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Friday, October 30, 2009

UN committee to RP: Pass reproductive health bill

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez First Posted 11:40:00 10/30/2009

MANILA, Philippines – Voicing “serious” concern over inadequate reproductive health services and information, low rate of contraceptive use and difficulties in access to artificial methods that contribute to teen pregnancies and high maternal death, a United Nations panel urged the government to pass the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

A report released this October containing the concluding observations on the Philippines of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that the government should “adopt as a matter or urgency the Reproductive Health bill awaiting approval by Congress and ensure that the bill reflect the rights of children and adolescents as enshrined in the Convention [Convention on the Rights of the Child].”

The recommendations came from the combined 3rd and 4th reports of the Philippines to the UN submitted early this year on its compliance to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, where the country is a signatory. A parallel report was submitted by the NGO Coalition made up of 15 organizations dealing with children’s concerns.

“The Committee remains seriously concerned at the inadequate reproductive health services and information, the low rates of contraceptive use [36 percent of women relied on modern family planning methods in 2006] and the difficulties in obtaining access to artificial methods of contraception, which contribute to the high rates of teenage pregnancies and maternal deaths,” the report said.

While it welcomes the passage of the Magna Carta of Women, the international body said that it remained concerned “over the lack of effective measures to promote the reproductive rights of women and girls and that particular beliefs and religious values are preventing their fulfillment.”

The RH bill remained pending for years in the House of Representatives partly due to the resistance of several Church groups. Two panels composed of congressmen were created in the chamber to debate on the bill in plenary when session resumes on November 9.

The bill pushes for, among others, the use of both artificial and natural means of family planning as a way to curb the ballooning population and to safeguard the health of mothers and children.

According to the UN report, the government has a lot to do to ensure access to reproductive health counseling and provide all adolescents with accurate and objective information and culturally sensitive services in order to prevent teenage pregnancies, including providing access to variety of contraceptives and improving knowledge and conscience on family planning.

It urged the government to strengthen formal and informal sex education for girls and boys with focus on the prevention of early pregnancies. It also called for the strengthening of HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns.

The committee said it remained concerned at the high infant and maternal mortality rates in the country even as it took note that the incidence has declined since 1990 (from 43 in 1990 to 23 per 1,000 live births in 2007-infant mortality rate and from 172 in 1997 to 162 per 100,000 live births in 2005-maternal mortality rates).

The UN said the government should “continue to take all necessary measures to lower infant, under-five and maternal mortality rates.”

Doctor Yvonette Serrano Duque, health specialist of the Children in Ministry of World Vision, one of the 15 members of the NGO Coalition, said the UN committee report should prod the government to act on the recommendations.

Serrano Duque said her group supported the RH bill and has programs advocating support for mothers from the pregnancy stage until the baby would be delivered.

They always say that the children are the hope of the fatherland. This should be reason enough to give them attention, focus on providing them good nutrition to develop their full potential,” she said in a phone interview.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stand fast against friars’ friendly fire

Passion For Reason
Stand fast against friars’ friendly fire

By Raul Pangalangan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:24:00 09/18/2009

Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III hasn’t even filed his certificate of candidacy yet, but some misguided members of the modern-day frailocracy have already begun flexing their muscle. He must stand his ground. He must not yield.

One, this is the first criticism coming from within his own camp. All the other attacks have hitherto come from the enemy: from Malacañang or the toadies of the other presidential aspirants. The clergy’s critique is friendly fire, so to speak, but no less deadly. How candidate Noynoy reacts to church threats today is a preview of whether a President Noynoy will defy or succumb to pressure groups. To be held hostage by the clerics’ warning will reduce him to just another “trapo” (traditional politician) willing to compromise principle for expediency, and render him vulnerable to the importunings of the various power groups now hovering at the smell of power.

Conversely, this is Noynoy’s golden opportunity to break away from the shadow of Ninoy and Cory (and in this case, especially Cory’s). It would have been unimaginable for Cory, the traditional Catholic, to displease the clergy on an issue like reproductive rights. How refreshing for Noynoy, the modern Catholic, to stand up to them. His response on TV already does him credit (and here I paraphrase) when he said he hoped the Church venerables would give him a chance to explain his side, since all he wanted was to ensure that parents planned their families responsibly and didn’t beget children they couldn’t feed. Vintage Noynoy Aquino, I must say: sober and plain-spoken, respectful but firm. None of the fancy-schmancy flights of macro-economics. None of the fudging politicians are given to. Just the bare reality that an unemployed father will find it easier to feed two kids instead of eight.

Two, this is the first criticism to focus on his substantive position on issues. Hitherto all the other criticisms have focused on his person: his fitness for the job, his performance as a legislator, and—the level of debate goes lower—on his unstylish hairstyle and awkward gait. The Church’s attack ironically elevates the level of the debate to real issues, but it also gives Noynoy an opportunity to define himself not just as a policymaker but, even more, as a leader who is prepared to act boldly against entrenched orthodoxies.

Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has lamented that Noynoy was one of the sponsors of the Reproductive Health Bill in Congress and declared him to have “an anti-life tendency.” Msgr. Gerardo Santos of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, representing the 1,240 Catholic schools (from university-level to kindergarten), a potent source of warm bodies mobilized for public protests, called on Noynoy to “rethink his position” on the “anti-life” provisions of the RH bill. Suddenly sounding much like Noynoy’s Malacañang critics, Santos said: “The Cory magic … is still there but Cory is different from Noynoy. … It is not enough that you have a name.”

Fr. Melvin Castillo of the Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines pushed it one step further: he proposed bloc voting, urging the faithful to go only for “our allies in family and life.” Mercifully, he has been disowned by the CBCP head, Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, who said on Radio Veritas that the “Church is not in favor of bloc voting like what others do [an apparent dig at the Iglesia ni Cristo] because our citizens should have the freedom to choose their candidates according to their own conscience.” The same conscience, I add, that they will use when they decide how many children they want, whether they want to raise children in hunger, homeless, barefoot and unable to study, and what it means to raise these children with love.

That is all that the Reproductive Health Bill proposes: for the government to respect the constitutionally guaranteed “right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.” Let the non-Catholics follow their own Church teachings. Let the modern Catholics use condoms. And let the Catolico cerrado chill under a cold shower—or for their hypocritical males, do it with their queridas.

The Reproductive Health Bill doesn’t legalize abortion. Indeed, it categorically says that “abortion remains a crime and is punishable” and “abortion is not included as a family planning method.” On the contrary, the bill actually aims to deter abortion by preventing unwanted pregnancies and ensuring access to family planning methods. Surveys show that in 2000 alone, there were almost half-a-million induced abortions in the Philippines, more than 90 percent by married women. And almost 60 percent of users depend on government for their supply of contraceptives. Just imagine how many aborted fetuses the bill can save!

And the devout would rather purport to stop abortion on paper while abetting it in practice! No wonder Jose Rizal delighted in mocking the friars of his time. They represented the backward idiocies of the dark ages, while Rizal reveled in the joys of the Enlightenment.

This is actually the perfect moment for Noynoy to defy entrenched political wisdom, especially the fear of the Catholic vote. SWS surveys show that 97 percent of Filipinos want to be able to control their fertility and plan their families—and almost 90 percent of those respondents were Catholics. He still takes a risk; perhaps these Catholics have dual standards, and will use condoms at night but devoutly listen to their parish priest in the morning. But it is a calculated risk on a worthy issue, a decisive move that Noynoy and every other candidate must take to define themselves to the Filipino voter.

House determined to have vote on RH bill

Hmnnn.. maybe now we can hold our breath... =)

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:32:00 09/21/2009

MANILA, Philippines -- The leadership of the House of Representatives will finalize the rules and procedures for the debates on the reproductive health bill so that voting could take place before the end of the 14th Congress, according to Majority Leader and Iloilo Representative Arthur Defensor.

Defensor said proponents and opponents of the measure would meet with Speaker Prospero Nograles on Tuesday to discuss how to tackle the bill, after some of the opponents disagreed with the proposal to form two panels who would handle the plenary debates on the bill.

Nograles earlier ordered the formation of the two panels representing backers and opponents of the bill in order to simplify the debates. He also said both sides should agree to a timetable so that “personal divisive emotional matters” would not hamper the process, and voting would be able to take place.

But one of those opposed to the bill, Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar, protested the creation of the panels during a meeting of the rules committee last week on the ground that there were a lot of House members who wanted to interpellate the supporters of the measure, said Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin.

Garin, who was at the meeting and is one of the backers of the reproductive health bill, suggested that the opponents could bring as many as 20 members to their panel, even though the proponents would only have about five members in theirs. But, she added, the opponents wanted to discuss the procedures with Nograles himself.

Defensor said the matter would be brought before the Speaker.

“We will meet with the speaker. The speaker is responsible for the agenda. He is the one who controls the agenda. We'll try to find, come out with a common ground so that it will be an orderly, civil debate,” he said in a phone interview.

But he added that the 14th Congress would have to make a stand on the measure, whether voting to kill it or to approve it, especially since the measure has been pending since the 11th congress.

“The speaker wants a vote. If it loses, then it loses. Let's face the issue, let's address the issue so that [the debates] would not be acrimonious and would not be too lengthy. We want to act on it with dispatch, [or] we will be charged with sleeping on it, and that is dereliction of duty,” he said.

Asked if he thought lawmakers would vote on the bill even though it might become an election issue and be used against them, Defensor said members of the House should be given more credit.

“Do not underestimate the congressmen. There are congressmen who are not afraid to take a stand and want the RH bill. They believe it does not promote abortion or a one-child or two-child policy. They just want people to have an informed choice,” he said.

Garin also said on Monday that it was time for the House to make a categorical stand on the reproductive health bill, and said that lawmakers could not expect to please everybody.

“In the process of legislation, you can't please all sectors. You really have to decide, you have to choose,” she said.

The reproductive health bill seeks to promote both natural and artificial birth control methods through government programs, among others. Critics, including the Catholic Church, said the contraceptives that the bill would promote would actually induce abortion.

Surveys have shown that more people favor the measure, although opponents have challenged the results and the way the questions were propounded.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

162 out of 100,000 mothers die giving birth

DoH gets P250M grant to reduce maternal death

By Anna Valmero
First Posted 20:17:00 09/18/2009

MANILA, Philippines—Of the 100,000 mothers giving live birth in the country, 162 die for lack of attending medical professionals and obstetric care, making the country among 68 others where 97 percent of global maternal and child death occur, health officials said on Friday.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that although the country's 162 maternal mortality ratio (MMR) dropped from a 1993 baseline of 209 based on the 2006 Family Planning Survey, the challenge remains in terms of reducing MMR by 75 percent or 52 by 2015 based on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Worldwide, United Nations Population Fund representative (UNFPA) Suneeta Mukherjee said over 500,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes, with the lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy in developing countries such as the Philippines standing at 1 in 75 women.

“In the Philippines, 11 women die due to complications of pregnancy at childbirth. With the death of the mother, infants are 10 times more likely to die prematurely. In the country, 93 newborn deaths are recorded daily due to preventable causes,” said Mukherjee.

A baby born in a developing country is over 13 times more likely to die within the first five years than a child born in an industrialized country, she added.

Duque said causes of maternal deaths such as hypertensive disorders, severe hemorrhage, or other labor or abortion-related problems and child death due to infection are preventable by having child deliveries in health facilities, with both mother and baby attended by skilled healthcare professionals.

Responding to these, DoH in partnership with UNFPA, UN Children's Fund, World Health Organization, and Australian Government Overseas Aid Program teamed up on a joint program that aims to reduce the country's maternal and newborn death hinged on giving women greater access to reproductive health care services.

Project to cut maternal deaths

The group will allocate P250 million ($5.56 million) as seed funding for the project, of which P160 million will be come from AusAID, said its minister counselor Titon Mitra.

Duque said the seed funding will be supplemental to the P3 billion fund requested by DoH to the government for addressing maternal and newborn care.

The first phase of the project is the transition period on 2009-2011, which will implement programs to reduce maternal and child deaths during birth in pilot sites such as Eastern Samar, Ifugao, Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sarangani provinces; and urban poor areas in Tacloban, General Santos Taguig, Navotas, Paranaque, and Makati, said Duque.

Pilot project sites were selected based on high poverty incidence, high number of teenage pregnancies, high rate of deliveries at home by traditional attendants, and high deaths during childbirth, he added.

Depending on the overall performance during the transition period and availability of resources, activities will be scaled up into full operations on 2011-2016 to meet the MDGs.

Full operations or the second phase which will include other areas with similar criteria, is expected in the period from 2011-2016, the health secretary said.

DoH aims to implement the program in four phases: pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, delivery, and post partum, since the mother is at risk at all stages, said Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde.

Villaverde said DoH will measure the effectiveness of the program interventions at each stage through the measurement of contraceptive prevalence rate, antenatal visits, delivery in health facilities with skilled healthcare professionals to attend to the mother and newborn, and initiation to breastfeed and tapping healthcare packages to cover deliveries.

He said DoH will relocate the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila to the somewhere at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City and add among its functions a research arm that will be named “National Research Institute for Maternal and Neonatal Care.”

Unicef representative Vanessa Tobin assessed that the Philippines can achieve its goal of reducing maternal and newborn deaths through the program by having available skilled healthcare workers to take care of mothers during pregnancy stages and by focusing on implementation of the program on priority areas.

“Based on global experience, having skilled health professionals to attend to mothers and babies as well as spacing and family planning, we can reduce by 80 percent the incidences of maternal and newborn deaths so we expect to focus on this,” added Mukherjee.

WHO representative to the country Dr. SoeNyunt-U added more mothers should be educated on the importance of breastfeeding especially after childbirth to take advanatage of nutrients from colostrum or the “first milk” produced by the mother after childbirth.

“Sadly, mothers just take two minutes to breastfeed their newborn child. That is hardly enough for the child to benefit from the antibodies and nutrients from colostrum, which is essential to protect the baby from infections and bacteria. All babies are prone to infection right after childbirth,” said Soe.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Date: Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Source: Manila Standard (Philippines)
Author: Fel V. Maragay

Senator Benigno Noynoy Aquino III said yesterday he would not give up his support for the use of artificial contraceptives to curb population growth even at the risk of incurring the ire of the Catholic Church.

Aquino said Catholic bishops should wake up to the reality that something must be done to arrest the rapid growth of the country's population, which now stands at 95 million or almost double the 50 million in 1986. There is really a problem. And I hope that the Church will see that I have the reasonableness of my position on the issue, he told newsmen.

Aquino, the declared presidential candidate of the Liberal Party, was unfazed by the threat of the Catholic Church to mount a campaign against candidates in the 2010 election who will defy its pro-life and pro-family stand.

Fe Melvin Castro, executive director of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said they will wage a campaign urging the faithful to vote only for candidates who will follow the Church's pro-life stand.

Earlier, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, expressed dismay over Aquino's sponsorship of the controversial reproductive health bill which, among others, promotes the use of artificial contraceptives.

The senator from Tarlac said he will seek a dialog with Cardinal Vidal to clarify his stand. Aquino said while he favors the use of artificial contraceptives, he does not believe that the State should force couples to practice them, including the use of birth control pills. I am encouraging the use of contraceptives. But that will be left to the conscience of the person, he said. In other countries, the government resorts to outright coercion of its citizens on the use of contraceptives and in limiting the number of children, which he described as wrong.

The State has no right to dictate to its citizens who they should plan their families. It can only provide guidance, Aquino said. He said it is the responsibility of the State to remind the citizens of their duty to take care of the needs of their children, including their education. Obviously, he said it is wrong for couples to have more children than their income could afford.

The senator from Tarlac denied that there is a provision in the RH bill that would allow abortion. Aquino said that he is proposing that Church leaders should be made to participate in population education program envisioned under the RH bill to enable them to present their side.

A counterpart bill in the House of Representatives was scheduled for plenary debate next week after the antis sought more time to study it.

Friday, August 07, 2009

songs at Cory's Funeral

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Farewell President Corazon Aquino

"The kinder and more thoughtful a person is, the more kindness she can find in other people."

Pres. Cory has touched the lives of people from all walks of life - the rich, the poor, and those in between. Despite perhaps her alleged flaws as a political leader, it is her apparent kindness that kept people drawn to her. Undeniably, that kindness turned a simple yellow ribbon into a golden chain that binds this society together during this time.

RIP Pres. Corazon Aquino.Thank you for your love, kindness and gift of democracy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

QC family health programs backed

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:18:00 07/29/2009

MANILA, Philippines—More than 20 private firms in Quezon City have pledged to support family health programs being implemented in workplaces and offices in the city.

The companies signed a declaration of support inked by the city council on population, in which they promised to provide family planning and child health services to their workers.

“It’s to ensure that we have their commitment to improve family health programs such as consultations on family planning, maternal health care,” said Rose Marcelino, council vice chairman.

The declaration of support was signed at the recently held 1st Quezon City Family Health Congress. Julie M. Aurelio

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

State of the Nanay Address (SONA)

Dear Friends,

Greetings! The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) and Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), together with other networks working for the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, are doing a “State of the Nanay Address (‘SONA’)” on 22nd July, 2009 at the Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman, Quezon City.

Our ‘SONA’ is a spoof of the official State of the Nation Address to be delivered by the President of the Philippines on 27th July and will be participated in by at least 700 advocates, personalities, and legislators. The event aims to: (1) kick-off in a media-worthy manner the resumption of the advocacy for the immediate passage of the RH Bill by Congress; and (2) dramatically demonstrate to the President of the Philippines and legislators the urgent need for the Bills’ passage by presenting the real state of Filipino mothers.

As one of the Bill’s advocates, we are pleased to invite you to join us in the event. We would like to request you to wear Filipiniana on the said event.

The actual program will promptly start at 1:00 PM and will only last for one (1) hour.

We sincerely hope that you will accept this invitation. We will be contacting your office to follow this matter up. Should you have questions or clarifications, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Rhoda V. Avila or Ms. Vanessa T.P. Dugenia at 9271766 or 9266395 or mobile number 0917 8855782.

Kindly forward this message to your friends as well. Many thanks!

Monday, June 01, 2009

DUE TO WORLD CRISIS ‘RP should reset antipoverty goals’

By Michelle Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:41:00 05/31/2009

MANILA, Philippines—The global economic downturn, which recently pulled the Philippines down to its slowest growth in a decade, will result in the country’s failure to meet its poverty-reduction goal by 2010 and is expected to increase the number of poor Filipinos.

Under the Millennium Development Goals, to which the Philippines and other member-countries of the United Nations are signatories, extreme poverty shall have been eradicated by 2015.

Consistent with this goal, the Philippines set a target of reducing poverty incidence to 17-20 percent of Filipino families by 2010 from 26.9 percent in 2006.

Economic officials, however, admitted that the global crisis, considered the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, has made the poverty-reduction goal of the Philippines and other countries virtually impossible to achieve.

Diwa Guinigundo, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas deputy governor and a former economics professor, for one, said the timetable for bringing down poverty incidence to 20 percent or less by 2010 and eradicating extreme poverty by 2015 should be adjusted.

“There is scope for delaying the goals. The crisis has led to the destruction of wealth, thus affecting consumption levels,” Guinigundo said Friday.

He noted that with the Philippine population growing faster than its economy, per capital income was naturally reduced.

Per capita income

Per capita income, a rough measure of the income of individuals in an economy, is the total output of the economy divided by its population.

Per estimates, annual per capita income in the Philippines stood at $1,400 as of 2006. Government data show the population growth rate at 2.1 percent.

In the first quarter, the Philippine economy, measured in terms of its gross domestic product [GDP], posted an annual growth of 0.4 percent in real terms, its lowest in 10 years.

GDP, the most common measure of an economy, is the sum of the value of goods produced and services rendered within an economy in a given period.

The Philippine economy’s lackluster performance veered the country off track from meeting its growth target of between 3.1 and 4.1 percent for the full year, and is in fact feared to signal a recession in the months ahead.

Anemic global demand

Economists blamed the slowdown to the plunge in exports, which were badly hit by anemic global demand. The United States and Europe, drivers of the global turmoil, are two of the Philippines’ biggest export markets.

As a result of dwindling incomes, some export-oriented firms were reported to have reduced their workforce.

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said earlier the economy needed to grow by at least 7 percent over several years in order to reduce poverty incidence.

Officials said, however, that measures were being taken to arrest the economic downturn.

The BSP has implemented a series of rate cuts to bring down bank lending rates, which is expected to spur business activity.

The government also committed to boost public spending in the months ahead to help create jobs and increase aggregate income.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bishop instructs flock to shun GK projects

Oh man, I just want to laugh at all the non-sense this priest is saying!

Condemning a group for helping them improve the plight of the poor and the homeless??? God should come down from heaven and strike these pretentious preachers!!

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:47:00 05/18/2009

MANILA, Philippines—Archbishop Oscar Cruz has issued instructions to shun Gawad Kalinga (GK), a civic group whose initiatives to build shelter for the poor have come under fire for receiving donations from advocates of population control—a policy opposed by the Catholic Church.

The directive from the outspoken Lingayen-Dagupan prelate—the strongest on the issue from a ranking official of the Church hierarchy—was issued to parishes and chaplaincies in Pangasinan.

It came after the Couples for Christ International Council (CFC-IC) cut its ties with the GK recently.

Cruz said in his circular, which appeared on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website, that the CFC-IC action would allow the GK to function as a nonreligious organization.

“In this particular regard, it would be right and prudent for you and me to have nothing to do with the Gawad Kalinga—directly or indirectly—in the event that such goes to your respective parishes or chaplaincies,” Cruz said.

“[This] in no way means that the said civic entity is altogether bad or something the like. Yet, pastoral prudence dictates the above advisory,” he said.

Gawad Kalinga is an advocacy group engaged in building decent housing for the impoverished, a program hailed here and abroad. Until recently, it was a part of the activities of the CFC.

Persons involved with CFC and the GK have had serious disagreements, including the housing advocacy being open to donations from groups promoting population management that the Catholic hierarchy opposes.

Interdependence remains

Antonio Meloto, GK executive director, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that there was no severing of ties with the CFC-IC. There may be an independence of governance, but there remains an “interdependence of members” of the two groups, he said.

Meloto indicated that the Catholic hierarchy should continue to be part of his group’s activities.

“Gawad Kalinga is the pearl of the Catholic church. It is an expression of what has been preached,” he said in a telephone interview.

Meloto said CFC members continued to serve on the GK board despite what he described as a realignment in leadership.

Cruz told the Inquirer that he issued the circular to make it clear that the Catholic Church no longer had any connection with the GK following its disassociation from the CFC.

The prelate said the CFC had the “pontifical imprimatur of Rome.” With no more connection to the CFC, Cruz said the GK also ceased to be a Church-based organization.

“It is already a civic group,” he said, comparing GK to the Rotary and Lions clubs.

“It’s good if Gawad Kalinga does well. But if it does something bad, the Church might get involved.”

But Cruz clarified: “Individually, any one without reference to faith, without reference to creed, everyone [is] free to join Gawad Kalinga.”

In his text statement, Meloto said: “There is greater solidarity between CFC and Gawad Kalinga in our work of bringing Filipinos out of poverty.

“This is the mission of every Catholic and every Filipino, and we will work with the government, the business community, the academe, civic organizations, Catholic groups like Bukas-loob sa Diyos, Focolare, Knights of Columbus, Cursillo, Magis Deo, Ligaya ng Panginoon, Bo Sanchez’s Light of Jesus, and Catholic schools and parishes here and abroad.

“There is a change in the board of Gawad Kalinga, but all of the members are CFC, except Ateneo president Fr. Ben Nebres. I am a devout Catholic and an active leader of the CFC.”

Earlier in Batangas, Lipa Archishop Ramon Arguelles expressed regret over the severed CFC-IC and GK ties.

Arguelles, the CBCP news website said, insisted that GK projects in his archdiocese continued to be administered by the CFC as a “prime result of CFC’s pledge to renew families worldwide.”

“I am convinced that the GK should continue and become a more effective social arm of the CFC firmly rooted in and reflective of the Catholic faith and practices without prejudice, though, to the CFC-GK’s commendable work of sharing God’s blessings with non-Catholics and non-Christians,” he said.

Arguelles said GK activities outside CFC direction were neither allowed nor recognized by the Lipa Archdiocese.

“Evidently, the GKs in Batangas are prohibited to have anything to do with institutions whose policies contradict the Church’s teachings,” he said.

CBCP news said Arguelles was referring to institutions like the Habitat for Humanity, Pfizer, the Population Commission and others. The groups are known to promote population management that the Catholic leadership opposes.

Fundamental differences

The CFC-IC, a lay organization, early this month announced the breakaway to allow GK to expand its work as a nonreligious organization.

“While CFC is pursuing the fullness of the mission, GK is focused on nation-building and poverty alleviation, which necessitate that it mainstreams and partners with all sectors of society. It is even poised to enter non-Christian countries (such as India, Indonesia and the Middle East) as a nonreligious organization,” CFC executive director Joe Tale said on the CBCP website.

“[As such], there has been honest divergence of opinions [from] these fundamental differences. We have tried to resolve these … However, despite our common best efforts and intentions, unity continues to be elusive under the present structure,” he added.

Tale said the CFC would continue with its pro-poor ministry even with the decision.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Speech key for Obama with Catholics

Carol E. Lee, Jonathan Martin – Sun May 17, 8:03 am ET

President Barack Obama’s time at Notre Dame Sunday will be brief, but how he handles one of the biggest, most public controversies of his presidency so far could have a lasting impact on his relationship with a key constituency – Catholic voters.

It’s not just the few dozen graduates boycotting Obama’s 20-minute commencement address to protest his support for abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research. Or the bus loads of protestors driving in from Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit, activists who might never have voted for Obama in the first place.

The controversy — over a pro-abortion-rights president speaking at the nation’s flagship Catholic university — has in fact drawn wider attention to Obama’s views on a divisive issue. Some experts say that could trickle down to those who supported him as a candidate, threatening to upend a political strategy he has carefully tended for the past two years.

“Where it matters is for the Catholics who may have voted for the president but are anti-abortion,” said John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron. “It’s those groups where the president faces a challenge at Notre Dame and beyond that as well, because it’s possible that he could alienate them if the abortion issue becomes salient.”

Obama courted Catholics by keeping the focus on bringing pro- and anti-abortion rights groups together to reduce the number of abortions. He talked of depoliticizing a divisive issue that was at the heart of the “culture wars” Obama sought to avoid.

His stance helped him win over more religious Catholics, too, who liked his policies on issues such as the economy and health care, and saw him as moderate enough on abortion that they were comfortable supporting him.

But some of Obama’s policy decisions and appointments since take office have upset some in the anti-abortion community – and could put him in a situation where renewed disagreement on this one issue sours support from Catholics that was based on his broader platform.

The White House knows that Obama’s majority support among Catholics helped him get elected – he beat Sen. John McCain 54 percent to 45 percent among Catholic voters — and officials have stepped up their efforts to reach out to them since the Notre Dame controversy began in March.

But if the White House once hoped the speech was another way for Obama to reach out to this key constituency, the address instead is likely to be overshadowed by the public outcry, and in a state that Obama carried in the fall, Indiana.

White House Communications Director Anita Dunn declined to say whether administration officials were taken aback by the strong opposition and suggested the president would, in keeping with his political approach, use the moment to try to forge consensus.

"He doesn’t view this as a distraction," Dunn said. "He sees it as an opportunity."

He’s not the only one. Obama’s speech at Notre Dame has become an outlet for anti-abortion groups who have been waiting for a chance to pounce on a president they view as far left on the abortion issue.

In effect, they’re forcing him into a fight he never wanted to have.

“Barack Obama made no secret of trying to win over Catholics and Evangelicals,” said Jill Stanek, an anti-abortion blogger. “We’re trying to take that territory back.”

Obama will touch on the controversy in his speech, White House officials say, but he’ll do so in the context of saying that the students are graduating at a time when they need to come together and rise above old-style politics to move forward.

One administration official described it by saying Obama is not going to South Bend to take on the abortion issue. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, “The president will obviously make mention of the debate that's been had.”

The demonstrations will greet Obama almost as soon as he arrives on campus. Organizers say there will be a picket line near the entrance of Notre Dame, so anybody who gets off the interstate will see it. Already, airplanes have been carrying banners featuring aborted babies, and trucks doubling as billboards targeting Obama on abortion have been doing loops around the campus. Some protestors have been arrested.

During the actual commencement, a few dozen students and their families will hold an alternative ceremony.

“A commencement should not be a political arena,” explained Mary Daly, a Notre Dame graduate who is leading the student boycott. “It’s not the place for a dialogue.”

Obama still has considerable support among Catholics. A recent Pew survey showed 50 percent of Catholics surveyed think Notre Dame was right to invite him to speak, while 28 percent disagreed with the invitation.

But Obama’s support has dropped among certain groups, including white Catholics who attend mass regularly, according to Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. In February, two-thirds of white Catholics who attend mass every week approved of his job performance, and now less than half do, Smith said.

Obama also comes to Notre Dame as a new Gallup poll found that for the first time, the majority of Americans are anti-abortion.

Obama has sought to position himself well amid the changing sentiment.

Politically, Dunn pointed out, Obama has made clear to anti-abortion voters that they are welcome in the Democratic fold. Obama’s convention platform was amended to include references to pre- and post-natal care and adoption – ways "to reduce the need for abortions.”

Obama also gave his anti-abortion colleague, Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Penn) a prominent speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention, 16 years after Casey’s father, the former Pennsylvania governor, was denied a convention speech.

The younger Casey ardently defended Obama, whom he endorsed at a key moment last year in the Democratic primary.

"He could be invited to speak and people could say that they disagree,” Casey said. "But the idea that you can’t appear on the campus of a Catholic college because you have a disagreement, even on something as important as this issue, I don’t think it’s good for school or the church.”

Casey said the opposition to Obama’s speech is "rooted in partisanship."

"It's people who didn't vote for him, don't support him and want to use this to register their disappointment," he said.

Others disagree and say Obama is increasingly alienating Catholics who voted for him in November.

“There’s a lot of buyer’s remorse growing out there,” said Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center who recently joined Catholic leaders in urging Obama to remove Harry Knox from his White House advisory council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, charging that Knox made anti-Catholic remarks.

“The anger is growing,” he said. “And the sense of outrage is growing because people are seeing the Obama administration picking unnecessary fights and challenging Catholics to political duels.”

Bozell won’t be voicing his protest at Notre Dame. But for those who are, like Stanek, the more immediate goal is “to make Barack Obama radioactive on any Catholic college campus,” she said.

New party-list reps aid RH bill passage

by Jesus F. Llanto, Newsbreak | 05/07/2009 4:24 PM

The entry of new party-list representatives in Congress is expected to give a boost to the passage of the reproductive health (RH) bill, lawmakers said.

In a forum on the reproductive health bill held Thursday in Quezon City, two lawmakers said the number of legislators supporting the RH bill is expected to increase as a result of the entry of additional sectoral representatives in Congress.

The Supreme Court on April 21 allowed the entry of an additional 32 sectoral representatives to fill up all the available seats for the party-list system. The 1987 Constitution states that 20 percent of the members of the House of Representatives should come from the marginalized or under-represented sectors.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the main proponent of the RH bill or House Bill 5043, said they are confident that they could get half of the 27 new party-list representatives to support the legislation. The bill seeks more funding for a government campaign to promote natural and artificial family planning.

“We are going to get majority of the new members of Congress,” said Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. “Out of the 27 sitting [new party-list representatives], majority will support the RH bill.”

Lagman added that five of the 27 have already signed as co-authors of the bill while around 15 have committed to support the measure.

The five who have signed are: Abono’s Francisco Emmanuel Ortega, Akbayan’s Walden Bello, Bayan Muna’s Neri Colmenares, Barangay Association for National Advancement of Transparency (Banat) Rep. Salvador Britanico, and Abakada Guro’s Jonathan dela Cruz.

Lagman said that this would bring the number of RH bill supporters in the Congress to 133. “We do not need 133 to pass the bill because we only need a majority of the quorum,” he said.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said other representatives have also expressed their interest in supporting the bill, but she refused to divulge their names.

“The moment we release their names, the Church will be ganging up on them and it becomes detrimental on our part,” Garin said. “The moment CBCP [Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines] gangs up on them, especially since they are new in Congress, they will either withdraw their signatures or be very silent, or probably abstain.”

Lagman, however, said the entry of the new members have also increased the quorum to 134, a number that is high. “If we do not have a quorum, that’s the best weapon for the opponents to delay the passage of the bill.”

Overshadowed by Cha-cha

The “unbelievable initiative” on Charter Change, Lagman said, has delayed the debates on the RH bill and other more important issues.

“It’s consuming too much time in the house, and this has crowded out more important measures like the extension of the land acquisition component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), and the reproductive health bill,” Lagman said.

Since the 9th Congress, similar RH bills have been filed but they were met with strong opposition, especially from the influential Catholic hierarchy and some lobby groups that interpret some of its provisions as promoting irresponsible sex and abortion.

“It is not about sex and it’s not about religion. It’s about health, rights, and sustainable human development,” Lagman said

Recent surveys show that majority of the Filipinos support the legislation. For instance, a Pulse Asia survey in October 2008 showed that 63 percent of Filipinos support the RH bill.

The Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world with around 88.6 million inhabitants as of 2007. Its population grew at 2.04 percent from 2000-2007 and is expected to double or reach 177 million in 2041.— with Sammie Sauler, Newsbreak intern

Sunday, May 03, 2009


‘I was jailed for committing journalism’

MANILA, Philippines— “I got put in jail in Zimbabwe for simply doing my job. They said I was ‘committing journalism’ and I hope they were right.”

That’s how Barry Bearak of The New York Times described his arrest, brief detention and expulsion from Zimbabwe for trying to report from the country during the last elections. Bearak’s plight was widely reported in the global media and created a storm of indignation and protest in the international community.

As many as a thousand journalists are arrested in the world each year, however, and the dramatic, often tragic, stories of the vast majority of them go untold.

At least 125 journalists are currently in prison serving significant jail terms—and more than 400 have been murdered in the past decade. To report on corruption, to challenge government policies, to investigate organized crime—these are just a few ways to get a one-way ticket to prison or the cemetery in dozens of countries.

Why do these journalists take the risk, voluntarily put themselves and their families in the firing line? Each man or woman’s story is different, but all are united in one idea at least: That without the right to inform and express ideas freely, one cannot demand any other rights.

Today is World Press Freedom Day, an annual occasion to reaffirm this idea and to turn the spotlight on repressive governments, which deny their people this freedom. It is a day to support and understand the fundamental relation between press freedom and democracy and all human rights.

There are countless stories to be told and remembered today.

Clearly outnumbered

Barry Bearak, The New York Times’ co-bureau chief in Johannesburg circumvented a draconian press law in Zimbabwe that severely restricted coverage of the presidential elections. His reporting mission was cut short when 21 police officers raided his hotel room. He spent four days in a concrete cell before being expelled from the country.

In Zimbabwe, where independent news sources struggle to stay afloat, reporters could be instantaneously deemed criminals for what they’ve written or for not having proper journalistic accreditation. Trying to achieve press freedom, said Bearak, “is a rear-guard action. In places like Zimbabwe, we’re clearly outnumbered and I can’t say we are winning.”

Moussa Kaka would agree. The director of the private radio station Saraouniya Radio was imprisoned for 384 days for his coverage on the Niger Justice Movement, which has been engaged in a long rebellion against the government.

“The rebellion in the North is the most important story in Niger, yet no one can cover it because the government censors everything,” said Moussa Kaka.

“People are always talking about modernizing Africa, but that is not possible as long as journalists are going to jail for what they write or say,” he said. “You want democracy, then let the press do its job. And, if intimidation worked, this job wouldn’t exist, or at least I wouldn’t be doing it. I am ready to go back to jail, no hesitation.”

Such stories are common.

Bloggers in danger, too

Mohammad Al-Al Abdallah, a 26-year old Syrian blogger and human rights activist whose father and brother were both jailed for criticizing Syrian policies and calling for reform, was briefly detained before he fled the country for the United States, where he continues to write his blog, “I’m leaving and I’m not coming back,” which is censored in his home country.

“We are getting arrested, like traditional journalists, and although it is shameful, it means that we are doing something right,” said Al-Abdallah.

[This may sound familiar to Filipino journalists – ED]

In Yemen, Abdel Karim Al-Khaiwani, spent a year behind bars for his reportage on high-level corruption, nepotism and human rights abuses. Al-Khaiwani, is now facing another six-year sentence, and is frequently barred from leaving the country to attend international meetings on press freedom.

“I refuse to submit to or to put up with intimidation. I refuse to give up the principles of freedom and justice. I protest against despotism, oppression and all forms of harassment,” he said.

Defend freedom together

In Colombia, 130 journalists have been killed over the past 30 years, for articles that cover guerrilla warfare, high-level corruption and drug trafficking.

Claudia Julieta Duque, who has battled court cases, faced death threats and has left the country on three occasions in fear that her investigative reporting would have deadly consequences, said: “I strongly believe that the only way to achieve real press freedom in Colombia is to ensure that all of us defend it together. Regardless of personal differences, focuses, or ideas—the right to express is above all interests and sensitivities.”

This repression isn’t only a problem for journalist and bloggers, but for all of us, since we rely on them to take the risks and report the stories.

Mohamad Ali Al-Abdallah of Syria said much could be done. “From attending court hearings to supporting the family of imprisoned journalists, everyone can contribute in their own way, at their own scale,” he said.

(Written by Larry Kilman, director of Communications and Public Affairs at the World Association of Newspapers. WAN annually organizes a World Press Freedom Day to draw attention to the role of independent news and information in society, and how it is under attack. More information can be found at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pope Benedict ‘wrong’—health official

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 11:20:00 03/22/2009

GEORGETOWN – World Health Assembly President, Guyana's Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy, on Saturday condemned Pope Benedict's call for ending condom use in the fights against AIDS, saying he was trying to sow confusion.

"The statement by the Pope is inconsistent with science, it's inconsistent with our experiences and it is not in sync with what Catholics have experienced and believe," Ramsammy told a news conference.

The Health Minister, who is regarded by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) as a leading advocate in the fight against HIV and AIDS, accused the leader of the Roman Catholic Church of attempting to "create confusion" and "impede" proven strategies in the battle against the disease.

Declaring the position by the Pope on condom use as "absolutely and unequivocally wrong," Ramsammy recommended the continued use of condoms as part of an overall strategy that included education, fidelity and monogamy.

The Health Minister said he planned to rally support among colleague health ministers of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom), which is predominantly Roman Catholic.

"Whilst I would hope that Catholics would continue to be extremely supportive of their church and the pope ... on this issue, they (should) rely on the evidence, and we need at this time to come out forcefully with the evidence to demonstrate that condoms and lifestyle matter," said Ramsammy.

Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday on his way to Africa that condoms were not the answer in the continent's battle against HIV-AIDS, his first such public pronouncement on the delicate issue of condom us

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Francis M, we will always remember you!

Remembering the Master Rapper... One of the Filipino Artists who made a great impact in the Filipino Music Industry with his songs embodying love for our country and pride for being a Filipino.

FrancisM Kaleidoscope World with Parokya ni Edgar

One rap song with lyrics that I really like:

3 STARS and a SUN

"Three stars and a sun, in one sky, so high,
I live and die and die will I for my
Motherland this is the land of my birth,
No purse is worth the price of this earth
Can we rise, can we all, hell no!,
Or should we all just take the fall?
Bless the man if his heart and his land are one
...3 stars & a sun!
3 stars & a sun! I'm ready to defend the 3 stars & a sun!
Ommision to a mission, transport for the brain,
Packed w/ stacks of tracks built for a train,
I eat lead, but I never let it be said,
"He said, she said," it makes me see red
'Cuz I don't take bullshit & I'm 'a pack it and push it,
And hit you w/ the full clip
Switch to mode lock-'n'-load in the land of Juan
...the 3 stars & a sun!
3 stars & a sun! I'm ready to defend the 3 stars & a sun!
Bahay kubo kahit munti, may pula,
Bughaw, dilaw, atsaka puti
There is a need to sow the seed,
Toil the soil and plod until your hands bleed
'Cuz this land is sacred,
Many a battle have been fought with hatred
Don't tell me that you understand,
It's been 4 hundred years of tears
For the brown man,
Still and all the fight has just begun
...3 stars & a sun!
3 stars & a sun! I'm ready to defend the 3 stars & a sun!"

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Gays, lesbians hear Mass at Baguio City bar

By Desiree Caluza
Northern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 07:08:00 03/05/2009

BAGUIO CITY—It was a Sunday Mass no different from what mainstream churches hold, except that the faithful, including the officiating minister, are gays and lesbians.

About 20 people gathered at a bar here one Sunday afternoon in February to attend the landmark religious service dedicated to gays and lesbians, many of whom had complained of discrimination in their churches.

“Our concern is our relationship with God. When you die, God will not ask you if you are gay; He will ask you if you did good things. Salvation does not come from anyone but from God, and we accept Christ as the head of the Church,” said Rev. Crescencio Agbayani, an openly gay pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC).

The MCC, a Quezon City-based Christian denomination, has a special ministry for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and “transgenders,” or homosexuals who cross-dress.

Its church in Baguio is the third in the country that ministers to the gay community. The first two churches are in Makati City and Quezon City.

“As long as traditional Christian churches continue to reject gays in their ministry and close the door on us, our church will keep on expanding,” said Agbayani.

Catholic Church stand

But Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon said the Catholic Church had never discriminated gays but it was against same-sex relationships.

“The Catholic Church does not reject gays or lesbians; they are God’s children, too. What we reject is their campaign to engage in same-sex relations and same-sex marriage. Sex is only for the married, and marriage is between a man and a woman,” Cenzon said in a text message.

William Villacampa, one of the founders of the MCC Metro Baguio, said the “gay pride Mass” at Ayuyang Bar on Gov. Pack Road in the downtown area was meant to tear down the walls of the Christian faith.

“The MCC receives flak from others every now and then, but we are not worried about these criticisms. Our church is not even an underground church; everybody is welcome. We are not afraid of rejections because in the end, only God can judge us,” Villacampa said.

Mass ceremony

At the start of the Mass, Agbayani asked the churchgoers to give the greetings of peace by kissing and hugging each other.

Just like any regular Mass held in Catholic and Protestant churches, the gay pride Mass involved opening prayers, praise songs, reading of the gospel, homily and communion.

The Mass, which took more than two hours, added testimonials from those who attended as part of the ceremony. A Bible study followed the Mass.

Julie Palaganas, spokesperson of the Baguio-based Lesbians for National Democracy, said the Mass was a breakthrough.

“We know how the Bible was used to condemn homosexuality, but I am willing to study it more to liberate myself,” she said.

The participants said they hoped the activity would lead to the establishment of a church that would regularly hold services for homosexuals.


Men and women who regularly attend religious services in their communities would find themselves subjects of discrimination when their fellow church members find out that they are gays and lesbians, according to Agbayani.

“There were those who experienced doors being literally shut in their faces. Others are being [accepted in these services] but are told not to engage in ‘gay practices,’” he said.

“But what is the point of being gay if you are not practicing a gay lifestyle? It is abnormal for us to court the opposite sex,” he added.

Myke Sotero, chair of the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines-Baguio, said members of his group expected criticisms from the Baguio community.

God not judgmental

“I know we will be condemned, but the Bible says, ‘If one is condemned in the name of the Lord, he or she is blessed.’ We are opening our doors to … discussion [so] people will know the love of God. Our God is not judgmental. We are willing to be stoned, pero iyong dapat ang mambato sa amin ay iyong hindi nagkasala (But those who would cast the stone should be without sin),” Sotero said.

But he said they are hopeful that they would be accepted and expand their ministry even to those outside their community.

“What really hurts is that when you are gay, the traditional Christian church would tell you that you are going to hell because it is a sin to be a homosexual. They would cite the story of Sodom and Gomorrah,” Agbayani said.

“Why are these churches afraid of gays?” he asked.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bishops quit RH bill talks

Today's Banner Story of The Philippine Daily Inquirer: Bishops quit RH Bill Talks

Say senators ignored their views on birth control

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:51:00 02/22/2009

MANILA, Philippines—The conflict between lawmakers and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has come to a head, with CBCP representatives walking out of Senate discussions on the reproductive health bill and indicating they would no longer take part in such proceedings.

The CBCP representatives to the Senate committee on health’s technical working group meeting on Thursday on the controversial bill walked out because the Catholic Church’s views on population policy were not being taken into account, according to Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family Life.

“What is the technical working group for? We give our views [but these] are only duly noted,” Castro told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the phone. “They invited us just for the sake of consulting us.”

The Church allows only natural family planning and considers the use of artificial contraceptives as illegal.

Castro expressed fears that the CBCP’s continued participation in the committee proceedings would be misconstrued as consent.

“Nothing was happening. It seems they have already decided on the bill. The more we attend [the proceedings], the more we participate … it would seem like we already consented [to the measure],” he said.

Castro said the Senate and House versions of the reproductive health bill were essentially the same. He said only one provision in the House bill—that penalizing malicious disinformation—was taken out in the Senate version.

“It’s all the same. It’s not acceptable,” he said.


House Bill No. 5043 authored by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has yet to be approved on second reading and is currently under interpellation in the chamber.

Also known as the proposed Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008, the bill promotes the use of both artificial and natural means of family planning.

It requires the inclusion of contraceptives in the supply purchases of government hospitals and mandatory reproductive health education in schools.

In the Senate, a number of measures concerning population management and development and reproductive and maternal health are also pending.

In a report posted on the CBCP news website, Castro said the committee dealing with the Senate version of the reproductive health bill would hear no more on its merits as though the Catholic leadership had already accepted it.

“If, in being part of that process, we will be compromising our stance, then as of the moment, we have opted not to be part of their process,” Castro said.

“If participating in such hearings will entail that we are already agreeing with the reproductive health idea itself, then we will not proceed with it because in the first place, we do not accept [it],” he said.

Castro said Thursday was the first time a member of the clergy, referring to himself, attended a hearing of the technical working group deliberating on the Senate’s version of the reproductive health bill.

“We respect their processes but as of now, that is our position,” he said in reference to the CBCP’s decision to forego any more participation in the proceedings.

It was lawyer Jo Imbong, executive secretary of the CBCP legal office, and representatives of other “prolife” organizations who attended previous committee hearings to push for the Catholic hierarchy’s position on population policy.

Church position

Castro reiterated that the CBCP was promoting only natural family planning, and was in support of values education instead of the proposed reproductive health education for school children starting in the fifth grade.

He said the CBCP was also opposing the proposed mobile reproductive health units that would be used to distribute contraceptives.

“They will be using taxpayers’ money, including those of Catholic taxpayers … They will be using Catholic taxpayers’ money against our own beliefs,” Castro said.

But Senator Biazon denied that Castro and his group were ignored during a technical working group meeting on the reproductive health bill.

“We’ve been dealing with them for some time,” Biazon said last night on the phone, adding that the position of the CBCP representatives would be “weighed” against the positions of other stakeholders. “We have to listen to them.”

Biazon, who has been tasked to sponsor the bill on the Senate floor, said the CBCP representatives would likely be invited again to another meeting.

“If they refuse to [come], that’s their right. We can’t impose our will on everybody,” he said. “We’ll continue to hear [the merits of the bill] but that’s not to say that we favor one specific position.”

Biazon defended the government’s right to pass a reproductive health bill, citing survey results that more than 50 percent of Filipinos favored “a population policy, including family planning.”

“This is an affair of the State. The State must respond to the needs of the people,” he said. “If the teachings of the Church are against the use of modern artificial contraception, the Church should touch base with their flock. They should go to the pulpit, and teach. I hope they’re fair when they do this.”

‘Isolated’ Church

Asked to comment on Castro’s remarks, Congressman Lagman said: “The Catholic Church will be isolated, sooner or later.”

Lagman said the ultimate decision on what to include in the reproductive health bill lay with the lawmakers.

He said Church officials were invited to the hearings so that they could air their side.

“You are not invited there to get what you want, but to [give] your views. If your views would not be consistent with what legislators think should be the national policy, you have to defer to the legislators,” Lagman said in a phone interview.

Asked if the walkout could intensify the CBCP’s campaign against the bill, Lagman likewise cited the surveys showing that the majority of Filipinos were supportive of the proposed law despite the Church’s opposition to it.

This backs the position of a group of professors of the Ateneo de Manila, a Catholic university run by Jesuits, who say that one can be a good Catholic even while supporting family planning. With reports from Leila Salaverria, TJ Burgonio and Inquirer Research

SWS SURVEY SAYS Church a hindrance to family planning

MANILA, Philippines—Six out of 10 Manila residents think the Catholic Church is interfering with government policies on reproductive health and family planning, a recent survey by the private polling firm Social Weather Stations (SWS) said.

The Forum for Family Planning and Development Inc. (FORUM), a non-government organization working for population management, health and family welfare, which commissioned the survey, said this shows the Church as a hindrance to government’s family planning programs, which are supported by about 90 percent of city residents.

According to the survey, which was conducted from Dec. 27 to 29 and sampled 600 Manila residents across all economic brackets, 62 percent agreed that the Catholic Church “interferes in the affairs of the government especially in the issue of reproductive health and family planning” while 23 percent disagreed.

“The Church is a hindrance and an impediment. Their objections to reproductive health is not based on any scientific data but on what they think is morally evil,” FORUM president Benjamin de Leon said. De Leon’s group held a press conference in Quezon City on Wednesday to unveil the survey results.

He added that social scientists had long raised the correlation of high population growth rates to low rates of economic development in a country.

The SWS survey also revealed that 74 percent agreed that population growth increases the poverty incidence and 69 percent agreed that overpopulation is a problem in the country.

The survey also showed that 94 percent believed limiting the number of children is good for the health of the mother and the children, and 90 percent believe the government should provide free medical services to the poor who wish to use any family planning method.

All this, De Leon said, shows that Manila residents, no matter the social class, are well informed about population, family planning and reproductive health.

“Manila is the capital city and what goes on there reflects the mood of the whole country,” said De Leon. Alcuin Papa

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Catholics Encouraged by Dialogue between Pope Benedict and Speaker Pelosi

Media Contact:
David Nolan,
+1 (202) 236-1782

Washington DC - Jon O'Brien, the president of Catholics for Choice,issued the following statement about today's meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

"I was pleased to hear that Speaker Pelosi and Pope Benedict XVI had a cordial meeting today. At that meeting, Speaker Pelosi did justice to Catholics in the United States and around the world by representing the views of the majority of Catholics who are prochoice as well as raising some of the current social justice issues that are critically important to American Catholics, including poverty, hunger and peace in the Middle East.

"During their meeting, Pope Benedict reasserted the Vatican's support for building a culture of life. Indeed, Speaker Pelosi, by speaking out against war, capital punishment and torture, has consistently supported a culture of life. Moreover, Speaker Pelosi's support for sexual and reproductive health--including her advocacy for condom use as a means to prevent the spread of HIV and family planning so that
women can choose whether and when to start a family--shows how Speaker Pelosi has worked to create just laws that promote a culture of life.

"Catholics for Choice is encouraged that this important dialogue took place. As in any family, there will be disagreements. The Catholic church is certainly not exempt from these moments of difference. However, the ability to move forward and create spaces for healthy dialogue in order to better the church and the world is what will set the church apart in the long run.

"We hope that the dialogue will continue not just between Speaker Pelosi and Pope Benedict but also between all members of the church hierarchy and the Catholic faithful. Only then will the church hierarchy be able to fully comprehend the needs and views of Catholics in order to inform their proclamations on a wide range of issues, including those related to reproductive health.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Hearts' Day!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The soul catcher in EV

Here's some news about one of our Media Advocates in North Luzon. Congrats EV! This exhibit is long overdue. =)

Inquirer Northern Luzon
The soul catcher in EV
By Elizabeth Lolarga
Northern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 00:42:00 02/11/2009

MANILA, Philippines – His training as a stage and street theater director has enabled photojournalist Edgardo V. Espiritu, known as “EV,” to put his subjects at ease.

This quality is borne out in his first solo show of photographs, “Soul Catcher,” at Bliss Café at Hotel Elizabeth on Gibraltar Road in Baguio City. It runs till Feb. 13.

By not posing as a threat to these subjects, they are able to move naturally without any self-consciousness and thus bare their souls before him.

Among indigenous peoples, not just of the Cordillera but also Native Americans, a photographer’s equipment is believed to capture their souls so they have been reluctant to this day to pose before a camera.

After years of dealing with actors, Espiritu, 49, says, “You don’t motivate them by feeding them lines. You let the player or subject move until what is natural comes out.”

What holds true for the stage seems to work with his Cordillera subjects. He spent years organizing and running the theater group Tropang Paltok (the last word meaning “peak” or “zenith”), even choreographing moves for prize-winning cheer dancers for a Baguio university where he worked as a physical education teacher.

All that training wasn’t lost when he accidentally became a photographer for the now defunct community paper Gold Ore. He was hired as an advertising solicitor. During his long walks looking for ads, he took pictures of anything that interested him.

His big break with the Inquirer came with Typhoon “Feria” when City Camp in Baguio got flooded. That earned him a big picture spread on the front page. While other photojournalists rushed to the site of landslides, Espiritu removed himself from the pack and concentrated on the big flood. The irony of it was copies of next day’s newspaper did not arrive because Baguio was isolated at that time.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama overturns ban on overseas abortion funding

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama has overturned what he described as an "unwarranted" eight-year ban on US government funding for family-planning groups which carry out or facilitate abortions overseas.

Shortly after he signed an executive order canceling the restrictions, on the third full day of his presidency, Obama said in a statement the ban had "undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries," and that the issue had become too politicized.

The so-called "global gag rule" cut off US funding to overseas family planning clinics which provide any abortion services whatsoever, from the operation itself to counseling, referrals or post-abortion services.

First introduced by Republican president Ronald Reagan in 1984, it has been repeatedly overturned by Democratic administrations and reintroduced by the Republicans.

Obama's action reversed the orders of president George W. Bush, who when he came into office in 2001 immediately froze funds to many family planning groups working overseas.

"It is clear that the provisions ... are unnecessarily broad and unwarranted under current law," Obama said.

For too long, he added, the ban "has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us."

The order won Obama praise from Democratic lawmakers, family planning and women's rights groups, and drew angry condemnation from pro-life organizations and Republicans.

With the restrictions lifted, more "healthcare entities can receive US funds for family planning and reach a bigger pool of women," Tait Sye, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America told AFP.

Kim Gandy, head of the National Organization of Women, said Obama had reversed a policy that "has forced international family planning organizations to make an impossible choice between providing comprehensive reproductive health care and receiving funds that enable them to help women in need."

"Women around the world have died as a result of this heartless policy," she said.

According to Population Action International (PAI), the gag rule resulted in Nepal's largest family planning provider losing two-thirds of its total supply of contraceptives and saw the number of women in Ghana who sought care for complications after an abortion soar after contraceptive supplies were cut off to a large clinic there.

Women in developing countries, where access to contraception is poor, often turn to abortion as a means of birth control, a World Bank report has said.

Tod Preston, vice president of PAI, said lifting the gag rule was "an important step to save women's lives around the world.

"Family planning should not be a political issue; it's about basic health care and well-being for women and children," he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Obama's repeal of the ban was "a welcomed and important step" that would help ensure women and children have full access to health information and services.

Democratic Senator John Kerry applauded Obama for sending "a powerful signal around the world that the United States is once again back in the business of good public policy, and ideology no longer blunts our ability to save lives around the globe."

More than 250 health and human rights organizations from around the world sent Obama a letter, thanking him for ending a policy "which has contributed to the deaths and injuries of countless women and girls."

United Nations Population Fund Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said Obama's decision to restore funding was "an essential step towards creating a world where all women have the opportunity to participate as equal members of society."

Anti-abortion groups were up in arms and vowed to fight the move.

"We were prepared for this and we will work very hard in Congress to see what we can do to get this overturned," Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, told AFP.

"I think it's a horrible tactic to take toward third world countries if the best we can do for them is provide organizations with the money needed to perform abortions on their children," she said.

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, said lifting the gag rule was tantamount to "exporting a culture of death," and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor said he was "saddened by this decision and the lives that will be lost because of it."

Obama overturns ban on abortion funding

Now this is the kind of CHANGE we're waiting for....

Agence France-Presse

First Posted 08:26:00 01/24/2009

WASHINGTONPresident Barack Obama on Friday overturned an eight-year ban on US government funding for family planning organizations which carry out or facilitate abortions overseas, a White House official said.

Obama signed an executive order cancelling the restrictions, on the third full day of his presidency, spokesman Bill Burton said.

With the restrictions lifted, more "healthcare entities can receive US funds for family planning and reach a bigger pool of women," Tait Sye, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) told Agence France-Presse.

The so-called "global gag rule" cut off US funding to overseas family planning clinics which provide any abortion services whatsoever, from the operation itself to counseling, referrals or post-abortion services.

First introduced by Republican president Ronald Reagan in 1984, it has been repeatedly overturned by Democratic administrations and then reintroduced by the Republicans.

Obama's action overturned the orders of president George W. Bush, who when he came into office in 2001 immediately froze funds to many family planning groups working overseas.

Anti-abortion and anti-conservative groups had previously condemned Obama for the move, but liberal groups welcomed the decision.

According to Population Action International (PAI), the gag rule resulted in funds being cut off to family planning clinics in 29 countries, including Lesotho, a tiny southern African country which has been ravaged by AIDS.

Among clinics in Lesotho affected by the funding freeze was one which had distributed 400,000 condoms from 1998-2000, PAI said.

Nepal's largest family planning provider lost all USAID-donated contraceptives, or two-thirds of its total supply, because of the gag rule, and the number of women in Ghana seeking care for complications after an abortion nearly doubled after contraceptive supplies were cut off, PAI said.

Women in developing countries, where access to contraception is poor, often turn to abortion as a means of birth control, a World Bank report published in May said.

Tod Preston, vice president of PAI, called the lifting of the gag rule "an important step to save women’s lives around the world.

"Family planning should not be a political issue; it’s about basic health care and well-being for women and children," Preston said in a statement.

The PPFA hailed Obama for "lifting the stranglehold on women’s health across the globe with the stroke of a pen."

"No longer will health care providers be forced to choose between receiving family planning funding and restricting the health care services they provide to women," the organization said in a statement.

But anti-abortion groups were up in arms and vowed to fight the move.

"We were prepared for this and we will work very hard in Congress to see what we can do to get this overturned," Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, told AFP.

"We've got a president who is rabidly in favor of abortion even though he says he's not," Brown said.

"I think it's a horrible tactic to take toward third world countries if the best we can do for them is provide organizations with the money needed to perform abortions on their children. It's an outrage."

Conservative lawmakers also slammed the move. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said it was "counter to our nation’s interests," while House Republican Whip Eric Cantor called it "a divisive action."

Cantor said he was "saddened by this decision and the lives that will be lost because of it."

Abortion is a hot-button issue in the United States, pitting pro-life conservative groups against more liberal, pro-choice Americans who back a woman's right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

A 1973 decision by the Supreme Court legalized abortion and gave the United States some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the world.

According to a poll conducted by Gallup in May, more than a quarter of Americans (28 percent) believe abortion should be legal under any circumstances, while 17 percent back a total ban on abortion.

A majority of Americans -- 54 percent -- think abortion should be allowed under certain circumstances, the poll showed.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Why Is Reproductive Health Still "Controversial" in the Philippines?

Date: Saturday, January 17, 2009

Source: RH Reality Check (U.S.)
Author: Carolina Austria

The pending bill on reproductive health care in the Philippines is often deemed controversial simply because some outspoken members of the powerful Roman Catholic hierarchy consider it so. To the conservative Catholic hierarchy, the most controversial portion of the bill has to do with contraception (which it equates with abortion) and sex education.

However, a recent survey indicates that the majority of Filipinos (a lot of them Roman Catholics) do not seem to think family planning is controversial. Over fifty-two percent of a representative sample agreed that modern family planning methods should be included in public health care and sixty-eight percent of respondents agreed that family planning services should be provided for by law. Over fifty-four percent even support sex education in schools.

But how did an otherwise banal piece of legislation, which simply provides standards, infrastructure and a budget for public health care services ever become so divisive? Given the differences that do exist among faiths (and those who are non-believing) on the issues of contraception, abortion and sex education, is a consensus about the role of government possible?

One attempt to shed some light on how these issues are framed, discussed and debated in the public was conducted by the Ateneo School of Government (ASG). It studied how the media frames population issues and reproductive health, and found that some of the most dominant frames used by the media in the last four years include the themes of "population control," "contraception" and "abortion."

Despite the clear references by advocates to "rights," "health" and "women's reproductive choice," these frames were rarely picked up and did not prominently feature in the media. The researchers cited the few in media who did utilize these frames and acknowledged Rina Jimenez David as one of the most consistent.

Dr. Antonio G.M. La Viña, ASG Director and Dr. Clarissa David, Professor at the UP College of Mass Communication, who led the study, said the ASG study can help facilitate a genuine discussion of the issues around rights, reproductive health and even the Catholic faith. By recognizing the role that media plays in framing the issues being debated, the study also presents a challenge to both sides in the debate, who after all, influence the media through their positions and statements.

On one hand, they noted how advocates on either side of the debate often tend to "talk past" each other, rarely meeting head on what the other side is saying about a certain issue. Dr. La Viña observed that this indicates that those engaging in the debate do not really listen to what the other side is saying.

Dr. La Viña's observation in fact rings true when one considers how many of those who are opposed to the idea of reproductive health as rights still refuse to acknowledge that "population control agendas" and the idea of demographic targets have always been challenged and resisted by human rights advocates, not the least of them, women's rights groups. The same observation can be made about some RH advocates who at times have will invoke the separation of church and state, interpreting secularism to mean the exclusion of religion in the policy debate.

In the past, whenever media made a reference to the "Catholic" position on RH including family planning and contraception, it usually resorted to quoting the opinion of the Catholic hierarchy based on teaching against contraception in the Humanae Vitae, disregarding the differences of views among Catholics. Many in the local media highlight the "sensational," fanning the fires of controversy by zooming in on the clash between outspoken Bishops and the bill's proponents in Congress.

In the past few years, however, Filipino Roman Catholics have also begun speaking out about their different views on reproductive rights. Most recently, a group of Professors from the Ateneo de Manila, a Jesuit founded Roman Catholic university came out in support of the bill on reproductive health. Using no less than Roman Catholic social teaching as a basis for their position, the group of prominent academics included theologians, philosophers, doctors and social scientists.

Apart from being acrimonious, the debates on RH (and all matters relating to sexuality in public policy) have often seemed futile, with no possible compromise in sight. But the ASG study gives us important insight on how the debate on the right to reproductive health is severely limited when the "frames" used by media (and advocates on either side) end up formulaic. Instead of a lively public discussion, which engages the issues where they are most felt, participated in by those affected, "media exchanges" that have become the exclusive domain of high-profile Bishops, experts and lawmakers, seemingly lead us nowhere near possible compromises.

The examples by groups like Catholics for RH and the ADMU faculty, however, show us a different development and imparts important lessons: while differences need not be settled with finality, what remains important is openness. Having the conviction to take a stand does not lie solely in stating that position but by bravely (and sincerely) listening to others different from your own.