The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and development (PLCPD) is appalled with the statement of the bishops not to give communion to politicians that have consistently supported the Reproductive Health and Population Management bills in Congress. In a pastoral letter issued by Ozamis Archbishop Jesus Dosado, he said that politicians supporting the RH bill must be refused communion because the bill promotes “ permissive abortion”.
The issue of the RH bill promoting abortion has long been clarified. Nowhere in the proposed reproductive health bill does it state that abortion is allowed. In fact, Section 3 of the Committee on Health-approved substitute bill states that: While nothing in this Act changes the law on abortion, as abortion remains a crime and is punishable ,the government shall ensure that women seeking care for past-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner.
We are disgusted with how some bishops continue to display irresponsible behavior of spreading disinformation on the bill, refusing to take it for its real intentions and choosing instead to demonized it, to look for ghost that not there. We look at bishops as symbols of truth and morality. And yet, they themselves propagate blatant lies to instill fear both among policymakers and the public. This behooves us to wonder, what are the real reasons behind the church’s very antagonistic position towards the bills? Whatever they are, it is certain that saving lives is not among them.
More than anything, PLCPD and the other pro-quality of life advocates pushing for these bills have been consistent in the argument that the proposed reproductive health and population management bills primarily seek to respond to the ever-increasing pregnancy and birth-related deaths of women. The Philippines have one of the highest maternal mortality rates (MMR) in the Southeast Asian Region with 10 mothers dying everyday, leaving more than 30 children motherless (UNFPA 2006). Goal 5 of the Millenium Development Goal envisions a reduction in MMR by 75% from 1990 to 2015, along with the increasing access to reproductive health by 2015. However, the country’s progress in this area has been very slow, with MMR declining by only about 22% in 13 years. Given this trend, there is little likelihood of it reaching the 2015 target of 52 (UNFPA 2006). This already bleak scenario is made even worse by the government’s refusal to promote the provision of the full range of reproductive health care services to the people. The Philippines has committed to achieve the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 – a commitment reiterated by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself during the 2005 World Summit in New York. This behooves us to wonder, are these entire commitments mere hypocritical grandstanding done at the expense of the lives of thousands of our women and children?
The arrogance of certain Catholic church leaders has made them blind to the plight of the masses suffering to survive daily because of the food and economic crisis that is hitting large families the hardesr – a plight brought about by a confluence of factors, among which, reproductive health care and population management are among the most critical. The bishops’ attempts to block the bills’ passage through political blackmail, dangling the Holy Eucharist in the faces of supportive legislators, are full of contradictions and hypocrisy, with only poor women, children, and families at the losing end of the deal. This behooves us to wonder, isn’t that the greater sin?
We therefore plead, on behalf of the majority of ordinary Filipinos, for the Catholic Church leaders to stop their political blackmail. The legislators are doing their avowed task of creating policies that respond to the real needs of the people. We hope that the Church leaders would do the same. We cannot afford to merely oppose measures and not offer real, practical, humane, and responsive solutions. Not when thousands of lives are at stake.