POSTSCRIPT / December 18, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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On RH bill: ‘What then should we do?’

SEEKING LIGHT: Many Catholics have not read the Pastoral Letter issued last Sunday by their bishops on RA 4244, the so-called Reproductive Health bill that senators and congressmen are called upon by President Noynoy Aquino to approve.

For the enlightenment of all concerned – including members of the Congress caught in a moral dilemma — we are publishing the Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippinescaptioned “Seeking Light and Guidance on the RH Bill Issue.”

Titled “Contraception is Corruption” the letter was signed by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, CBCP vice president, for Archbishop Jose Palma, CBCP president who was in Vietnam for a plenary assembly of Asian bishops. It says:

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PASTORAL LETTER: “As we begin the nine-day Misa de Gallo today, our thoughts turn to John the Baptist, the one who points to Jesus, the Christ Child. People came to him to ask, ‘What then should we do?’ because their hearts were filled with expectation for the Messiah. (Lk. 3,15) They needed reason to hope. St. John the Baptist told them to share what they had, to act with justice, and shun extortion.

“Today, our question as a people of God, regarding the controversial RH bill, may be the same. What then should we do?

“On behalf of the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, I reiterate the collective discernment of the Philippine bishops that:

“• The RH Bill if passed into law can harm our nation. Contraception corrupts the soul. The RH Bill is being gift-wrapped to look like a gift for maternal health care. It is not so. It will lead to greater crimes against women.

“• The poor are being promised a better life through the RH Bill. It will not be so. The poor can rise from their misery through more accessible education, better hospitals and lesser government corruption. Money for contraceptives can be better used for education and authentic health care.

“• The youth are being made to believe that sex before marriage is acceptable provided you know how to avoid pregnancy. Is this moral? Those who corrupt the minds of children will invoke divine wrath on themselves.

“• The Reproductive Health Bill, if passed in its present form, will put the moral fiber of our nation at risk. As we your bishops have said in the past, a contraceptive mentality is the mother of an abortion mentality. The wide and free accessibility of contraceptives, even to the youth, will result in the destruction of family life and in greater violence against women.

“What then should we do?

“We congratulate the 104 congressmen and women who voted No to the RH Bill. You have voted courageously, despite all pressures, to stand up for what is right and true. The Church will remember you as the heroes of our nation, those who have said no to corruption and who care for the true welfare of the people, especially the poor. May you continue to be steadfast and not waiver in your stand against moral corruption.

“What then should we do?

“We plead with the 64 congressmen who have not voted, to be enlightened and stand up for the Truth. As St. John the Baptist directed the people to justice, we call on you also to seek justice for the Filipino people. The Church teaches us to follow our conscience, the inner sanctuary where we are alone with God (Gaudium et Spes #16), but such conscience must be formed and informed according to the universal values that are common to all human persons. The truth is that to be pro-child, pro-mother and pro-poor, we must resist all threats against them. This is justice. Stand up for it; defend it; do not be swayed by worldly pressures, and be the champion of the people who voted for you. God knows and sees what you are doing.

“What then should we do?

“We admonish the Filipino Catholic faithful to share with those who have less this Christmas, but also share in praying that our congressmen and women will be faithful to their call to serve the true interests of the Filipino people. This means upholding life, saying no to contraception which is corruption, and being faithful to the Christ Child who was pro-woman, pro-child and pro-poor.”

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BLAME GAME: The bill’s explanatory note says the Philippines is the 12th most populous nation in the world and that Filipino women’s fertility rate is at the upper bracket of 206 countries. It points to studies that “show that rapid population growth exacerbates poverty while poverty spawns rapid population growth.”

So the Aquino administration wants a law that will curtail the child-bearing of poor, lower educated couples, who are largely being blamed for what is presented as an overpopulation problem.

But this claim does not jibe with statistical data of the World Bank itself. Why do we believe foreigners more than ourselves? Anyway, WB figures show that our population growth rate already dropped from 3.0 to 1.8 percent from 1960 to 2009, birth rate from 26.3 to 25.68 percent from 2003 to 2010, and fertility rate from 7.0 to 3.1 percent from 1960 to 2008.

As of 2010, among the most populous nations, the Philippines was way behind China, India, United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Japan and Mexico.

Even in the absence of an RH law — being pushed by the World Bank in connivance with the Aquino administration — our population KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) have been consistently trending down.

Yet the administration is blaming the voiceless poor, the victims themselves, for the economic difficulties – instead of manly admitting its own failure to address glaring problems that breed poverty.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 18, 2012)

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