Philippine Prelates Decry Approval of 'Reproductive Health' Bill

Legislation Passes by Narrow Margin After 14-Year Debate

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MANILA, Philippines, DEC. 13, 2012 ( Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, says this morning’s vote to approve the RH (reproductive health) bill is “tragic.”

The bill has been so controversial that it has lagged in the Philippine House and Senate for 14 years. Promoted as a population control measure to aid the poor, the legislation passed in the early hours of Dec. 13, after a five-hour vote, with the final tally at 113-104.

A statement from the bishops noted that “aside from promoting the use of artificial contraceptives, the measure also imposes a condition, which according to critics, discriminates poor people.”

The bill declares that “the State shall also promote openness to life, provided that parents bring forth to the world only those children that they can raise in a truly humane way.”

Cardinal’s response

“The vote in favor of the RH bill in Congress is unfortunate and tragic,” said Cardinal Tagle in a statement issued this morning before he left for Vietnam for the meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

The Manila archbishop promised, however, that the Church will not concede defeat in its fight against the RH bill.

“We do not take it as a defeat of truth — for truth shall prevail, especially the truth about human life, marriage and the family,” he said.

“This vote leads us to further commit the Church, specifically the Archdiocese of Manila, to the service of the poor, of the family, of women, of infants and children,” the cardinal added. “We will work harder to promote the sanctity of human life and of the human person, the integral education of the youth, the access of the poor to social and medical services, the preservation of the true meaning of marriage, and stewardship of creation.”

The archbishop also lauded those lawmakers, lay people and organizations who “worked hard and tirelessly in a variety of ways to expose the flaws” of the measure, and “to form consciences and to contribute to the search for the common good.”

Continued efforts

Other Catholic bishops also said that they will continue their campaign against the RH bill, which now moves to a third and final reading next week.

Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado, for his part, called on the faithful “to be more vigilant and responsive to the ways of the Holy Spirit,” who can transform initial setbacks into something “lasting and life-giving.”

In the Diocese of Balanga, Bishop Ruperto Santos declared, “the fight is not yet over.”

Puerto Princesa Bishop Pedro Arigo described the passage as “money over principles, convenience over morality.”

“We have to do a lot of forming an informed and correct conscience,” the 74-year-old prelate reflected.

In Mindanao, Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo is still hoping that President Benigno Aquino III will abandon the divisive RH bill and move to nation building instead.

“Let’s focus all our resources in improving social services and fighting corruption,” Bishop Bagaforo said. “Nothing is lost if the RH bill is forgotten and everyone stands to gain if we unite and remain pro-life.”

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