CBCP 'unlikely' to help amend RH bill
MANILA, Philippines – The Reproductive Health (RH) bill is “beyond redemption” and Catholic bishops cannot compromise their principles, an official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said.
It is unlikely, then, that bishops will participate in a proposed informal Technical Working Group (TWG) to help amend the RH bill, said CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life executive secretary Fr Melvin Castro.
“If we participate in the TWG, our worry is they might say that the Church is open to compromise for them to approve it. That’s what we are trying avoid,” Castro said in an interview posted on the CBCP website Wednesday, September 5.
Castro, however, said the CBCP has not received an invitation to join the TWG. If it does, Castro said the CBCP might send lay experts to the group.
For Castro, there is no room for compromise on the RH bill. “Our position is to reject the RH bill in its entirety. Our position is that the RH bill is beyond redemption for any amendments,” Castro said.
But such a blanket rejection of the RH bill departs from the nuanced position of other clergymen.
CBCP vice president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the Church is open for dialogue on the RH bill. But bishops will protect non-negotiable teachings like the biblical commandment, “Thou shall not kill,” Villegas said in the context of dialogues with pro-RH bill Ateneo professors.
“Any contraceptive method that is abortifacient, is against that commandment. That is non-negotiable. We cannot go against the command of God,” Villegas earlier told Rappler.
Referring to the RH bill's provision on sex education, CBCP president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma also said age and parental consent “should be discussed.”
Jesuit constitutionalist Fr Joaquin Bernas, in an opinion piece criticized by the CBCP, likewise said the RH bill is not perfect and stressed the need for amendments.
“(There) are many valuable points in the bill’s Declaration of Policy and Guiding Principles which are desperately needed especially by poor women who cannot afford the cost of medical service. There are specific provisions which give substance to these good points. They should be saved even if we must litigate later about those which we disagree on,” Bernas said.
“In other words, let us not burn the house just to roast a pig,” he explained.
Reacting to pro-RH Ateneo professors, Ateneo president Fr Jose Ramon Villarin said his school does not support the RH bill in its “present form" but also expressed openness to amendments.
“Now that the period for amendments is about to begin, I enjoin all in the Ateneo community to continue in-depth study of the present bill, and to support amendments to remove provisions that could be ambiguous or inimical from a legal, moral or religious perspective,” Villarin explained.
Pro-RH bill lawmakers, for their part, have proposed 10 key amendments acceptable to them. (Read the full list below.)
No to CBCP involvement
But RH bill advocates said the Church shouldn't be invited to the TWG in the first place.
Public health analyst Marilen Dañguilan criticized the idea of the government and the Catholic Church drafting a "compromise RH bill."
"It's like asking a logger to draft an anti-logging bill or sitting down with the Ku Klux Klan to make a statement on racism. On contraceptives, the Catholic Church won't give in to women's and men's use of artificial contraceptives. For decades, the Catholic Church considers the use of artificial contraceptives as sinful. And it will always promote only 'natural' family planning methods," Dañguilan explained.
"A compromise RH bill? No compromises when it comes to contraceptives," she said.
The group Filipino Freethinkers, for its part, said the TWG should “include representatives from other faiths and non-believers” if it will include the CBCP. “If #RHBill TWG can't contain (representatives) of all faiths and non-believers, then be secular and don't privilege the Catholic Church over others' beliefs,” the Filipino Freethinkers said through its Twitter account.
Meanwhile, the RH bill was temporarily shelved Wednesday, giving way to the passage of the Philippine government's P2.006-T budget for 2013. Lawmakers will likely tackle it again in October. – Rappler.com
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