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Thursday, July 31, 2008

It’s not over for population bills in House

By Christian V. Esguerra, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:41:00 07/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Now that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has reiterated her preference for natural family planning in her State of the Nation Address (SONA), is it finally over for the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill at the House of Representatives?

No way, the leading proponents of the measure, mostly administration lawmakers, said Tuesday.

“It was not a statement of doom [but] only a statement of her preference,” said Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the bill that seeks to provide couples a choice of natural and artificial methods of contraception.

Part of the President’s remarks in her report to the nation on Monday was this: “Informed choice should mean letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning.”

She also said natural family planning was a key factor in the low population growth rate.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin expressed “respect” for Ms Arroyo’s position but said she would still push for the passage of the bill set to be calendared for second reading by the House committee on rules.

“That was her personal opinion,” Garin said. “But to me, informed choice means you present everything, both artificial and natural methods, and let couples decide.”

Battle in rules panel

Senior Deputy Minority Floor Leader Roilo Golez, who is on the side of those opposed to the measure, including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said its fate depended on Speaker Prospero Nograles and Majority Leader Arthur Defensor.

“The battle will be in the rules committee, which decides when a bill is calendared for plenary debate,” Golez said.

In a press conference Tuesday, Nograles invited congressmen to submit in writing their proposed amendments to the RH bill.

“It will not be as bloody as you think,” he told reporters, referring to deliberations on the measure. “We will collate all [the proposed amendments] and try to find out what we can accept and cannot accept … We will get a consensus.”

An issue that does not sit well with the opposing camp is the use of taxpayers’ money to purchase contraceptives such as pills, injectibles and intrauterine devices.

Lagman said this had to be so because the measure was aimed at providing not only “information” on but also “access” to all family planning methods.

“Once couples have information and decide on using artificial methods, access should be available,” he said.

Categorical stance urged

Despite Ms Arroyo’s plug for natural family planning in her SONA, CBCP officials were less than enthused.

“[Her] statement heavily favors the Church’s program on natural family planning, which is a very good start. But a more categorical [stance] is expected by the bishops—for her not to promote the [RH] bill which, [as] a whole, is a failure in rich and developed countries,” said Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of San Fernando, Pampanga, who chairs the CBCP’s Commission on Family and Life.

“It seemed she was more focused on accomplishments and projects for the improvement of the economy,” the archbishop said, adding:

“She said that by promoting natural planning and female education, the population has been curbed during her administration. This is the same conclusion of the New York Council on Planned Parenthood.”

According to Aniceto, the President should reject an RH program that promotes the use of artificial contraception because such a program has “wreaked havoc on the morality of families and youth in the West.”

Reiterating the CBCP stand, Aniceto urged the Arroyo administration to “translate population into human capital by providing more funds for programs on education, infrastructure and subsidy to farmers in all aspects of their agricultural needs.”

He also called for more support for poor overseas Filipino workers who, he said, “are the ones actually supporting the economy, not the rich.”

“In other words, her government must start an alternative development program that is in consonance with the dignity and moral values of the Filipino,” he said.

‘Good for her’

Archbishop Jesus Dosado of Ozamiz City reacted to Ms Arroyo’s statement of support for natural family planning with a tepid “Good for her.”

“What she should do should be according to the natural law,” Dosado said.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa City said Ms Arroyo should show her sincerity by explicitly opposing the Philippine Legislators Council for Population and Development, the umbrella group of lawmakers and private organizations lobbying for a national RH policy.

“Reproductive health bills really mean abortion,” Arguelles told the Church-run Radio Veritas.

Dosado, who had stirred controversy with a pastoral letter saying “pro-abortion” politicians would be denied holy communion, said those backing the RH bill in the House could suffer the same fate.

“I extend it to people legislatively for reproductive health,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the phone.

“The bill hides many things. It doesn’t mandate abortion but there are things that are hidden in it that would lead eventually to abortion,” he said.

Dosado expressed concern over such provisions as mandatory sex education, widespread distribution of contraceptives, and the classification of contraceptives as essential medicines.

These and other provisions cloak the bill’s “anti-life” intentions, Dosado said.

“We have to be unambiguous with our wording. That is what we object [to in] the bill,” he said.

Not gov’t policy

In another phone interview, former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez said Ms Arroyo’s pitch for natural family planning should not dissuade lawmakers from seeing the RH bill through.

“It’s a personal commitment that she’s not imposing on the rest of the government,” Romualdez said, adding that proof of this was Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral’s declaration that she was holding to her stand that couples should be given a choice between natural and artificial contraception.

Said Cabral over dzMM: “Whatever was my personal opinion before the SONA, that remains until today.”

But she said she would continue to promote government programs on responsible parenthood pending the approval of RH legislation by the House and the Senate.

“The existing directives like promoting responsible parenthood and promoting natural family planning, we will follow. What we just want is that apart from the natural family planning, we should have promotion and information on other methods,” Cabral said.

These are “not mutually exclusive,” she said.

Romualdez said that in his opinion, “it’s OK for the President to hold an extreme belief as long as she does not impose it on others.”

He said lawmakers should view Ms Arroyo’s reiteration of her position as a message: “She knows there’s a need to manage the population. So lawmakers should look at the bill as a population management method that we need to pass. Rather than be discouraged, they should be encouraged [to pass it].”

Romualdez held the health portfolio during the abbreviated term of President Joseph Estrada. He drew up a program to curb population, including distribution of contraceptives to the poor, but it had no chance to take off with Estrada’s unseating in January 2001. With reports from Tonette Orejas in Pampanga; Kristine L. Alave in Manila

Couples in need of birth control information

By Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes
Northern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 23:23:00 07/29/2008

MANGALDAN, Pangasinan, Philippines—Ricky Palaganas, 21, and his girlfriend, Renelyn Bateng-as, 20, have a seven-month old child and are about to get married.

Palaganas, a family driver, said they decided not to have another baby soon because of his small income but had no idea how to space their children.

Palaganas and Bateng-as are among the 16 percent of married couples in Pangasinan classified as having an "unmet need" for family planning.

"Unmet need" refers to a situation when spouses have reached the desired number of children and do not want to have more children or want to space their children but have no access to any method of family planning.

"We welcome the debates on the proposed reproductive health bill as cases like this and the couples' need to plan their families are surfacing," said provincial population officer Luz Muego.

While the Catholic Church rejected the bill, Muego said Church officials might not be aware that many local governments have been using part of their funds to buy contraceptives for their poor constituents.

She said that since 2005, local governments have been implementing the population program without support from the national government and without a clear policy to enforce it.

In July 2005, the Department of Health issued Administrative Order 158 asking local governments to provide family planning services and guaranteeing the availability of contraceptives in their areas.

The order was issued because the United States Agency for International Development stopped the supply of free family planning commodities, Muego said.

She said some local governments have been reluctant to implement the order because of shortage of funds.

But with the passage of the RH bill, she said the national government would have to finance the population program in the country.

Muego said she did not believe that the bill would open the floodgates to contraceptive use as feared by the Catholic Church.

But she said that "the poor will be more marginalized if the government will not provide them free contraceptives."

She said under the proposed bill, contraceptives would be considered under the category of "essential medicines and supplies," that would be included in the regular purchase of national and local hospitals and government health units.

Vicky Sotto, Mangaldan town population officer, said couples should space or limit the number of their children as multiple births put the health of women at risk.

She said couples undergoing marriage counseling in the town wanted to plan their families due to poverty.

"But I tell them that they should consider the woman's health. Every pregnancy and birth affects the woman's health and it could take two to three years for her to recover under normal conditions. How much more if the couple is poor and the woman has no access to proper nutrition?" she said.

Mangaldan has an ordinance allowing the town government to buy family planning commodities that are given free to indigent couples or sold to those who can afford them.

Ifugao drafts guidelines for reproductive health code

By Desiree Caluza
Northern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 19:35:00 07/30/2008

BANAUE, Ifugao, Philippines—The home of the famed rice terraces has become the second province to carry out a reproductive health code that would give people a wider choice on family planning methods.

At a meeting of Cordillera's regional peace and order council here last week, Ifugao Governor Teodoro Baguilat said the province was finalizing the rules and regulations to adopt the code.

Aurora is the first province to have a local reproductive health code.

Joyce Niwane, provincial social welfare officer, said Ifugao would promote artificial and natural family planning methods to support the code.

"We believe that the people's choice here is artificial family planning method so that is what we give them," she said.

With close to 181,500 residents, Ifugao ranks among the Cordillera provinces with the highest population records.

Apart from easing population here, Niwane said they want to lessen the cases of violence against women and children by enforcing the code.

"The implementing guidelines will cover concerns on economic and human rights, violence against women and children, development issues, labor issues, prostitution and even entertainment," she said.

She expressed alarm over the rising cases of adoption in the province. "Adoption is not bad, but why are we giving away our children?" she asked.

During the meeting, the council, made up of officials from government agencies in Cordillera, approved a resolution supporting a conference on women and children that will be held in Baguio City in November.

Aurora Quiray, regional director of the Commission on Population, said the conference aims to improve peace and order in the Cordillera by curbing crimes committed against women and children.

"Peace and order continue to be a main concern not only of the police but of the Cordillera as a whole. In most instances of conflicts, women and children are the ones greatly affected," she said.
Describing women and children as "most vulnerable," Quiray said several laws have been enacted to protect them.

But, she said, there is still a low level of awareness of the rights and responsibilities of women and children and the laws to protect them.

Baguilat said the conference is expected to identify ways to deal with issues involving violence against women, including rape.

"The reason we have low statistics on rape is that these cases are settled through ‘areglo’ (out-of-court settlement) as dictated by some cultural practices," he said.

Niwane said Ifugao has one of the highest number of cases of abuse against women and children because residents are coming out openly.

GMA proudly imposes misery to Filipinos in 2008 SONA

MEDIA STATEMENT
Benjamin de Leon, President

The Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc.,
former Executive Director of the Commission on Population and
former Presidential Assistant for Social Development,(UnderSecretary)
Office of Former President Fidel V. Ramos

GMA proudly imposes misery to Filipinos in 2008 SONA

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address is full of contradictions to say the least and an insult to the millions of poor and suffering Filipinos that she has repeatedly referred to in her speech. I find quite touching that President Arroyo said that she “spends time every day with the underprivileged and under represented who cannot get a grip on their lives in the daily, all-consuming struggle to make ends meet.” She said that she worries for the mothers who bear the burden of the families or the fathers who are out of work, the OFWs who are away from their families and the young graduates who want to find work.

President Arroyo talked about global problems that have an impact in the country today and in countries around the world. Despite the long lines of Filipinos queuing to buy a few kilo of cheaper rice, she said that “rice production since 2000 increased an average of 4.07% a year, twice the population growth rate.” And with this note, she spoke irresponsibly and inaccurately that the promotion of natural family planning and female education, have curbed population growth to 2.04% during her administration as against when artificial birth control was pushed. This is falsehood and no different from the lies and misleading statements that many religious and Catholic groups have continued to spread.

The President said that their “campaign spreads awareness of responsible parenthood regarding birth spacing.” And her concept of birth spacing in her own words is that “informed choice should mean letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning.”

I don’t know whether to laugh or to rally in the streets with this kind of statement and analogy. I am ashamed that the very government agency that should actively promote all methods of contraception in accordance with its mandate is now only advocating natural family planning. This is most unfair and even cruel as it deprives couples who want to use other methods of family planning. It is ironic that I served the same office as Executive Director many years ago. I am referring to the Commission on Population. Mrs. Arroyo also said towards the end of her speech that “where government can contribute nothing useful, stay away.” Therefore I say to POPCOM, please stay away from people unless you have the courage to really put their needs before your own. I strongly advise that you go back to the very mission and objectives of the Commission on Population; otherwise the population community and the very people you have committed to serve will surely lose their TRUST in you.

The true voices of the Filipinos are reflected in these scientific, accurate and truthful studies and surveys conducted by distinguished scientists, sociologists, demographers of our country whose credibility can not be questioned. Their work was done in pursuit of the truth and not to manipulate and create propaganda.

The Pulse Asia Survey shows that:

* 9 out of 10 Filipinos or 92 percent of the population consider family planning important
* 89 percent of Filipinos think that government should provide budgetary support for modern methods of family planning including modern contraceptives.

The National Statistics Office Family Planning Survey shows that:

* From 1996 to 2005, use of natural family planning methods have gone done from 1.0 to .04 percent while modern contraceptive use continue to rise from 18.5 to 26.2 during the same period.

The National Statistical Coordination Board last March 5, 2008 released a study which showed that “poverty has worsened in 2003-2006 from 30 percent to 33 percent. Defined in terms of families living in poverty, this percentage translates to 4.7 million families or some 27.6 million Filipinos, a 3.8 million increase from 2003.

Another dimension of poverty is the incidence of involuntary hunger. According to the Social Weather Station (SWS) Long term trends of self-reported involuntary hunger indicates an increasing prevalence of hunger among households from less than 10 per cent in July 1998 to 19 per cent in February 2007. What is disturbing is that according to this study, there are about 612,000 households or more than 3 million severely hungry Filipinos.

And so I ask our President to intelligently look at the realities before her and be the kind of leader that we expect her to be. You are the President of all faiths and not just of Catholics. Make intelligent decisions based on evidence and don’t derail the truth to suit or please the Catholic hierarchy. They are not the majority and they certainly can’t speak for the millions of Filipinos suffering daily. These priests have no business deciding for the lives of our women and young people.

In closing I say that we will support the Reproductive Health Bill and we will continue to fight for the rights of women and men to have access to accurate and safe family planning

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NEWS ALERT: Critics of Catholic Ban on Contraceptives Get Pope's Attention

From: News from PLANetWIRE <PLANetNews@ccmc.org>
Subject: NEWS ALERT: Critics of Catholic Ban on Contraceptives Get Pope's Attention
To:
Date: Monday, July 28, 2008, 11:48 PM

ROME, July 26 – An unusual open letter to Pope Benedict asking him to lift the Church’s ban on contraception was so widely noticed yesterday that the Vatican felt compelled to respond.

The letter from more than 50 dissident Catholic groups was published July 25 as a half-page ad in Italy’s largest newspaper, Corriere della Sera, on the 40th anniversary of the “Humanae Vitae” encyclical in which Pope Paul VI established the ban.

The 1968 ban, the groups said in the ad, is still “a source of great conflict and division in the church” and “has had a catastrophic impact on the poor and powerless around the world, endangering women’s lives and leaving millions at risk of HIV.” It noted that as most Catholics use contraception and feel they are not sinning, the policy has been “an utter failure.”

In a sharp response, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said the ad was “paid propaganda to promote the use of contraceptives.” Noting that the word “love” did not appear in the letter, he added, “It’s been 40 years, and the critics of Humanae Vitae still don’t get that it’s about love.”

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice and organizer of the open letter, said he was “delighted” at the response. “Within hours of the ad appearing, we achieved our central objective of letting those who have continued with this fatally flawed policy know that Catholics the world over oppose the ban on contraception,” he said. The response “demonstrates that the church hierarchy is acutely aware that the ban on contraception has seriously harmed its relationship with Catholics in the pews.”

In a related development, the Times of London reported in its online editions on a survey of 1,500 Catholics in parishes across England and Wales that found half use contraceptives and more than half thought the ban should be revised. It was conducted by The Tablet, a weekly Catholic magazine.


Read more at www.PLANetWIRE.org.


Contact: Nicole Tidwell at 202.326.8710 or ntidwell@ccmc.org for more information.

ABU launches new award for HIV/AIDS programming

Region :Asia and the Pacific
Country :None
Topic :HIV/AIDS, Fellowships and Awards

The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) has launched a new award to honor outstanding reporting on HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region. Deadline: September 15.

The prize recognizes the efforts of broadcasters in creating programs of a high-standard that educate the public about HIV/AIDS. According to Francyne Harrigan, development projects manager at the ABU, the competition is an integral part of ABU's commitment to galvanizing media's power in Asia-Pacific to help reduce the AIDS epidemic.

The prize is open to all ABU member organizations. Entrants may submit up to two entries and the entries must have been first broadcast after September 2007. The Award recipient will win US$2,500 and will be flown to Bali, Indonesia to attend the gala award ceremony on November 24.

For more information, go to www.abu.org.my/abuprizeHIVAIDS.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Congress takes First Step to Restore UNFPA Funding

Congress Takes First Step to Restore UNFPA Funding

WASHINGTON, July 17 – Renewed U.S. funding for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, moved forward in both the House and Senate this week, winning approval from two committees essential to further progress.

The Senate Appropriations Committee today allocated $45 million for UNFPA, an increase of $11 million over last year’s appropriation. On Wednesday, the influential House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations approved $60 million for UNFPA after a closed-door battle.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who sponsored the House measure, hailed the moves as “critical” for the agency’s family planning and reproductive health care programs in 140 countries. The bill, part of an overall $600 million spending measure for family planning and reproductive health care assistance programs worldwide, does not alter the existing Bush administration ban on use of the funds in China, restricting it use to specific programs with broad general support. The Senate bill mirrors the House bill in this regard.

These include providing contraceptives and safe motherhood medicine, equipment and supplies; treating obstetric fistula; and combating female genital cutting and child marriage.

The House funding, offered in a closed-door legislative markup session of the subcommittee, would ensure that UNFPA receives U.S. funds for non-China programs hereafter. The Bush administration last month withheld for the seventh straight year $40 million Congress previously appropriated for UNFPA, on grounds the agency is “complicit” in coerced abortions and sterilizations in China. UNFPA has repeatedly denied the charges and cited independent studies that found its work is “a force for good” in China.

“President Bush’s justification for withholding these funds does not hold water with his own State Department, let alone with the millions of women and children who need the vital care UNFPA provides,” said Lowey. “I will fight to protect these critical funds.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney added “The U.S. should be leading the way in providing health care to the world’s most impoverished women, children, and families. Years of backward Bush Administration polices have put us far short of this goal time and again, but the Democratic Congress is working hard to pass critical investments in reproductive health care for women in the world’s developing nations.”

Amy Coen, president of Population Action International, called the House vote “a major step forward,” noting that “the importance of investing in family planning programs has never been greater.”

CLICK HERE to read a press release from Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey.

CLICK HERE to read a statement from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

CLICK HERE to read a press release from Population Action International.

CLICK HERE to read a press release from Americans for UNFPA.


New Rules Would Threaten Right to Contraceptives

RESOURCES
Read author Cristina Page’s blog on the proposed HHS rules.
WASHINGTON, July 15 – Reproductive health advocates reacted with outrage today to a report in The New York Times that the Bush administration is proposing new rules that would discourage doctors and health-care clinics from providing birth control to women who need it. This proposed regulation deliberately confuses the definitions of contraception and abortion and could cause disarray in law, regulations, and policy.

The proposal would define “abortion” as "any of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation."

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said she was “gravely concerned” that such language would “radically redefine abortion to include some of the most common and effective methods of birth control.”

Marilyn Keefe, Director of Reproductive Health Programs of the National Partnership for Women & Families, called the proposal “an ill-conceived political ploy designed to win favor from those determined to deny women basic health services.” She said it would “put politics ahead of women’s health” and “shows callous disregard for low-income women facing unplanned pregnancies.” She pointed out that 90 percent of women in America use birth control, and that the proposal to appeal to the remaining 10 percent would be “political pandering at its very worst.”

Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said the new rule would be “unprecedented” in “allowing individuals, institutions and programs receiving Health and Human Services funds to refuse to provide necessary health care services, including contraception.”

Recent research by the Women Donors Network has found that family planning opponents are only 9 percent of all likely voters, and that the rest overwhelmingly support policies and programs to expand access to safe and effective methods of birth control.

CLICK HERE to read a press statement from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

CLICK HERE to read a press statement from The National Partnership for Women & Families.

CLICK HERE to read a press statement from The Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

CLICK HERE to read a press statement from The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.

CLICK HERE to read a press release from The National Women’s Law Center.

CLICK HERE to read a press release from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

CLICK HERE to read a press release from Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Exercise self-discipline in bed, archbishop tells couples

To these Bishops,

GET REAL!

And hello, contraception does not kill the unborn. How could that be when there's "nothing" to be born? Idiocy is deadly and they're spreading it under the guise of religion.

I hope the Filipinos have "wisen" up after all this time.



Exercise self-discipline in bed, archbishop tells couples


By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:01:00 07/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Amid the raging debate on artificial methods of birth control, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales’s advice to all married couples is to exercise more “self-discipline” and “self-control” in bed.

In his message to the Catholic flock at Friday’s prayer rally marking the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical on the Regulation of Birth or Humanae Vitae, Rosales said the lack of discipline in the marital bed rebounds on other aspects of life.
Because life should be valued and its creation is a serious matter, “there should be discipline and self-control” between couples, the prelate said in Filipino.

Couples who have the discipline to practice the Church-sanctioned natural family planning methods are “in possession of true values of life” and tend to pass it on to their children. They also tend to be good citizens, he said.

“If there is discipline in the marital bed, then there is discipline in the streets, there is discipline in schools, there is discipline in the government,” he added.

The Catholic community held a massive gathering at the University of Santo Tomas parade grounds on Friday to reaffirm their commitment to Humanae Vitae, which prohibits artificial contraceptives on grounds that they deliberately impeded life, and to denounce a proposal in the House of Representatives to create a national reproductive health policy.

The Catholic Church approves only of natural family planning methods, which entail close observation of a woman's temperature and discharges, to determine her fertile days. Couples who practice natural contraception methods avoid having sex when the woman is fertile.

In his message, the Manila archbishop said the Catholic Church will fight for the “defenseless” fetus.

According to Rosales, anyone who halts the life of an unborn child can be likened to Herod, the king who ordered the massacre of infants after Christ was born.

“Wherever this happens, in the clinics, health centers, or hospitals, ending the life of a child inside a mother’s womb is a repeat of Herod’s massacre of the innocents… and a Herod could be your neighbor,” he said.

Meanwhile, in opposition to the Catholic Church’s hard-line stance against contraceptives, an evangelical group on Saturday said it supported artificial birth control methods because of the “alarming growth of our population.”

While the Bible tells mankind to multiply, it also has specific instructions for humanity to care and protect all of creation, the board of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) said in a statement.

“About 5,800 babies are born daily.… One doesn’t have to be an economist to tally how much more food, water, shelter, medicine, and other resources will be needed for their support. At the [present] growth rate, there will be 100 million Filipinos by 2013,” the group said.

To ignore this problem is a “totally irresponsible” decision, the group said, given the high cost of living in the country.

“The present uncontrolled population growth over these many years has undeniably contributed to, and accelerated the poor getting poorer, and has led to thousands of abortions, unnecessary maternal deaths, thousands of abandoned children, increase of street dwellers, among other ills of society,” the PCEC said.

The PCEC position on population is the exact opposite of the Catholic Church’s stance.

According to Church officials, the idea of a burgeoning population is a myth used to scare the public into supporting artificial contraceptives.

PCEC stressed that it does not support abortion, a crime in the Philippines, because it is tantamount to murder and against the teachings of the Bible.

However, PCEC said it supports various birth control methods to prevent conception. Such action, the group said, is not a sin, because no life is harmed or created yet.

“Unborn babies, at whatever stage of pregnancy should be preserved and protected. Termination of this life is sinful and offensive to God,” PCEC said.

“But preventing pregnancy or conception is not abortion for no life has yet been conceived and there is nothing to be terminated,” it stressed.

As such, the PCEC said they support policies that “will help control the population growth.”

Instead of banning artificial, non-abortive birth control methods from public health centers, the PCEC said couples should be given comprehensive instructions on them, along with information on natural family methods.

PCEC said couples should be given a wide array of birth control methods and the right to decide what is best for them.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not for CATHOLICS alone

Here's a very profound explanation that should enlighten a lot of people on what the SEPARATION of the CHURCH and the STATE actually means.

Commentary
Not for Catholics alone

Cebu Daily News
First Posted 12:56:00 07/25/2008

Our founding fathers, from different walks of life, were united by their opposition to “frailocracy,” which was why, as our first president was sworn into office, the altar at Malolos town was hidden behind a curtain. A hundred years later, Joseph Estrada would take his oath of office in the same church, but with the altar taking center stage.

When the bishops withdrew the Mandate of Heaven from Marcos, our development as secular nation basically came to an end. It’s no coincidence that after the EDSA People Power uprising in 1986, Catholic schools began to insist that an invocation should precede the national anthem. This would have been unthinkable from the time of our first revolution against Spain up to the New Society, but after the Miracle of EDSA, times changed.

Our flag has a triangle derived from the Masonic triangle and our national anthem enjoins us to love, and die, for native land, not God. This proclamation of a fundamental, secular identity, it seems, is intolerable to the clergy. So long as there was a residual memory of the birth of our nation and the ideas that brought that nation forth, the Catholic hierarchy had to submit.

The separation of Church and State, of course, does not mean that religion has no role in our democratic society. It only means that no religion can enjoy preferential treatment to the disadvantage of others. For example, membership in a particular church or sect can’t be a precondition for appointive or elected office. One’s faith is supposed to be neither aid nor hindrance to the exercise of citizenship. In some cases, the State has even relaxed its rules in order to satisfy the requirements of individual religious conscience, such as excusing Jehovah’s Witnesses from participating in flag ceremonies.

If our secular state treads carefully so as to ensure that religious freedom (and freedom of conscience) is respected, particularly in the case of religious practices by minorities, it is less careful about the religion practiced by the majority of Filipinos. This is what sets the question of the separation of Church and State with regard to the Catholic hierarchy apart. The faith and morals of Catholics happen to be the articles of faith of the majority – and we are a nation that subscribes to the principle that questions of policy and leadership are best solved by invoking majority rule.

Any serious Catholic is under the same obligation as any decent Filipino to defend his principles, to the death, if need be. To demand of Catholics that they restrict the application of their faith and morals to the confines of their homes and churches is essentially to ask them to commit apostasy. But it is fair and just to remind the hierarchy and the rest of the Catholic citizenry that our Republic does not exist for Catholics alone, and this means that their faith and morals cannot be made the exclusive basis for state policy. – Manuel Quezon III, Inquirer

Aide: Arroyo to highlight natural family planning in SONA

This is why we need to OUST GLORIA NOW!!!


Aide: Arroyo to highlight natural family planning in SONA

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 19:48:00 07/25/2008


MANILA, Philippines -- Unmoved by calls to review her population policy, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will highlight her preference for natural family planning in her State of the Nation Address (SONA), a Palace official said Friday.

"She will restate her position, she is consistent in her policy," Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde said at a news briefing in MalacaƱang.

A number of Cabinet officials, particularly Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, have urged the government to adopt what they describe as a more responsive population management policy, including the promotion of artificial birth control methods, rather than sticking to the natural family planning, the method the Catholic church is the only acceptable one, to curb the swelling population,

On Friday, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, a US-based benefactor of population management programs that include artificial methods, criticized the Arroyo government for backing the church position on reproductive health.

Congress is deliberating on a reproductive health bill that would include the use of artificial birth control.

Remonde said while Arroyo is prepared to listen to all views on the issue, she is standing pat on her position, even if it is "difficult and unpopular."

Separating Church and State, fact from fiction

Passion For Reason
Separating Church and State, fact from fiction

By Raul Pangalangan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:39:00 07/25/200

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Daily Inquirer front page on Tuesday featured a photo of a mother and three small children silhouetted against the light, living in a hammock under a bridge, with the fetid tide just two feet below them. I noticed that the children, presumably all hers, were spaced barely a year or two apart, with a newborn cradled in her arms and two older children, neither of whom could have been over five years old. On that same day, the latest Social Weather Stations survey reported that 14.5 million Filipinos experienced “involuntary hunger” between April and June 2008, a record high equivalent to almost three million households.

At the same time, House Speaker Prospero Nograles—proclaiming, “I am a devout Catholic”—called for a “ceasefire” in the all-out assault by the Catholic Church against the reproductive health and population control bills pending in Congress.

The good bishops talk about the sanctity and dignity of life. Living with three children under a bridge: Where is the dignity? Where is the sanctity? Do we respect life by making it difficult for that woman to plan for her family? So that her sleeping two-year-old won’t accidentally fall into the foul stream and die, if not from drowning, from swallowing poisoned water? Do we respect their dignity if we condemn them to an earthly hell where they inhale putrid air with each breath day and night?

This is not a debate about the nuances of Catholic theology. This is simply about the most dearly held norms in our Constitution, the basic distinction between truth and falsity, and plain common sense.

Hardline clergy have labeled as “evil” the sponsors of the Reproductive Health Care bills pending before Congress, and have called them “abortionists.” That is a lie.

I have read the various bills authored by Senators Rodolfo Biazon and Panfilo Lacson and Representatives Edcel Lagman and Janette Garin. I can categorically say that there is not a single mention in any bill of legalizing abortion. In contrast, a computer search shows that the bills mention the word “abortion” solely in order to reiterate that “abortion shall remain to be penalized under the Revised Penal Code and relevant jurisprudence” and to provide programs to teach people about the “proscription and hazards of abortion.”

In fact, each time they define “family planning” (so that couples may “decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children”), they always affirm that “abortion is not included as a family planning method” and that the methods “exclud[e] abortion, which is a crime.” In case the bishops still have any doubts, the authors go out of their way and affirm that “abortion remains a crime and is punishable.”

Indeed, when the bills refer to family planning programs, they actually aim “to help women avoid abortion [by] preventing unintended pregnancies and ensuring access to quality family planning methods.” They cite convincing evidence that access to contraceptives is the best way to reduce abortions.

One-third of all pregnancies in the Philippines have ended up in abortions and, in 2000 alone, they recorded 473,400 cases of induced abortions, more than 90 percent of them by married women. A survey by the poll group Social Weather Stations shows that 97 percent of Filipinos want to be able to control their fertility and plan their families—and almost 90 percent of the respondents are Catholic. One woman out of six wants family planning but can’t practice it for lack of access to family planning health services. Almost 60 percent of contraceptive users depend on government for their supply of contraceptives. If the bishops truly oppose abortion, why exclude contraceptives from the government’s family planning services when we all know that to do so will simply lead to more abortions?

The only way for the bishops to sustain their argument is to say that contraception and abortion are one and the same thing. But that is a matter internal to Church doctrine. It is binding on true believers. It cannot command nonbelievers. Not all Filipinos are Catholic, and not all Filipino Catholics subscribe to the same level of dogmatism as the local bishops’.

Our own Constitution recognizes the “right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions.” In a famous US case cited by the Philippine Supreme Court, it was said: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion ….”

Which family planning method to use is for the spouses alone—not for any government—to decide in their behalf. To confine family planning to the clergy’s approved methods is to impede that free choice.

What galls me about the raging debate is the in-your-face brashness of the Catholic clergy. Having twisted the facts, they now intimidate our secular officials to toe dogma, threatening to withhold from them the sacraments. I wonder: Do they still give communion to that bishop in Antipolo City who was found a few years back to be keeping a mistress? To the infamous plunderers in government? To all those sexual offenders referred to by no less than Pope Benedict XVI last week? The bishops must be consistent in telling the truth and in punishing sinners before they can pontificate.

Otherwise, what they show is not theological devotion but secular arrogance, the bluster of power, cocky in the knowledge that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, bereft of legitimacy and opportunistic to the core, will yield to expediency, kiss the hand that anoints, and lend the sword of an unworthy Caesar to carry out a strained—and self-defeating—reading of scripture.

There are those who believe without questioning, but there are those who question because they truly believe.

* * *

Comments to passionforreason@gmail.com

Nograles is right

AMBIENT VOICES
By Ma. Isabel Ongpin

Nograles is right

Speaker Nograles is right, the debate on population, family planning and reproductive health should end under the polarizing and polemical circumstances that it has been reduced to. To continue it, will only add nuisance which now generates more heat than information, more emotion than reason, more rigidity than new ideas.

It is obvious that everyone has heard enough and made up their minds and will not budge. Therefore, let the legislature take up the vote on the Reproductive Health bill, let the bishops and priests and other religious leaders go to their flock and convince them of their stand and let the individuals make up their minds. In the long run, we all have to answer to our conscience. And everyone on each side of the debate should have a conscience.

Let us all be adults here and look at the facts. There is a runaway population problem in this country. The government has to address it, religious groups have to be aware of it and within their doctrinal elements come to an answer for it.

Women have long cried out that they want to limit the number of children they have. Statistics on infant mortality, abortion incidence, poverty, women’s health are on the side of addressing the population problem.

Under these circumstances, the question is reduced to how to address it. This is the crux of the problem as it goes down to natural family planning as advocated by the Church versus artificial means for family planning as advocated by others.

All things being equal, every side having had their say, people of reproductive age and varying economic means having been consulted and listened to, anyone and everyone allowed to make their own decisions, then let those decisions be permitted to be carried out.

If the answer for some is natural family planning, then those who believe in it must work to implement it. It must be a serious effort not a theoretical answer to what ails us.



The Catholic Church hierarchy here has time and again argued for it but its actions to implement it among its flock pales before their high flown rhetoric that it is the best way of addressing the problem.



If the Church involves itself in the debate, in the presentation of its doctrinal answers then it should equally involve itself in implementing what it believes in. It may solicit government help, private support, individual effort to effect the implementation. But it must do the implementation seriously and make a fundamental, inclusive and radical effort among its adherents and those it has convinced among its flock.

Otherwise, it is running interference, affecting the climate of conviviality in public discourse, and otherwise acting like an obstacle course to a solution for a serious problem. All of these in turn diminish their standing in the eyes of a democratic dispensation where religious freedom is guranteed.

Can the Church tone down its sweeping judgments and condemnations of people who believe otherwise?.

Can it please stop the distortion of people’s stands and the name-calling that it indulges in for those who think otherwise.?

They can say their piece, but please let the parameters of courtesy, respect, freedom of thought, and charity prevail. Enough of calling people who believe otherwise “evil.”

Enough of generalizing that artifical means is “abortion,” enough about threats regarding the withholding of sacraments from those publicly condemned. This is unseemly, counterproductive and uncharitable. It may intimidate but does not convince.

As for government officials, let them be reasonable and factual about the population problem. Let them not give the glib answers like exporting people away from this country, waiting for income disparity to be corrected by itself without government intervention, waiting for the time when everyone will be educated enough to vote responsibly, earn a living, be intelligent parents.

Let them be courageous and not succumb to the threats against their political and personal well-being by those who would bully rather than reason. They have their work cut out for them in all the disparities that our society has, especially the population problem. Please get to work.

We have heard enough, in fact too much. Let everyone use their conscience now to guide them on this issue. Conscience is the highest law and it should be given the freedom it deserves.

miongpin@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Population bill campaign intensifies ahead of Church protest

By Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 03:58pm (Mla time) 07/24/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Supporters of the proposed population management bill have intensified their campaign ahead of the Catholic Church’s simultaneous “bell ringing” slated this Friday to protest the measure.

Various non-government organizations led by the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) held a small rally in Quezon City on Thursday to push for the passage of the bill pending at the House of Representatives.

The advocates, one dressed as a bishop, paraded a coffin to symbolize “maternal death” with 10 women supposedly dying everyday due to unintended pregnancies and lack of access to reproductive health methods.

At a press conference after the rally, RHAN secretary-general Elizabeth Angsioco said the group was also planning a big protest action to counter the anti-reproductive health campaign by the Church.

She said they also started a signature campaign to further boost the support in Congress.

“We want a million signatures to really strengthen the support for the bill. We will present the signatures to the House and the Senate to show that there’s real support from the grass roots,” Angsioco said.

Some of them, she said, have also been talking to some Cabinet members to get their support for the bill.

Aside from Quezon City, Angsioco said three others -- Antipolo City, Angeles City and the province of Lanao del Sur -- have also passed a reproductive health code in their respective areas.

Despite the strong lobbying of the Church against the bill, Professor Danton Remoto, chairperson of “Ang Ladlad,” remained confident that the proposed legislation would pass “under the good the guidance of God.”

Addressing the Catholic bishops, Remoto said, “Wala kaming balak maging [We have no intention of becoming] celibate. Gusto naming tikman ang luto ng Diyos.”

“And we’re cocksure that this bill, if not today, in the days to come will pass under the good guidance of God,” he said.

In defending the measure, Remoto pointed out that the use of condoms was important to stop population growth.

UP Professor Ernesto Pernia, who has two priest brothers, criticized the Catholic Church for being “so conceited.”

“The problem, I think, is that the Catholic bishops, the Catholic hierarchy, has been developing hubris. They have become so conceited because the government is courting them,” Pernia said in the same forum.

He then cautioned the Church from issuing “dogmatic” statements about the issue of contraceptives.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Special Announcement!!!!!

Friends,

We will be having a whole-day Reproductive Health Fair in Quezon City tomorrow from 9:00am to 5:00pm to make a statement regarding the Big Rally of the Catholic Church Against the Reproductive Health Bill that is being planned for 2nd reading in the Lower House.

The rally/parade will start at 9:00am at the corner of Kalayaan Ave., and Elliptical Road, QC PLEASE WEAR WHITE.

The parade will end at the Adarna Restaurant along Kalayaan Ave. where the whole-day affair will take place.

A short program will be held after the parade in the morning at the venue. In the afternoon, numerous activities are lined up so please drop by any time.

Please read and disseminate the press release written below of this message.

We hope you can join us in any ways you can - send your letter of support, talk to your parish, to to your community, be there tomorrow, be the light for everyone.

Thank you,

Ging Cristobal

-----

Trivia!
The church has been using this slogan since 2001 -

D.E.A.T.H.

D - divorce
E - euthanasia
A - abortion
T - total contraceptive
H - homosexual relations

Fact:
Aside from the Anti-discrimination bill that is being lobbied by LGBT groups and the Comprehensive Reproductive Health bill being lobbied by Repro Health groups,

There are no bills on divorce, euthanasia, abortion nor same-sex marriage.

intrigued? read on...

----
PRESS STATEMENTS

1. Group slams Church stand on repro health bill

We, members of different private and non-government organizations, have banded together to counter efforts by some members of the Catholic Church to muddle the issue on the Reproductive Health Bill filed in Congress. Instead of using the light of reason to study the two bills, they claim that the Church has pointed out issues that are not in the bills.

They are spreading vicious lie that abortion is at the heart of the Reproductive Health Bill.

Nothing can be farther from the truth. Reproductive health is a basic need. It promotes the well-being of women and in the end saves lives. It emphasizes family planning, maternal and child health and nutrition as well as prevention and treatment of reproductive tract infections and sexually transmitted infections. It wants to give access to information and counseling on sexuality and sexual health, as well as breast and reproductive tract cancers and other women’s diseases. It also aims to ensure the reproductive health of men and adolescents, as well as end violence against women and prevent infertility and sexual disorder.

The Reproductive Health Bill, in the end, aims to raise the quality of life of Filipino women. In this regard, we want to stress that Catholics should have a choice and not be confused by the welter of disinformation coming from some segments of the Catholic Church. They should not twist the truth for, as any good Catholic knows, the truth should set us free.

Being mature people of faith, the Filipino Catholics should be allowed to have the freedom of choice. They should be allowed to decide; the Church should not infantilize the people by deciding for them. Moreover, we expect the government to help promote reproductive health care services to the people. It is a commitment of this government, as embodied in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that should be reached by 2015. The Philippines is a signatory to this agreement in the 2005 World Summit in New York.

Unfortunately, President Arroyo has chosen to turn a blind eye to the call of the times for reproductive health. The refusal of some Catholic clergy to give communion to congressmen who would push for the bill is tantamount to political blackmail. And they have joined forces to put up a wall of resistance against this Bill.

Let us give the Filipino Catholics a choice – one borne of a deep study of the situation at hand and a cold analysis of the issues. There is no need to foist the fear of fire and brimstone, or the withholding of one’s right to receive the Holy Sacrament of Communion. Only gangsters and people of lesser faith resort to blackmail, harassment, and intimidation.
We ask the Catholic Church to let the people free

2. Pro_RH Legislators: The People’s Champions

The Filipino people need champions.

Champions in Congress to craft policies that respond to the needs of their constituents. We need them to address pressing issues through laws so that pro-people and pro-poor programs are implemented, rights are respected and, therefore, lives become better.

A national policy on reproductive health (RH) is one of our needs. At a time when prices of basic commodities and services are soaring amidst widespread poverty, ordinary people urgently need all the help they can get.

Wage increases, tax breaks, food and electricity- consumption subsidies are good but not enough. These initiatives are not sustainable. With the ever-increasing scarcity of resources, government will eventually not be able to adequately address the needs of the people.

Legislators have to deal with the need of our families, especially the poor to plan their lives. RH information and services are needed to enable people to make informed and intelligent decisions that will: save women¢s lives, facilitate having children that parents can provide for, prepare the youth to handle responsibilities that go with having relationships, and empower men to realize and use the various options available to them in planning their families.

The existence of such urgent needs cannot be denied. In the City of Manila alone where RH services have been virtually absent for the past eight years, throngs of residents flocked to the Tondo Sports Complex last Friday to avail of free family planning information and services offered by NGOs and the City Health Department. Manila residents in poor communities acted on their need at the first opportunity offered them.

An increasing number of local government units (LGUs) are also stepping up to address this need as evidenced by the passage of RH ordinances in Aurora province, Sulu, Olongapo, and Quezon City to name a few. Moreover, there are LGUs that are presently processing their own RH ordinances.

In Congress, we have RH champions. These legislators have taken action based on the facts that:

10 Filipino women die daily due to pregnancy and childbirth complications;
3 out of 4 of these women who die are aged 15-19 years old; and
Internationally, 99% of all women who die from such causes come from developing countries.

We, RH advocates laud the courage, determination and foresight of these legislators to work for measures that offer strategic solutions to current crises.

Like many of our people, we are one with our legislators who stand with ordinary Filipinos; with women on the issue of RH. As shown by the 2004 Pulse Asia survey:


86% of respondents support candidates with programs for women¢s health;
82% supports candidates who are in favor of couples¢ free choice of family planning methods;
82% considers candidates supportive of a law on population as worthy of their votes; and
83% favors candidates who support allocating funds for family planning.

We ask our legislators not to give up on our needs--not to give up on our rights.

We ask our legislators to continue being our champions until that day when all Filipinos, rich and poor, shall have the opportunities to pursue a life of quality.

3. Fight for L.I.F.E.

The call from Ozamiz Archbishop Jesus Dosado to deny communion to "anti-life legislators" has been hitting the newspapers lately.
This position is consistent with the "Stop D.E.A.T.H. (divorce, euthanasia, abortion, total reproductive health, and homosexuality)
Campaign" of the Catholic Church for the 40th anniversary of the Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life) on July 25.

We are aghast at how some bishops and other religious leaders are using an antiquated 40 year-old encyclical (Humanae Vitae) in
spreading disinformation on the reproductive health bills and the anti-discrimination bill filed in Congress. The bishops choose to
demonize these bills and look for bogeymen that are not at all present: abortion in the Reproductive Health Bills and same-sex
marriage in the Anti-Discrimination Bill.

In the Catholic community, bishops are supposed to be the symbol of truth and morality, yet they propagate blatant lies and have yet
again threatened the policymakers as well as the general public with "excommunication" if they do not agree with their stand. This
makes us wonder: What are the real reasons for the Church's antagonism towards these bills?

We do not see the logic in the Catholic Church's opposition to reproductive health, particularly to its ten elements:
1. Family Planning
2. Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition
3. Prevention and Management of Abortion Complications
4. Prevention and
Treatment of Reproductive Tract Infections/ Sexually Transmitted Infections/ HIV/AIDS
5. Education and Counseling on Sexuality and Sexual Health
6. Breast and Reproductive Tract Cancers and Other Gynecological Conditions
7. Men's Reproductive Health
8. Adolescent Reproductive Health
9. Ending Violence Against Women and
10. Prevention and Treatment of Infertility and SexualDisorder.

These are geared for the betterment of the people and country.

We expect our national government to prioritize the needs of the Filipino people. The country's bleak situation is made even worse bythe government's refusal to promote the provision of reproductive health care services to the people. The Philippines has committed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 in eradicating extreme poverty, which includes promoting gender equality, reduction of child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV & AIDS—a commitment reiterated by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) during the 2005 World Summit in New York. This is nothing but mere hypocritical grandstanding done at the expense of the lives of our women and children. The stance GMA has taken on the issue of family planning or birth control—that of a devout Catholic—turns out to be politically motivated. She is siding with the bishops because there is no political advantage to be gained in doing otherwise.

The arrogance of some Catholic Church leaders and GMA herself has made them blind to the plight of the masses whose suffering is further aggravated by the current food and economic crises. This plight has been brought about by a confluence of factors, including a lack of access to reproductive health care services. The bishops' attempts to block the bills' passage through political blackmail— dangling the Holy Eucharist in the faces of supportive legislators— hit only the poor women, children, and families who are at the losing end of the deal. This makes us think: What now is the greater sin?

We do not believe in the viability of the "Stop D.E.A.T.H." campaign of the Catholic Church, because it is neither scientific nor mass-oriented.

To this, we answer: "Fight for L.I.F.E. (good Leadership, Inclusiveness, Freedom of choice, and Equality for all)."

Aside from curtailing people's access to reproductive health information and services, we believe that the "Stop D.E.A.T.H" campaign of the Catholic Church will only open the floodgates to hate crimes against the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) community, reproductive health advocates, and ordinary citizens who believe that choosing what is good for them is a basic
right.

We therefore beseech the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to stop their political blackmail and for the national government to do their avowed task of creating policies that respond to the real needs of the people. We cannot afford to merely oppose measures and not offer real, practical, humane, and responsive solutions, not when millions of lives are at stake.

We have lost confidence in GMA long before this issue, with her dirty record of political maneuvering. Time and again, she has shown that the interest of the ordinary Filipinos does not matter to her.

No to "Stop D.E.A.T.H."!
Fight for L.I.F.E.!
No to hypocrisy!
Oust Gloria!

MORE NEWS

CBCP mobilizing forces to campaign against birth control
By Sandy Araneta / Monday, July 14, 2008 / Philippine Star

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is mobilizing its forces to campaign against birth control proposals pending in Congress.

According to Fr. Melvin Castro, CBCP’s executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL), the bishops decided to lobby before congressmen and explain the position of the Catholic Church on family planning and birth control issues.

“God willing, once our bishops would have a dialogue with these lawmakers, and through this mobilization, I hope they would think more deeply about these bills which they are signing,” Castro said over the Church-run Radyo Veritas. Castro said the bishops would lead the information campaign against pending bills on birth control that is considered against the teachings of the Church.

When asked in particular on the pending bills in Congress, Castro said lawmakers have already consolidated the proposals into a single bill for “responsible parenthood” in the apparent effort to make it appear that the legislation was meant to promote public welfare.

“I will encapsulate this. Congress has consolidated these bills, on reproductive health, and responsible parenthood. These are all very positive, But in the back of these bills, it is not,” Castro said.

Castro claimed a provision in the one of the bills being pushed is to require sex education to be taught from fifth grade. “Most alarming is this one. If we would go to rural health centers today, this is a reality, there are no antibiotics, not even a paracetamol. But according to this bill, a contraceptive will be considered as a special medicine. And this should be universally accessible to all,” he said.

He said contraception, or any means to control our bodies, is not in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

MalacaƱang, for its part, maintained the government’s population management and family planning programs had been effective and relevant amid warnings that the policies on the issue could put the country’s economy to the brink.

Lawmakers have warned the country’s current population of 90 million could hit 100 million in the next five to seven years if effective birth control measures cannot be implemented. With about 85 percent of Filipinos Catholic, artificial birth control remains a sensitive issue as the Church strongly opposes any means other than natural methods in family planning.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and Deputy Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez defended President Arroyo’s population management policies after some groups and former President Fidel Ramos hit the administration for its ambiguity on the issue of family planning because of its subservience to the Church

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DSWD blames bad population management for intensifying hunger

From ABS-CBN News:

President Arroyo's social welfare secretary on Tuesday attributed to bad population management the growing hunger among Filipinos as she aired her support for reproductive health proposals which have been tagged by the Church as “anti-life”.

"Everything is related to population management," Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral told radio dzMM, adding that the government's social welfare efforts cannot sustain a continuously growing Filipino population.

"The government's social services will not reach them if their numbers continue to grow bigger," she added.

She said she "personally" supports the reproductive health bills pending before Congress. She said people, especially married couples, should not be "coerced" to reject the bills.

She added that every Filipino couple has the right to be educated on how to limit their family size and be informed of the advantages and disadvantages of contraceptives, including birth control pills and condoms.

"These things (pills and condoms) should be available to them," Cabral added.

The secretary made the statement even as President Arroyo maintained her "pro-life" stance aligned with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' advocacy.

Church asked to stop influence


The Church is currently on a word war against Iloilo 1st district Rep. Janette Garin, author of House Bill 812 or the proposed Reproductive Health Care Act.

Garin has been urging the Church to stop using its influence and stop threatening legislators against supporting pro-contraceptive measures in Congress.

Legislators have intensified their campaign to pass reproductive health bills in reaction to the country's growing problem in food and fuel prices.

The latest hunger survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said at least 2.9 million families went hungry at least once in the last three months.

The 2nd Quarter survey, conducted June 27-30, showed that 16.3 percent of families experienced involuntary hunger in the past quarter, up from the 15.7 percent recorded in March.

The SWS said at least 760,000 families experienced severe hunger in the past three months, which is one point above the 10-year average severe hunger rate of 3.3 percent.

Although total hunger rose by a small 0.6 point between March and June, SWS said the survey revealed that it “worsened significantly because the share of severe hunger increased.”

Moderate hunger, referring to those who experienced it only once or a few times in the last three months, declined slightly from 12.5 percent in March to 12.1 percent, or about 2.2 million families, in June. SWS said the latest figure is four points above the nine-year average moderate hunger rate of 8.8 percent.

It said the few who did not state their frequency of hunger were also placed in this category.

More hungry Filipinos this month

Cabral said more Filipinos are expected to grow hungry with higher prices of basic commodities and services in July.

“If we’re working and our salaries a few months ago are just enough, we might have a harder time [this month] because of the fare increase and the higher prices of food,” she said.

The social welfare chief said the effect of the higher prices of food and transport fees would have a direct effect on Metro Manila residents.

She said residents in Metro Manila are not used to eating rootcrops and other alternative staple to rice, which makes them more vulnerable to hunger.

Cabral, however, assured that the government is doing all it can to cushion the effects of the global food and oil crisis.

The SWS survey showed that the hunger rate in Metro Manila the worse compared with other regions.

Hunger incidence in Metro Manila has risen by six points, from 15.7 percent in March to 22 percent in June, or 11 points above the 10-year average of 11.2 percent.

Moderate hunger in Metro Manila rose by almost six points, from 10.3 percent to 16 percent, or eight points above the 10-year average of 8.1 percent.

Likewise, severe hunger went up by almost one point, from 5.3 percent to 6 percent, or three points above the 10-year average of 3 percent.

The hunger incidence in the Visayas was no different where the total hunger rose by seven points, from 12.3 percent to 19.7 percent, or eight points above the nine-year average of 11.8 percent.

Moderate hunger rose by five points, from 11 percent to 16.3 percent, or eight points above the 10-year average of 8.6 percent, while severe hunger rose by two points from 1.3 percent to 3.3 percent. The severe hunger figure is similar to the 10-year average of 3.2 percent.

Total hunger in Mindanao, meanwhile, barely changed from 18 percent last March to 17.7 percent in June. It is now four points above the nine-year average of 14.2 percent, the survey said.

Despite this, however, hunger in Mindanao has intensified, with severe hunger rising from 2.7 percent to 4.3 percent. Moderate hunger declined from 15.3 percent to 13.3 percent.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Nograles seeks truce but 2 solons firm on population bill

And the HEAT is ON!!!

Kudos to Rep. Garina and Soon Ruiz.

And to all other legislators, may you be reminded that in passing and/or opposing legislative measures, do so in accordance with reasonable standards addressing the people's concerns and not simply on the basis of your religious affiliations. As Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama once said:

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason.

It is your duty to do what is best for the country and not what is best for your "political" career. Don't you think if you do good for your constituents, they will not take notice and remember you in the next elections?

The Church is NOT the State, that is why there is separation of powers. What pleases the Church does not necessarily please the voters. Ever consider that? Think about the many children who are suffering because their parents can no longer provide them with basic needs? This is something the government should have addressed a long time ago. Don't back down now.

God only helps those who help themselves. Be bold. Take a chance. For once, do something relevant in Congress. Please!


By: Maila Ager

INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:53:00 07/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- As Speaker Prospero Nograles called for a ceasefire, two principal authors of the controversial reproductive health bill bucked pressures from the Catholic Church to abandon the measure.

Cebu Representative Nerissa Soon-Ruiz, head of the committee on millenium development goal, and Iloilo Representative Janette Garin, said they would stick to their position even as they acknowledged the pressures they had been getting from the Church.

"I'm not withdrawing my signature. I'm convinced [the bill] is not anti-life and it’s definitely not legalizing abortion," Soon-Ruiz said over the phone.

"I firmly believe that the bill is really needed, necessary to manage the population in our country," she said.

Garin said she would not also withdraw her support for the bill as she called on her colleagues not to be swayed by any pressure.

"I call on the congressmen to really consult their people kasi yun ang dapat sundin [because that is what they should do]. Ang [The] pressure will always be there but we should what is good for the people," Garin said in a separate phone interview.

"If we follow the voice of the people, we will be vindicated. The truth will set us free," she said.

Garin accused the Church of resorting to dirty politics by spreading false information about the bill and against those advocating it.

Soon-Ruiz said her support for the measure was also used against her in the past.

To avoid further conflict, Nograles called for a ceasefire and asked the Church not to "antagonize" the lawmakers.

"Kailangan natin dito ay [What we need to do here is to] vote. When you ask Congress to vote for your measure, let’s not antagonize them. Kasi kung magbangayan yan, imbes na open mind pa yan hindi na tuloy susuporta [Because if they start sniping at each other, instead of keeping an open mind, they might no longer support it]. Baka [What might happen would be] those who are supporting the measure, those against the measure magkabaligtaran, nagkainsultuhan [they might flip-flop or insult each other]," he told reporters.

"So ceasefire muna [let’s have a ceasefire first]. This is something that is on the floor, something that has been sponsored on the floor, and something that must be subjected to open debates," he said.

And at the end of the day, Nograles said, each congressman would vote on the issue based on their conscience.

Nograles admitted that he himself did not escape the strong lobbying of the Church.

He said the archbishop of his province in Davao approached him last year to ask if he could support the position of the Catholic on that issue.

"My answer was, I was a devout Catholic. Meaning, I was a devout Catholic. Yun na yun [That’s it]," he said.

Catholicism and reproductive rights—Clara Rita Padilla

Many predominantly Catholic countries around the world allow access to modern contraceptives, emergency contraception and even safe and legal abortion. The state of Philippine law on reproductive rights is mere blind adherence to our Spanish colonial past.

It's time to state the truth about Catholicism and reproductive rights in the Philippines and the rest of the world.

I challenge the bishops of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and other religious fundamentalists to go to the poorest communities in Tondo and interview the women there to see first-hand how having ten children impacts the health and lives of women and their families.

I have just visited Tondo twice these past three weeks and I interviewed poor women who have borne the brunt of the restriction of access to family planning information, supplies and services due to the Atienza policy (EO 003 Series of 2000) and as a consequence had 3-10 children. The women were either outrightly denied access to family planning supplies and services or were denied access to information to effectively control their fertility.

The women, after years of being deprived access to family planning services by clinics and hospitals attached to Manila City, finally decided to undergo ligation. Last July 11, I also saw scores of women who filled up the Tondo Sports Coliseum in the heat of the day to eagerly wait for their turn to get family planning counseling and services.

The laws of predominantly Catholic countries around the world belie the claim of the CBCP that restricting access to contraception and even access to safe and legal abortion is against the Catholic religion. Many predominantly Catholic countries around the world allow access to modern contraceptives, emergency contraception and even safe and legal abortion. The state of Philippine law on reproductive rights is mere blind adherence to our Spanish colonial past.

Freedom of conscience

Catholic women around the world--including more than 60 percent of Catholic women in Trinidad, Tobago and Botswana, and 28 percent in the Philippines--have used contraceptive methods, showing that Catholic women exercise freedom of conscience.

Predominantly Catholic countries such as Chile and Peru have the same constitutional protection of the life of the woman and the unborn from conception as the Philippines and they allow access to emergency contraceptive pills.

Other predominantly Catholic countries such as Argentina and Belgium even make emergency contraceptive pills available without prescription. The World Health Organization defines emergency contraception (EC) a method of preventing pregnancy. It says that EC does not interrupt pregnancy and thus is not considered a method of abortion.

Religiously fundamental policies are encouraged by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration. President Arroyo has taken a “natural-family-planning-only” stance to family planning services. Thus, many women are denied access to modern contraceptives such as oral contraceptives, injectables, IUDs, and tubal ligation.

For example, Executive Order No. 003, issued by former Manila Mayor Jose “Lito” Atienza in 2000 prohibits public health clinics and hospitals from providing any family planning services besides natural family planning. While modern family planning services are still permitted in private health institutions, due to many women’s limited resources they are effectively banned from receiving such services.

Public health crisis

As a result of Executive Order No. 003 and similar policies implemented throughout the country, the Philippines faces a health crisis that would only be worsened if the Philippine government does not enact a national law providing access to information and reproductive health care services including sexuality education and adolescent access to reproductive health information and services. The continued delay in the passage of a national law on reproductive health care will further compound a major public health crisis in the country.”

In fact, in an oral statement delivered at the United Nations adoption of the Philippine Universal Periodic Review Report last June 10, I, along with many national and international organizations urged the Philippine government to reject the recommendation by the Holy See in the Working Group Report which calls for, “ …the protection of children in the womb….”

I said that the acceptance of this recommendation by the Philippines will not only be contrary to international human rights law but will further compound a major public health crisis in the country involving half a million unsafe abortion procedures every year, 79,000 hospital admissions for complications from unsafe abortion and 800 deaths.
Twelve percent of maternal deaths in the Philippines are due to unsafe abortion. The latest Philippine statistics on abortion also show the following profile of women who induce abortion: nine in ten women are married or in a consensual union; more than half have at least three children; two-thirds are poor; nearly 90% are Catholic.

Safe and legal abortion

The United Nations treaty monitoring bodies have recognized access to safe and legal abortion as a matter of women’s rights to life, health, non-discrimination and dignity. Their position is based on principled interpretations of human rights norms, commitments contained in global consensus documents and evidence of the impact of unsafe abortion on women’s health.

It is pertinent to note that during the August 2006 periodic review of the Philippines, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), urged the government to “consider the problem of unsafe abortion as a matter of high priority” and “consider reviewing the laws relating to abortion with a view to removing punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo abortion and provide them with access to quality services for the management of complications arising from unsafe abortions and to reduce women’s maternal mortality rates in line with the Committee’s general recommendation 24 on women and health and the Beijing Platform for Action.”

The CEDAW Committee has rightly noted that the lack of access to contraceptive methods and family planning services, as well as restrictive abortion laws, tend to coincide with the prevalence of unsafe abortions that contributes to high rates of maternal mortality.

The critical link between unsafe abortion and maternal mortality has also been a matter of concern for the Human Rights Committee, the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee, and the Children’s Rights Committee. They have consistently called upon states with criminal abortion laws to review their laws as a means to ensuring women’s basic human rights.

The figures around the world reveal that criminalizing abortion does not eliminate abortions; it only makes it dangerous for women who undergo clandestine and unsafe abortion.

No one wants women to be in a circumstance where they have no choice but to seek an abortion. But the reality is that unequal power relations prevent women from having control over their bodies and their reproductive decisions.

Spain, Colombia, Mexico, Poland

The social justice implications of restrictive abortion laws has been recognized in many predominantly Catholic countries around the world, including Spain, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, and Hungary (whose constitution protects life from conception but permits abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation).

Recent abortion liberalizations occurred in Colombia, Mexico City (legalized abortion in the first trimester without restriction in April 2007) and Portugal (allows abortion up to 10 weeks of pregnancy).

As can be seen, Spain has liberalized its laws to allow abortion and yet we are left to contend with our old colonial laws. Also, in the example of Hungary, the constitutional provision protecting the life of woman and the unborn from conception even allows access to safe and legal abortion.

The ‘abortion scare’ that is being espoused by fundamentalist groups is detrimental to the very lives, health, and well-being of Filipino women because it advocates the harmful.

State practice, as shown by the laws and jurisprudence of countries worldwide, reflects a growing consensus that government’s duty to protect a woman's life should take precedence over their interest in protecting an unborn fetus.

Furthermore, in the Philippines the full range of contraceptive methods is unavailable, which directly contributed to the high rate of unwanted pregnancy and pushes women to resort to unsafe abortions that in many cases result in death. The obligation to provide access to information and family planning methods as a means of reducing abortion has been recognized by the CEDAW Committee and the Beijing and Cairo Conferences consensus documents.

Despite international human rights standards that protect information and access to family planning and contraception, the religious fundamentalist stance being towed by the Philippine government is depriving Filipino women access to the full range of contraceptive methods.

The Philippine government must ensure that international human rights standards and norms are upheld in the Philippines.

The author, a lawyer, is executive director of EnGendeRights, Inc. Email: engenderights@pldtdsl.net; padillaclara@yahoo.com Blog: http://clararitapadilla.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pro_RH Legislators: The People’s Champions

Below is RHAN's official statement on the RH Bill. Please read.


Pro_RH Legislators: The People’s Champions

The Filipino people need champions.

Champions in Congress to craft policies that respond to the needs of their constituents. We need them to address pressing issues through laws so that pro-people and pro-poor programs are implemented, rights are respected and, therefore, lives become better.

A national policy on reproductive health (RH) is one of our needs. At a time when prices of basic commodities and services are soaring amidst widespread poverty, ordinary people urgently need all the help they can get.

Wage increases, tax breaks, food and electricity-consumption subsidies are good but not enough. These initiatives are not sustainable. With the ever-increasing scarcity of resources, government will eventually not be able to adequately address the needs of the people.

Legislators have to deal with the need of our families, especially the poor to plan their lives. RH information and services are needed to enable people to make informed and intelligent decisions that will: save women’s lives, facilitate having children that parents can provide for, prepare the youth to handle responsibilities that go with having relationships, and empower men to realize and use the various options available to them in planning their families.

The existence of such urgent needs cannot be denied. In the City of Manila alone where RH services have been virtually absent for the past eight years, throngs of residents flocked to the Tondo Sports Complex last Friday to avail of free family planning information and services offered by NGOs and the City Health Department. Manila residents in poor communities acted on their need at the first opportunity offered them.

An increasing number of local government units (LGUs) are also stepping up to address this need as evidenced by the passage of RH ordinances in Aurora province, Sulu, Olongapo, and Quezon City to name a few. Moreover, there are LGUs that are presently processing their own RH ordinances.

In Congress, we have RH champions. These legislators have taken action based on the facts that:

* 10 Filipino women die daily due to pregnancy and childbirth complications;
* 3 out of 4 of these women who die are aged 15-19 years old; and
* Internationally, 99% of all women who die from such causes come from developing countries.

We, RH advocates laud the courage, determination and foresight of these legislators to work for measures that offer strategic solutions to current crises.

Like many of our people, we are one with our legislators who stand with ordinary Filipinos; with women on the issue of RH. As shown by the 2004 Pulse Asia survey:

* 86% of respondents support candidates with programs for women’s health;
* 82% supports candidates who are in favor of couples’ free choice of family planning methods;
* 82% considers candidates supportive of a law on population as worthy of their votes; and
* 83% favors candidates who support allocating funds for family planning.

We ask our legislators not to give up on our needs--not to give up on our rights.

We ask our legislators to continue being our champions until that day when all Filipinos, rich and poor, shall have the opportunities to pursue a life of quality.