this was published as a 3/4 page print ad at today’s philippine daily inquirer on page 11. it is a direct reaction to the articles that fr. joaquin bernas, a jesuit has been publishing in his column in the same newspaper on the rh bill.
fr. bernas is a prominent filipino jesuit in the country respected and admired by all for being one of the country’s most authoritative on philippine law. fr. bernas teaches law at the ateneo law school and was a member of the constitutional convention that drafted the current constitution of the country. fr. bernas is often called by the courts and other lawyers for his opinion on matters of law.
we have printed here many of the important articles fr. bernas has written on the rh bull. (click here : http://2010presidentiables.wordpress.com/?s=bernas)
this is the first time that the cbcp has directly answered fr. bernas on his views on the rh bill. fr. bernas has been publishing his views on the rh bill for many months now without a reaction from the cbcp. we give an explanation on this “sudden” reply by the cbcp to fr. bernas.
the print ad reply of the cbcp must have been triggered by the recent controversy that is still brewing right now on the ateneo professors’ stand on the rh bill. 192 ateneo professors have recently released a statement saying they support the rh bill and are calling for congress to immediately pass it into law. this is the thrid time that the ateneo professors have released such a statement but this one was different in that a large number, 192 in all have signed on to the statement. the first statement of the ateneo professors only had 60 professors signing up (“catholics can support the th bill in good conscience”)
read relevant articles on the ateneo professors support on the rh bill here: (click to read)
- ateneo president fr villarin ignores bishop, upholds independent thinking and appreciates ateneo professors efforts on rh bill
- 33 more ateneo professors support rh bill, now 192 professors
- bishop wants pro rh bill Ateneo professors fired – hahahaha
- 160 Ateneo De Manila University Professors declare support for the RH Bill
- Catholics Can Support The RH Bill In Good Conscience – Ateneo Professors’ Position Paper RH Bill 5043
a bigger controversy was sparked when a permanent member bishop of the CBCP called for the ateneo to investigate the ateneo professors for their stand on the rh bill and said that they should be sanctioned, in fact fired from their jobs for their stand. the bishop also said catholic schools that do not teach the stand of the church on the rh bill should lose their “catholic” status.
the very next day the bishop made the threat of removing the “catholic status” of the ateneo and asking for the ateneo to fire the professors from their jobs, fr. jett villarin, president of the ateneo de manila university published an open letter to the ateneo community at the ateneo website.
fr. villarin in his letter did not say the ateneo professors will be given any sanction, will not be fired from their jobs and instead he even appreciated the efforts of the ateneo professors at forwarding their stand on the rh bill. the ateneo president also reiterated that as a catholic school, the ateneo is anti rh bill but respects the individual stand of the professors which was contrary to the university’s stand.
some things on the CBCP statement:
- we find it strange that the name of fr. bernas is mentioned in this statement posted at the CBCP for Life website but has been deleted in the print ad released at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. we wonder what the reason is for that change.
- this statement admits the CBCP stand against the rh bill is not based on theology, ”It is also good to point out that the church teaching regarding contraceptives is not based on Faith or revelation”.
- it confirms our view that the CBCP’s opposition on the rh bill is based on Humanae Vitae, the encyclical pope paul VI released in 1968. (click to read here: Humanae Vitae encyclical – the catholic church’s basis for it’s stand on birth control)
- it specifically basses its objection on “natural law”
- humanae vitae and natural law while talke about by the church are not infallible and not dogma. a pope need to declare a church teaching to be infallible or dogma. no such thing has been done for both.
- infallible encyclicals or dogma need to be followed by all catholics. it is a sin for catholics not to follow them.
- since humanae vitae and natural law are not infallible and not dogma, catholics can treat these only as guidelines or food for thought. they have the freedom to follow it or not.
- the above has been the position of fr. bernas and the ateneo professors.
(note : highlights are mine)
Defense of the Stand of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on the House Bill 4244 (Reproductive Health Bill)
Bishop of Antipolo defends the CBCP.
One of the main reasons, if not the main reason, why the Catholic Church is against the House Bill 4244 (Reproductive Health Bill or Responsible Parenthood Bill) is that the bill directs the government to promote contraception and to give free contraceptives to people. According to Father Bernas, SJ (Sounding Board, Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 23, 2011), this opposition of the Church is against religious freedom. He says that, because of religious freedom, “the state should not prevent people from practicing responsible parenthood according to their beliefs nor may churchmen compel President Aquino, by whatever means, to prevent people from acting according to their religious belief.”
First of all, by opposing the RH Bill, the Catholic Church is not moving for the ban of contraceptives (the non-abortifacient ones), although she would be happy if these contraceptives were banned. At present, in the Philippines, anyone can buy contraceptives from drugstores and even from some “convenience stores”. What the Church is against, I repeat, is that government should promote contraception and provide free contraceptives to people. Therefore it is wrong to say that the Church wants the government to “prevent people from practicing responsible parenthood according to their religious belief” and that the Catholic churchmen are compelling “President Aquino, by whatever means, to prevent people from acting according to their religious beliefs.” What the church does is to try to convince President Aquino and our senators and congressmen not to enact a law that directs the government to promote contraception and provide free contraceptives to people.
It is also good to point out that the church teaching regarding contraceptives is not based on Faith or revelation, although it is confirmed by our Faith. This church teaching is based on natural law, which we know through natural reason. By studying through correct reasoning the nature of the human person, we arrive at this teaching regarding contraception. All human beings, Catholic or not, are obliged to act according to right reason. By the efforts of the Church to go against the RH Bill, the Church is not imposing her religious beliefs on others. She is trying to stop a bill which is against natural law, a law which all human beings, Catholic or not, should follow. The RH Bill, judged from the principles of natural law, is against the good of the human person and the common good. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its “Doctrinal Note regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life” tells us that all citizens, including Catholics, have the right “to base their contribution to society and political life – through the legitimate means available to everyone in a democracy – on their particular understanding of the human person and the common good.” In a democracy, any group of citizens has the right to campaign and lobby so that what they consider to be good for the country are enacted into law and what they deem to be harmful for the country are not enacted into law.
the honorable senator tito sotto has made it to the big apple, at least at the New York Times on the speeches he has been making on the rh bill at the senate floor. we think this piece by miguel syjuco is an excellent piece that gives very good snapshots of the legacy of the senator at the philippine senate.
sotto’s latest rant on the rh bill at the senate floor gave us these:
- sotto thinks he is immune from criticism and disagreement from social media netizens. sotto in his latest rant at the senate floor practically spent 99% of this speech complaining about how he has been criticized for his plagiarized speech.
- not only that, sotto has threatened to pass a bill to stop or control bloggers and netizens from social media.
- president noynoy aquino also makes speeches and he also gets criticized by social media netizens but we have not heard the president complain, much less threaten netizens of censorship. sotto apparently feels otherwise.
- he spent 99% of his speech complaining about the criticisms and disagreements thrown at him by social media netizens, the balance 1% he spent on one sentence, at the very end of his speech – he asked the senate to remove from the senate records the plagiarized parts of his speech that he delivered on the floor.
- to this date, sotto has not admitted he has plagiarized parts of his speech but now we wonder why he needed to ask the senate to remove parts of his speech from the senate record.
A Plagiarist’s Rant Against Birth Control
By MIGUEL SYJUCO Published: August 29, 2012
WHILE anatomically illiterate politicians in America babble about “legitimate rape,” a Filipino legislator opposed to birth control has been shedding crocodile tears in Parliament and plagiarizing speeches to bolster the case against reproductive rights.
On Aug. 13, the Senate majority leader, Tito Sotto, wept while addressing his assembled peers. The former actor told the Senate that birth-control pills, used by his wife in 1974, had led to the death of their newborn son a year later. The emotional scene shut down the day’s debate. It was the latest obstruction to passing a reproductive health law that has languished for 14 years.
Proponents of the reproductive health bill say it will address poverty, women’s rights, infant and maternal mortality, and overpopulation in a poor nation crowded with 94 million people. Though contraceptives are currently available, the general population can’t afford them. The bill seeks to offer natural and artificial birth-control options, reproductive health care and sex education in public schools.
Opponents, like Mr. Sotto and the powerful Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, saycontraception is akin to abortion. They claim the bill is an elitist and foreign conspiracy to corrupt a country in which 80 percent of the population is Catholic. They fear the erosion of family values, state intrusion on religious freedom, tacit approval of promiscuity and side effects of oral contraceptives.
Two days later, news that Mr. Sotto had plagiarized his speech spilled across blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Careful readers proved that he’d copied and pasted, without citation, large portions from as many as at least five online sources. Among them were the writings of Sarah Pope, who blogs as “the Healthy Home Economist”; a New York University Web site on the notable birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger; and an American activist named Janice Formichella, writing for Feminists for Choice. What’s more, the senator twisted their words for his own purposes.
Mr. Sotto forcefully denied responsibility rather than confessing and offering an apology. When Ms. Pope blogged her dismay at being plagiarized, the senator declared on Filipino TV: “Why would I quote from a blogger? She’s just a blogger.” His chief of staff, Hector Villacorta, told reporters that blogs aren’t copyrighted, governments are exempt from copyright laws, and parliamentary immunity protects the senator. Besides, the Philippines “plagiarized the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “Even our image was copied from God. We are all plagiarists.”
God, it seems, is also on Mr. Sotto’s side.
ateneo president fr villarin ignores bishop, upholds independent thinking and appreciates ateneo professors efforts on rh bill
in the long held tradition of the ateneo, fr. villarin, ateneo president not only upholds independent thinking but more importantly appreciates the 192 professors who have released a statement of their support on the rh bill. the latter to me was unexpected.
some weeks ago, the ateneo professors released a statement where 160 of them stated their support for the rh bill, calling for congress to pass the bill. that caught the attention of the rh bill advocates and was one of the most talked about among groups involved on the bill.
then just a few days ago, the same group of ateneo professors released another statement saying an additional 33 professors signed on to their statement of support for the rh bill.
that once again caught the attention of opposing forces on the rh bill debate and this time included traditional media. it helped that that was the time that president aquino included the rh bill on his SONA and it was causing excitement in congress. the renewed interest and strong publicity of the statement of the ateneo professors supporting the rh bill also caught the attention of the CBCP and a permanent member of it.
CBCP member bishop medroso has said the ateneo professors who aired their support for the rh bill should be investigated to see if they should be fired for teaching the rh bill at the ateneo. the CBCP opposes the rh bill.
bishop medroso says the ateneo being a catholic school should toe the line of the CBCP on the rh bill. according to him by implication, ateneo can lose its recognition as a catholic school and the professors their jobs if they teach their students their support to the rh bill in the classrooms.
as a reaction to the growing and very loud voices on the ateneo professors’ statements, this letter was released by fr. villarin. it was released very quickly, just one day after the threat of the bishop was written up in the press.
the letter states that it recognizes the individual stand of the professors in their support of the rh bill and accepts that there are divergent views on the rh bill and the ateneo professors position is one of them.
the most important part is that he does not sanction the ateneo professors for their stand supporting the rh bill which is contrary to the school’s stand and the CBCP. the CBCP bishop was in less than subtle terms wanted the sanction.
fr. villarin even goes on to give the ateneo professors encouragement, saying they should “continue in their discernment of the common good“, appreciating the intent the professors stated in their position paper which was to help the poor, saying “I appreciate their social compassion and intellectual efforts“.
we thought that the last part on the “intellectual efforts” was not just a recognition of the high quality work and thinking the professors put into their statement but also a subtle allusion to the quality, or lack of it, of the discourse from anti rh bill proponents.
it is very clear that in this letter, fr. villarin:
- ignores, rebukes and delivers a slap in the face of the CBCP and the bishop who was calling for the ateneo professors to be fired from their teaching jobs at the ateneo
- key here is fr. villarin has stated no sanctions of any sort or censure on the ateneo professors. this is the exact opposite of what the cbcp and the bishop wanted
- he sees the action of the ateneo professors in a very different light from what the bishop was trying to say
- the ateneo agrees to disagree with the ateneo professors as fr. villarin states that the ateneo as a catholic school opposes the passage of the rh bill
- respects the opposing view of the ateneo professors and allows them to pursue their views as the professors see fit
- states that the school has been teaching in the classrooms the anti rh bill position of the school and the CBCP. this is important as this establishes the CBCP may not sanction ateneo as it is in fact teaching its position.
- that sets up the point that the statement released by the professors are indeed just their individual and personal view on the rh bill and thus cannot be sanctioned by the school or the CBCP. fr. villarin has drawn a differentiation between what the professors teach in the classroom and what they say as individuals. the latter goes to freedom of expression and academic freedom.
- although obviously unstated, we think fr. villarin is pro rh bill. he just could not say it being the president of the catholic school ateneo. not saying comes within the territory of his job as president of the catholic school he heads.
- rather than calling for the non passage of the rh bill, fr. villarin is calling for amendments to the bill.
- he also probably thinks the rh bill will be passed, saying that the community should work for making sure no coercion is done in its implementation allowing for people to exercise free will to decide to avail or not avail any of the components of the rh bill.
- the letter shows a very keen appreciation of the pro-poor and pro-people stance of the ateneo professors in their support of the rh bill. we think it is obvious from here that fr. villarin together with the ateneo professors believe and practice in being “man for others”
- upholds the ateneo tradition of encouraging, in fact teaching informed independent thinking, inclusive of whether it agrees or disagrees with its own position. this is a tradition in the school. if the students are taught this, why shouldn’t it allow the professors to exercise the same?
- we think this one of the strongest statements in that letter : “Nevertheless, Catholic tradition has always taught that reason and faith are not enemies but allies in the service of God’s truth.” reason here refers to the position paper released by the ateneo professors while faith refers to the position of the CBCP, the bishop and the university. he is saying here that they really should not clash or one cancel the other, and that in fact both can be combined to reach the “service of God’s truth”. he is saying both are right and not one is wrong over the other.
- in saying both are right and not one is wrong over the other has the effect of siding with the ateneo professors. the previous and original statement released by the ateneo professors had this as the topic : “catholics in conscience can support the rh bill”. (click here: Catholics Can Support The RH Bill In Good Conscience – Ateneo Professors’ Position Paper RH Bill 5043)
clearly, fr. villarin is a man of high intellect with a genuine gift for communicating and words. it is also obvious he has a full understanding of his role, the ateneo professors and the school and its dynamics and core values. he has done his job well as president of the ateneo.
this is a proud day for ateneo and ateneans.
Memo to the University Community from the President
date posted: 2012-08-21 12:30:09
20 August 2012
Memo to: The University Community
Subject: HB 4244
Together with our leaders in the Catholic Church, the Ateneo de Manila University does not support the passage of House Bill 4244 (The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill). As many of these leaders have pointed out, the present form of the proposed bill contains provisions that could be construed to threaten constitutional rights as well as to weaken commonly shared human and spiritual values.
Now that the period for amendments is about to begin, I enjoin all in the Ateneo community to continue in-depth study of the present bill, and to support amendments to remove provisions that could be ambiguous or inimical from a legal, moral or religious perspective.
In connection with this, I call attention to the 192 members of our faculty who have grappled with the underlying issues in the context of Catholic social teaching, and who have spoken in their own voice in support of the bill. Though the University must differ from their position for the reasons stated above, I appreciate their social compassion and intellectual efforts, and urge them to continue in their discernment of the common good. As there is a spectrum of views on this ethical and public policy issue, I ask all those who are engaged in the Christian formation of our students to ensure that the Catholic position on this matter continues to be taught in our classes, as we have always done.
Should the bill with whatever amendments be passed, we should neither hesitate to bring to the judiciary whatever legal questions we may have nor cease to be vigilant in ensuring that no coercion takes place in implementation.
If there is no easy answer to the concerns that the proposed bill raises or no facile unanimity among divergent views, this only proves the complexity, depth, and sensitivity of these concerns. Nevertheless, Catholic tradition has always taught that reason and faith are not enemies but allies in the service of God’s truth. From this tradition, we can draw strength and compassion in our often tortuous journey as persons in community toward the greater glory of God and the service of God’s people.
Jose Ramon T Villarin SJ
this news is probably what got the bishop’s goat on the ateneo professors – an additional 33 professors added their names to supporting the rh bill. what probably got the bishop riled is that the ateneo is a catholic school on top of being one of the country’s top universities and the number of professors supporting the rh bill has grown.
with the bishop threatening to get them fired, the number of ateneo professors supporting the rh bill will probably increase even more.
More Ateneo profs endorse RH Bill
August 19, 2012 8:26 AM
More faculty members of the Ateneo de Manila University have signed on to a statement in support of House Bill 4244, or The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill.
Thirty-three professors added their names to the statement, again stressing that they took their position as individuals, and that they are “in no way speaking for the Ateneo de Manila University, the Society of Jesus, or the rest of their colleagues.”
In updating its list of signatories, Prof. Marita Concepcion Castro Guevara, on behalf of the other signatories, said they had taken out one name erroneously included in the original list of statement endorsers.
“One name was included in error,” Prof. Guevara said. “We apologize to Mr. Arturo A. Valencia for including his name, as he has not indicated any intention to support the RH Bill. We further apologize for whatever misperception and misunderstanding this may have caused to the person of Mr. Valencia and to the organizations to which he belongs.”
In all, with Mr. Valencia’s name taken out, and with the 33 additional endorsers, 192 of Ateneo’s faculty members have now signed the statement, which InterAksyon.com had published earlier here.
The updated signatories list now reads as follows:
- Marita Concepcion Castro Guevara, PhD, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
- Marlon J. Manuel, JD, Ateneo Law School
- Amparita S. Sta. Maria, LL.B., LL.M, Ateneo Human Rights Center, Ateneo Law School
- Joy G. Aceron, MPA, Ateneo School of Government, and Department of Political Science
- Mario C. Villaverde, MD, MPH, MPM, Ateneo School of Government Read more…
the rhetoric on the rh bill and the ateneo de manila professors just got raised a few levels up with a bishop medroso saying the ateneo professors who are pro rh bill should be investigated and should be fired from their jobs if they are giving “instructions” contrary to the catholic church’s teachings, the rh bill in particular. the catholic church is against the rh bill.
good luck to the bishop on that one. the statements of the ateneo professors have been released on the basis of what they say there as their individual and personal view on the rh bill and not of the university nor does it say it is what they teach in the classrooms of the ateneo. the disclaimer is written on the first few paragraphs of the statement the professors released.
there are few grey areas on the threat of the bishop.
professors and doctors who teach at the ateneo medical school will need to teach about modern methods of contraception. it is part and parcel of any lesson on reproductive health and obstetrics. all ob-gyn doctors should know this. will the doctor teachers covering the topic be fired from their jobs?
an economics professor for example can cover the topic of population as it relates to economic theories. population and family size is a key component of the rh bill discussion, will these professors be fired too?
when students bring up the topic of rh bill during class discussion, should the teacher refuse to discuss it?
read the statements of the ateneo professors here:
160 Ateneo De Manila University Professors declare support for the RH Bill - http://wp.me/pnw03-1Cy
Catholics Can Support The RH Bill In Good Conscience – Ateneo Professors’ Position Paper RH Bill 5043 - http://wp.me/Pnw03-2q
we think that as long as the professors say in class, to their students that the school as a whole is anti-rh bill, the professor and students can proceed to discuss everything and anything about the rh bill. college education is all about discourse on the two sides of any issue or topic.
the ateneo classroom in particular is known for such discourse. one of the cornerstones of an ateneo education is informed independent thinking. building independent thinkers is one of the most cherished goals of an ateneo education.
good luck to changing the very core of what the ateneo education is all about.
MANILA, Philippines—It’s not exactly an inquisition but 159 members of the Ateneo de Manila University faculty may face investigation, and sacked if found guilty.
Bishop Leandro Medroso, in an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas on Monday, called for an investigation of the Ateneo faculty members who signed a statement declaring support for the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill being pushed by the Aquino administration in Congress.
Medroso, the permanent council member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Canon Law, said the university should make sure that the teachers who endorsed House Bill No. 4244 have not been teaching concepts against Church laws.
“That has to be investigated. The first principle of Canon law about this matter is that we don’t allow teaching that is against the official teachings of the Church. Now, if there is somebody who is giving instructions against the teachings of the Church, then they have to investigate immediately,” Medroso said.
we will be aggregating posts on the blogs of sarah, (the healthy home economist) on the alleged plagiarism charge on senator tito sotto. these posts are available on these sites :
this will make it easier for everyone to appreciate the posts made so far on her sites.
notice : these are actual screen caps from her blogs, nothing added, nothing removed. and senator sotto – everything here is properly referenced and acknowledged. (ahem)
sarah posted these comments on her facebook page:
sarah was referring to this post by a certain atty. hector villacorta who claims to be the chief of staff of senator sotto.
caution : we have no way of confirming if the person who posted that on her site is really from atty. villacorta nor do we know if the atty is senator sotto’s chief of staff.
here is the latest:
Sotto’s office admits copying US blogby Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNNews.comPosted at 08/16/2012 9:45 PM | Updated as of 08/16/2012 11:04 PMMANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Senator Tito Sotto’s chief of staff on Thursday night admitted that they copied the work of an American blogger in the lawmaker’s turno en contra speech on the reproductive health (RH) bill.
Atty. Hector Villacorta, in a message posted on the Facebook page of Sarah Pope, said it was the senator’s staff who lifted the content of the blogger’s work without attributing it to her.
De Lima out; 8 names in CJ shortlist
By Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com
Posted at 08/13/2012 1:03 PM | Updated as of 08/13/2012 1:45 PM
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has chosen eight names for its shortlist of nominees for the position of Chief Justice.
The 8 are incumbent Supreme Court justices Antonio Carpio, Roberto Abad, Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo De Castro and Maria Lourdes Sereno; Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, Ateneo Law School Dean Cesar Villanueva and Rep. Ronaldo Zamora.
The JBC also decided not to include Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in the shortlist of nominees for chief justice.
Speaking to reporters, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. said the JBC did not vote on his proposal to suspend or amend the JBC rule to disqualify candidates facing administrative cases including disbarment.
“Wala nang voting. We did not suspend the rule. We tried to decide by consensus but we did not get it so na-disqualify si Secretary de Lima,” he said.
De Lima, rumored to be President Aquino’s top pick for the CJ post, was disqualified due to pending disbarment cases before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. The IBP earlier refused de Lima’s petition to junk the disbarment cases.
Last Friday, JBC members failed to reach a consensus on the suspension or amendment of its disqualification rule.
Since the time of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. has been proposing for an amendment to the rule that disqualifies candidates to any judicial post and posts in the Office of the Ombudsman with pending criminal and/or regular administrative cases.
This rule is part of the Rules of the Judicial and Bar Council promulgated in October 2000.
Carpio led the shortlist with 7 votes. Abad, Brion, Jardeleza, Sereno, Zamora got six votes each. De Castro and Villanueva, on the other hand, got five votes each.
Jardeleza was earlier disqualified because of a pending disbarment case.
In an ambush interview, Tupas said Jardeleza was reconsidered because there was no prima facie evidence against him.
A source said SEC Chairperson Teresita Herbosa was also reconsidered, but failed to get into the shortlist.
The decision of the Supreme Court last week, automatically dismissing Carpio’s disbarment case, was used in the reconsideration of Jardeleza and Herbosa’s case.
Meanwhile, Tupas said his proposed amendment did not get support from the other members. He said, however, that this will be taken up at the proper time in the future.
He said the shortlist should be transmitted to Malacanang this afternoon.
HUMAN RIGHTS, STATE OBLIGATIONS, AND THE RH BILL
Declaration of Support for House Bill 4244
(The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill)
by individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University
We, the undersigned individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University, declare our strong support for House Bill 4244, the consolidated Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill (or RH Bill). We are heartened by the recent move of the House of Representatives to terminate the protracted debates and interpellations on this bill which has languished in Congress since 1999.
We urge our legislators to act swiftly and judiciously on the proposed amendments to the bill, and thereafter vote for its passage. We issue this call in our individual capacities as educators, researchers, medical doctors, lawyers, and citizens, and in no way speak for our University, the Society of Jesus, or the rest of our colleagues.
As members of the academe who value academic freedom and responsibility, we wish to put knowledge at the service of national development goals that promote the wellbeing of the majority of our people. In so doing, we seek to ground our claims on the current scientific consensus and empirical evidence, including the lived experience of the poor and marginalized.
We recognize that others who do the same may arrive at a position contrary to ours; however, we view the ability to hold and express divergent opinions on an issue as a sign of a vibrant academic community. Having read and studied HB 4244 (the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill) as well as the proposed amendments by the bill’s authors, we conclude that it is rights-based; supportive of State obligations to protect and promote health under the Philippine Constitution and international covenants and conventions; and in accordance with what Filipinos want, the vast majority of whom consistently say in surveys that they support the RH Bill.
Most important, the RH Bill is an equity measure that aims to reduce differential access to reproductive health and family planning services and information. It is the poor—and in particular poor women and their children—who stand to benefit the most from the passage of this bill. And should not the poor be the focal concern of any social institution, be it religion, education, or the government? State obligations, RH rights We commend President Benigno S. Aquino III for remaining steadfast to his campaign promise of “recognizing the advancement and protection of public health, which includes responsible parenthood, as key measures of good governance” (item 4 in his Social Contract with the Filipino People).
Despite intense pressure from Catholic bishops and other groups who vigorously oppose the RH Bill and are campaigning for its defeat in Congress, President Aquino in 2011 endorsed the Responsible Parenthood Bill (popularly known as the Reproductive Health Bill) as among his administration’s priority measures, and reiterated the need for responsible parenthood in his State of the Nation Address last July 23, 2012.
We are likewise heartened that members of his Cabinet stand solidly behind the President in supporting the RH Bill. These include the 20 agencies under the Human Development and Poverty Reduction (HDPR) Cabinet Cluster such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Health, the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, the National Economic and Development Authority, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, and the Philippine Commission on Women, among others. After a decade of neglect of state support for family planning services (except for natural family planning [NFP]) under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo which adopted an NFP-only policy, President Aquino’s endorsement of a comprehensive framework for reproductive health initiatives is not only welcome but also long overdue.
Indeed, it is the obligation of the State, as primary duty-bearer, to provide information on and access to the full array of medically safe, effective, and legal family planning services in order to enable women, men, and couples—especially among the poor—to plan the number and spacing of their children. Government budgetary support for modern family planning methods (which include NFP and “artificial” contraception) is neither unconstitutional nor a breach in good governance (a form of “corruption,” according to some bishops).
In the same way that the State is obligated to provide free basic education in public schools for the poor, so should it make information and services on family planning and reproductive health available to those who cannot afford these services.