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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 CafĂ© 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.