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Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago’s sponsorship speech (part 1) on the RH Bill – transcript

August 1, 2011 9 comments

THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH ACT, Part 1: Primacy of Conscience in Catholic Theology

Co-sponsorship speech on 1 August 2011

As principal author, I am now tasked to co-sponsor Senate Bill No. 2865, officially titled “An act providing for a national policy on reproductive health and population and development,” also known as the Senate version of the RH bill.  It is the companion bill to House Bill No. 4244, which is undergoing plenary debate in the House of Representatives.

Reproductive health bills have been passed by the majority of Catholic countries, particularly by Catholic developing countries such as Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico.  Other countries include Italy, Poland, Paraguay, Portugal, and Spain. When the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), now known as the UN Population Fund, profiled 48 Catholic countries, only six countries did not have a reproductive health law.  The Philippines is one of them.

In our country, the Catholic church is the only major religion that opposes the RH bill.  Other major Christian churches have officially endorsed the RH bill, and in fact have published learned treatises explaining their position.  They are:

  • Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, 2007
  • National Council of Churches in the Philippines, 2009
  • Iglesia ni Cristo, 2010
  • Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, 2011

The position of these Christian churches is supported by the  most authoritative body of Islamic clerics in the Philippines, the Assembly of Darul-Iftah of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.  These Islamic clerics constitute the top-ranking ulama who are deemed to have the authority to issue opinions on matters facing Islam and Muslims.  In 2003, they issued a fatwah or religious ruling called “Call to Greatness.”  It gives Muslim couples a free choice on whether to practice family planning, particularly child spacing.

Further, the RH bill is supported by a big majority of Filipinos in the country, as shown by certain nationwide surveys.  In October 2008, Social Weather Stations reported that 71 percent were in favor of the RH bill.  In October 2010, Pulse Asia reported that 69 percent were in favor of the RH bill.

Vatican Council 2 and the Revolution in Moral Theology

Despite these surveys, certain Catholics, notably certain bishops, seem poised to fight to the death against the RH bill.  To understand why Catholics are so divided on this issue, and why there is such fierce antipathy, we must go back to the Second Vatican Council, the greatest of the councils held by the Catholic Church.  A Vatican council is an ecumenical council, meaning that it includes the whole Christian world, or the universal Church.  The decisions of an ecumenical council are considered authoritative.

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