Bishop leads rally vs RH bill in Baguio-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Monday, August 6, 2012
BAGUIO-Benguet Bishop Carlito Cenzon led close to a thousand Catholics in a prayer rally Saturday to denounce the Reproductive Health (RH) bill that is up for discussion in the House of Representatives.
Braving the strong monsoon rains, the bishop, parish priests and lay people converged at the Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral, bringing with them banners and placards saying “Population explosion is a myth” and “Responsibility or it’s simply promiscuity’ among other signs of resistance against the RH bill.
Cenzon, in an interview by Sun.Star Baguio, explained the Catholic Church’s strong opposition to several provisions of the bill especially on contraception.
“There are some provisions that contradict the teachings of the Church such as provisions on the nature of marriage and population control. We cannot allow that to become a law,” Cenzon said.
The bishop spearheaded the rally, which concluded in a prayer vigil and Holy Mass calling members of the House of Representatives to be enlightened and open their hearts and minds to the call of the people.
Cenzon, a known supporter of various local protests against illegal gambling and tree cutting activities in Baguio City, took to the streets again in probably one of the Catholic Church’s biggest crusade this decade against the controversial bill.
“They should listen to the words of our Lord, listen to their conscience and decide to oppose the bill,” he said.
Citing a biblical verse from the book of Psalms, “If today you’ll hear the voice of God, harden not your hearts,” he called on legislators.
He told Catholics to pray and sacrifice, stressing despite the past silence of the Catholic Church in the issue, they will not allow such anti-life measure to pass.
He called pro-RH bill lawmakers as “against life as understood by the Church, from God, which should be given importance and dignity.”
The diocesan head said the issue on population control has long been discussed by the Church since 1968 when earlier pressing for contraception was introduced.
“Can’t we not used our minds and use the natural rhythms of the body,” he challenged lawmakers.
He also called on Catholics in Baguio to practice their faith and continue prayers and sacrifice to listen to the teachings of the Church.
The influential Roman Catholic Church in the country in a show of force nationwide and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said they are confident the representatives will heed their call.
In a statement, the CBCP maintained its anti-RH stand and called on the estimated 80 million Catholics in the country to elect only pro-life politicians in the 2003 elections.
Catholic voters may not be dictated on whom to vote, but CBCP stressed they will be more aggressive in influencing believers to vote only for pro-life candidates in the midterm elections in 2013.
Aside from issuing a catechesis on elections to serve as a checklist for voters in assessing the moral ascendancy of candidates to handle government posts, members of CBCP will now issue separate pastoral letters endorsing pro-life candidates who run for public office, most especially those seeking congressional seats.
Meanwhile, following results of the 2010 Population and Housing Survey by the National Statistics Office (NSO), the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation (PLCPD) called on Congress to finally pass the highly clamored RH bill.
Ramon San Pascual, PLCPD executive director, reminded representatives of their obligation to enact a law to institutionalize comprehensive reproductive health education and services.
“The figures revealed by the latest NSO census, underscores the need for a firmer and more comprehensive provision of RH education and services,” San Pascual said.
“These figures say that all the more, the government needs population and development planning, which can be provided through an RH law,” he said.
The Philippines population growth rate of 1.9 percent, which is still one of the highest in Asia, is the result of the absence of comprehensive RH policy aggravated further by the lack of access to family planning education and services by the poor.
Citing the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, San Pascual laments 33 percent of the total pregnancies among Filipino women are either mistimed or unplanned.
“It is disheartening that as we grow rapidly, the number of babies born comes from the poor, who in the first place are not ready to carry the burden of having yet another child or children for that matter,” he said.
San Pascual noted that the Philippines could manage our population growth rate if lawmakers and policymakers bravely address the issue of unplanned and mistimed pregnancies by providing RH education and services.
“It is expected to see population growth rate going down, but we should not look at the figures per se. We should understand that population is still growing fast,” he said. “And the fact is, more babies are born from poor families, from those who do not have access to comprehensive RH education and services.”
The controversial House Bill 4244 or the “The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act” will be voted on by members of Congress upon the call from President Benigno Aquino III for the immediate passage of a responsible parenthood bill in his State of the Nation Address last month.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 07, 2012.