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Monday, July 21, 2008

Philippines: Reproductive health bill loses backer claims archbishop

The Church still retains a considerable influence on issues such as this in the Philippines. You certainly never see ads for condoms. In fact I never saw ads either for viagra or cialis! Although the Roman Catholic Church does support family planning it seems not to be that effective since it allows only abstinence or the rhythm method. However, I recall a survey showing that the reason Filipinos have a lot of children is because they like kids! Given the economic conditions and resources available in the Philippines however the situation would be better if there was more effective family planning and a stable or even declining population.


Reproductive health bill loses backer, says archbishop Prelate says Batangas solon changed his mind
By Christian V. Esguerra, Yolanda Sotelo-FuertesReporterPhilippine Daily Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau
Posted date: July 20, 2008
MANILA, Philippines--Lawmakers working for a reproductive health and population control bill in the House of Representatives appear to have lost an ally.
Rep. Mark Llandro Mendoza of the fourth district of Batangas has withdrawn his support for the measure, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) Sunday.
Arguelles, whose pastoral jurisdiction covers Mendoza's legislative district, said the congressman made known his "change of heart" in a letter to the prelate dated June 28.
"He apologized for his position," Arguelles said.
Repeated calls and text messages from the Inquirer newspaper got no reply from Mendoza Sunday. INQUIRER.net was also unable to reach him.
Apparently, Mendoza had written the bishop before informing his colegislators. Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a leading proponent of the reproductive health bill, said Sunday he was not aware of Mendoza's decision.
Mendoza had sponsored his own version of the bill before it was included in the consolidated measure, Lagman said.
Despite Mendoza's about-face, Lagman was optimistic more congressmen would throw their support behind the consolidated bill once sessions resume on July 28. So far, he said, the measure had about 50 coauthors.
Unlike Mendoza, Pangasinan Rep. Victor Agbayani said he was sticking to his position and urged the Church to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
"The bishops have all the right to inform the public about what the Church teaches, but lawmakers should not be prevented from passing a law which they think is good [for the country]," Agbayani said in a telephone interview Sunday.
The Church should not stop married couples from freely choosing which method to use in planning their families, he said.
Census statistics from 2006 showed that 50.6 percent of married women used a family planning method, mostly a modern one.
When Agbayani was governor of Pangasinan, the provincial government put in place a population management program that earned for him a Rafael Salas Population and Development Award in 2003.
The provincial population office (PPO) also won several awards from the Population Commission and other government and nongovernment agencies for its effective population management efforts.
As for the bishops' claims that some contraceptives were abortifacient (cause abortion), Agbayani said many doctors disagreed with the bishops' views.
"It is very clear that the [reproductive health] bill is anti-abortion. Family planning prevents abortion because it avoids the occurrence of unwanted pregnancies. It actually reduces the incidence of abortion," he said.
Agbayani, who was governor from 1998 to 2007, said Pangasinan was the first province to develop a contraceptive self-reliance program after the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) stopped providing free contraceptives to the province.
Former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez had called on lawmakers not to compromise with the Catholic bishops on the reproductive health issue which would benefit many families.
Meanwhile, Church officials said there was no need to invite President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to a "Rally for Life" that they will hold at the University of Santo Tomas on Friday
Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said they had already taken up the issue with the President.
In her recent dialogue with the bishops, President Arroyo had said "'the fight (against the passage of the reproductive health bill) is now in Congress,'" Castro said in a phone interview with the Inquirer newspaper.
The priest said they had invited members of Congress like Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and Manuel Villar and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, among others.
"We invited lawmakers to strengthen their support for the Church's stand on the issue," Castro said, but he added that the politicians would not be allowed to use the gathering "for politicking."

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