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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Population bill campaign intensifies ahead of Church protest

By Maila Ager
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.