JIL joins INC, backs RH bill
It’s a battle of churches as the moderate Jesus is Lord (JIL) movement joined other religious groups in support of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, which the Catholic Church opposes.
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JIL leader Eddie Villanueva expressed support for House Bill 5043, entitled "Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008," provided some provisions, particularly those raised by Couples for Christ, are deleted.
"We should not sacrifice this very important legislation. However, there are objectionable provisions. So why not omit these, amend and improve the bill but not sacrifice this landmark legislation aimed to address the root of poverty in this country," he said.
The five million-strong JIL joined the pro-choice position taken by the influential Iglesia ni Cristo, which rejected natural family planning that Catholic leaders promote, including the rhythm method, which they considered as "really contrary to nature."
"INC accepts modern family planning methods or the use of what others call contraceptives as long as they are not abortifacient in nature and they do not impose prolonged abstinence from sexual intercourse among married couples," spokesman Bienvenido Santiago said.
"I’m in favor of any method for as long as these are not designed to kill life. I’m against abortion. Abortion per se is murder," Villanueva said.
Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, main proponent of the reproductive health bill, and co-author Rep. Janette Garin of Iloilo have repeatedly rectified the misconceptions that they are pro-abortion.
"We are strongly against it (abortion). We are pro-life and we are pushing for a good quality of life," Garin said.
"The bill is not about condoms and pills and neither is it about religion. It is primarily about health and rights," Lagman reiterated.
Lagman emphasized that reproductive health is a "basic human right that the government must promote and protect" and that it would be "an indispensable development tool given that rapid population growth impacts negatively on all aspects of human development."
The Catholic Church opposes the bill that they believe would promote the use of contraceptives and increase abortion, which is illegal in the country.
JIL and INC are now pitted against the ultra-conservative and dominant Catholic Church, which counts at least 85 percent of the 83 million Filipinos, including the 10 million members of El Shaddai led by their charismatic leader Bro. Mike Velarde.
Villanueva personally believes in responsible parenthood. "It is important to address overpopulation but we must not sacrifice morality. Why not produce anexcellent, if not perfect, measure? The intention (of the bill) is very good."
"We really need a no-nonsense population policy. However, we should not sacrifice morality. Why not improve this said bill, eliminating undesirable provisions that are offensive to the morality of the Filipino people," he added.
Garin earlier revealed that 106 House members support the bill, which makes them confident the measure may be passed.
"There are now 106 signatories. We have already reached the numbers. This bill will pass unless there will be (House) members questioning the quorum to delay the passage," she said in a text message.
But while deliberations have suffered a little delay, like the objections raised by pro-church advocate Deputy Speaker for Visayas Raul del Mar, Lagman insisted that "delay is not victory. It is merely postponing the eventual defeat of those opposed to the reproductive health (RH) bill."
RH bill proponent discredited the "patently dilatory tactics" of those opposed to it, following what he called the "long winding interpellations, baseless procedural objections and irrelevant attacks on the funding and motives of NGO advocates."
Lagman pointed out that the alleged "technical defects" Del Mar raised were approved unanimously and without any appeal from four House committees – Health, Population and Family Relations, Appropriations and the committee on Rules.
Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said at least seven government agencies are now backing the RH bill.
Cabral said aside from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Health, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Education, the National Economic and Development Authority, the Commission on Population, and the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) also support the measure.
Cabral said the agencies submitted their position papers during the House and Senate hearings on the controversial bill.
She said a clear majority of Cabinet members now support the bill.
Cabral clarified that this is not the position of the government, saying President Arroyo has remained consistent in her advocacy for natural family planning methods.
The DPWH chief is one of the signatories in the online petition of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network, which has so far gathered 3,968 signatures.
"It is my personal conviction and everybody is entitled to his own opinion," Cabral stressed.
The bill, which among others promotes the use of artificial contraceptives, has passed deliberations in the committees on health, population and family relations, appropriations, and rules.
A party-list representative said that the Catholic Church should also come up with its own manifesto to be circulated among congressmen to determine the number of pro-life supporters.
A Teacher party-list Rep. Mariano Piamonte Jr., who was once the executive director of the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP), made the suggestion during the weekly media forum at the Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros.
He said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) should do more than just pray. "Prayers can move mountains but you have to push it also, you have to do something concrete. You cannot solve your problems by prayers alone."
He also suggested that the bishops should also consider inviting the members of Congress to dinner to discuss the RH bill and get their commitment that they would withdraw their support from the proposed legislation. "I believe that the bishops have great persuasive powers."
Spokesman Monsignor Pedro Quitorio III said he liked the idea because by requiring them to sign, they would be able to document their support.
"I will relay to the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) chairman Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto about Congressman Piamonte’s request that a manifest to gather signatures be circulated," said Monsignor Quitorio.
He also assured the public that the bishops are doing everything to block the passage of the bill but many of them chose not to divulge it to the media. – Philippine Star, October 2, 2008