consistent use of contraceptives can reduce maternal deaths by one-third. It is also anti-abortion since research by the Allan Guttmacher Institute shows that contraceptive use reduces abortion rates by 85%.

 

          Minority Leader Edcel C. Lagman underscored the need to enact soonest a comprehensive, rights-based, health-oriented and development-driven reproductive health law because “there is definitely more to family planning than pills and condoms because RH saves lives.”

          “The Church can continue on its mission to save souls but the State must pursue unhampered a program which reduces maternal and infant mortality in the secular realm.” Lagman stated.

          Lagman clarified that House Bill No. 96 on Reproductive Health and Population and Development is primarily a health measure. “It will promote maternal and infant health even as it will help prevent the deaths of thousands of mothers and babies annually,” he said.

In the Philippines, 11 mothers die daily and the lifetime risk of maternal death in the country is 1 in 140, compared to 1 in 8,000 for women in developed countries. RH advocates maintain that universal access to reproductive health information and services will help improve overall health and reduce poverty.

           “Studies by the WHO, UNDP and UNFPA confirm that correct and consistent use of contraceptives will prevent one-third of all maternal deaths,” Lagman said. He also stressed that virtually all or 98% of maternal deaths happen in developing countries like the Philippines.

           In its State of the World’s Children Report way back in 1992, the UNICEF also asserted that “family planning could bring more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single technology now available to the human race.”

           The Albay solon explained that family planning will have a direct effect on maternal mortality by reducing the number of high-risk pregnancies. “Family planning will help women who are at a higher risk of maternal death avoid unplanned pregnancies,” he said.

           He added that the RH bill will also most definitely help lower the incidence of abortion by preventing unplanned, mistimed and unwanted pregnancies which are the ones being terminated though induced abortion. Moreover, he said that research by the Allan Guttmacher Institute shows that contraceptive use reduces abortion rates by 85%.

Office of Minority Leader Edcel C. Lagman
0916-6406737 / 0918-9120137
28 September 2010
 
          President Benigno Aquino III should complement his advocacy on voluntary family planning, birth spacing and contraceptive use by likewise endorsing the immediate passage of the reproductive health bill whose central idea is freedom of informed choice.
 
          This endorsement would fittingly cap the Aquino administration’s first 100 days and mitigate early setbacks.
 
          House Bill No. 96, the first of several reproductive health bills refiled in the 15th Congress, which I principally authored, guarantees “the right to make free and informed decisions” and promotes “without bias all modern natural and artificial methods of family planning that are medically safe, legal and effective”.
 
          The bill underscores in its Explanatory Note that “neither the State nor the Church has the authority to compel the people or the faithful what family planning method to adopt. The choice belongs to parents and couples, particularly to women who have an inherent right over their own bodies.”
 
          The Philippines is the only middle-income Asian country without a comprehensive reproductive health law.
 
The need to institutionalize by legislation a progressive reproductive health policy is imperative to counteract the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of changing administrations and leaders.
 
          In 2008, Millennium Development Goal No. 5 on improvement of maternal health and reduction of maternal mortality was amended to include the achievement of “universal access to reproductive health” by 2015.
 
          The Philippines is one of 189 signatory countries to the Millennium Declaration 10 years ago this month.
 
          Reproductive health and family planning are interlinked with all of the eight MDGs from the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty, combating HIV-AIDS and reducing child mortality to achieving universal primary education and ensuring environmental sustainability. When the first comprehensive version of the RH bill was filed in the 11th Congress 10 years ago, the Philippine population was about 75 million. A decade later or on 01 July 2010 when House Bill No. 96 was filed, the country’s population has ballooned to 93.4 million or a staggering increase of 19.3 million or an average increase of almost two million annually.
 
          While the Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world, its human development index ranking has slipped to 105th among 182 countries in the latest Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 2009.
 
          A high population growth rate of 2.04% impacts adversely on all indicators of human development like health, education, food security, employment, mass housing and the environment.

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Aquino blinks, seeks talks with Church

Catholic groups plan protests backed by bishops

By Jocelyn R. Uy, Christine O. Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:13:00 09/29/2010

Link: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100929-294905/Aquino-blinks-seeks-talks-with-Church

Noy urged to endorse RH bill
By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) Updated September 29, 2010 12:00 AM

Link: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=616283&publicationSubCategoryId=63

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