Rallyists lie-down outside CBCP, protest against RH bill opposition
MANILA, Feb. 28, 2011— Roughly a thousand pro-choice campaigners protested outside the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in Intramuros, Manila, yesterday, calling for women to have easier access to contraceptives.
The demonstration was “peaceful” as rallyists decided to protest by lying down in the road outside the CBCP headquarters for few minutes.
At around 5 p.m. on Sunday, they laid flat on the gound, blocking one lane for cars while a letter was being read by Dr. Junice Melgar, the executive Director of Likhaan Center for Women.
The protesters belong to a group called Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) and its supporters who criticized the church’s “meddling” in state affairs.
The letter does not request the church to stop preaching, “But we do expect you to care as fellow Filipinos who preach about love, especially love for the poor.”
“We expect that although all of you are men, you have learned empathy and affection from your mothers, your sisters, and your women friends,” part of the letter reads.
The protesters began their demonstration at 4 p.m. at the Aquino Park near Rizal Park before where a program was held before marching to the CBCP.
The march was led by women carrying a photo of a mother who died due to childbirth and 11 candles memorializing the rate of women who die daily of reproductive health complications.
According to the group, more than 4,000 mothers die every year from maternal complications that could have allegedly been prevented by RH education and services.
The candles was then lit in front of the CBCP’s main gate demonstrating “the lives lost, the children left behind, the hopes and relationships cut short, the contributions to society that have ceased.”
After around a 10-minute ceremony, the reproductive health (RH) bill supporters left the area.
“We hope that the bishops can feel our pain, and that they will appreciate the full value of women’s lives,” said Melgar who is also the secretary-general of RHAN.
No CBCP official went out to see the rally but the letter was handed over to a security personnel of the CBCP.
But in a statement released Monday, the CBCP said it recognizes the rallyists’ sentiments as coming from a healthy experience of freedom of speech and expression.
Msgr. Juanito Figura, CBCP secretary general, stressed that the church “do not in any way down play these women’s situation.”
“Precisely, the bishops ‘call on our government to address effectively the real causes of poverty such as corruption, lack of economic and social services, lack of access to education and the benefits of development, social inequities,’” Figura said quoting the CBCP’s latest pastoral letter.
Figura said those are the reasons of the deaths and suffering many Filipino women, especially the poor.
“But the RH bills will not correct these root causes of poverty; it can even worsen the already real and present problems,” he said.
The CBCP, he said, further called for the establishment of more hospitals and clinics in the rural areas, the deployment of more health personnel to provide more access to health services, among others.
Among the reasons why the bishops reject the RH bill is "its overall trajectory towards population control", and its intention to "use public funds to subsidize contraceptives and sterilization services". (CBCPNews)
Ms. Chi Laigo Vallido
Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc.
305 Bahay ng Alumni, Magsaysay Ave.
University of the Philippines,
Diliman, Quezon City