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Sober up, Aquino tells CBCP

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President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday told the country’s bishops to be less confrontational with the government over their differences on reproductive-health issues, including his support for artificial birth control. The apparent ribbing aside, Malacañang said that it still would hold a dialogue with members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the Aquino administration’s stand on artificial contraception.

Sober up, Aquino tells CBCP
Govt-bishops dialogue to push through

BY CRIS G. ODRONIA
Manila Times
Tuesday, 05 October 2010 00:00

President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday told the country’s bishops to be less confrontational with the government over their differences on reproductive-health issues, including his support for artificial birth control. The apparent ribbing aside, Malacañang said that it still would hold a dialogue with members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the Aquino administration’s stand on artificial contraception.


President Noynoy Aquino

During a Palace briefing, spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that the meeting aims to inform the bishops of the President’s position on responsible parenthood and to clarify the misconception that Mr. Aquino was supporting abortion.

“The President is against abortion because it is against the Constitution, it is against the Revised Penal Code, and so we are going to the [dialogue] to inform the bishops of the position of the President,” Lacierda pointed out.

He welcomed the CBCP’s move to refrain from issuing statements on the reproductive-health issues, pending the dialogue between the government and the bishops.

Before the bishops took the step, Lacierda had called on the concerned parties, including the Catholic Church, to be sober with their statements.

He made the appeal after Monsignor Juanito Figura, the secretary general of the CBCP, said that the bishops’ group could carry out civil disobedience if the government pushed through with its plan to distribute condoms.

“We are calling for sobriety. Statements like that will not help in the discussion,” Lacierda said during the Malacañang briefing.

“We are calling on all parties, on the [Catholic] Church and on those who are for RH [Reproductive Health] bills, to be sober with their statements,” the spokesman added.

Lacierda said that “incendiary statements” would not do anyone any good.

According to the Palace spokesman, Mr. Aquino would designate an official representative to arrange the dialogue with the bishops.

Lacierda said that once the meeting was firmed up, the President himself would attend the dialogue to inform the members of the CBCP of his position on responsible parenthood.

“Makikinig siya sa mga proposals ng mga obispo at saka siguro magbibigay rin siya ng counter-proposals [Mr. Aquino will listen to proposals of the bishops and maybe he would make counter-proposals],” the Malacañang spokesman added.

According to Lacierda, details of the dialogue are being ironed out.

San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto earlier advised the President to emulate his mother, late former President Corazon Aquino, in resolving the current debate over the new administration’s stand on artificial birth control.

When sought for comment, Lacierda said, “That is [Aniceto’s] opinion, the President obviously holds a different opinion with respect to responsible parenthood and that does not diminish his stature as President.”

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman also on Monday said that the threat of civil disobedience from the bishops could backfire on them.

The Catholic faithful when pushed against the wall, according to Lagman, might escalate their support for enactment of a nationwide and comprehensive reproductive health law that, he said, is health-oriented, rights-based and development-driven.

He was the author of House Bill 96 (Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population and Development).

Lagman cited that 20 years of surveys conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia that showed that that the “vast majority of Filipinos who are predominantly Catholic want that the RH bill to be passed and for the government to allocate public funds for procurement and distribution of contraceptives to family-planning acceptors.”

He said that latest SWS national survey revealed that 71 percent of Filipinos are in favor of the RH bill and 76 percent agree that there should be a law requiring government to teach family planning to the youth.

Lagman pointed out that contraceptives could not be labeled as abortifacients, citing a document from the Department of Reproductive Health and Research of the World Health Organization that categorically states that “contraceptives are not abortifacients.”

He said that abortion rates are reduced by 85 percent with the use of contraceptives as result of the research by the Allan Guttmacher Institute.

Rep. Sigrfrido Tinga of Taguig City (Metro Manila) also on Monday said that civil disobedience and excommunication should never be part of the reproductive-health issue.

The CBCP last week threatened the President with excommunication over his support for artificial birth control.

WITH REPORTS FROM RUBEN D. MANAHAN 4TH AND JOMAR CANLAS

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 06 October 2010 15:44 )