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Gov't, CBCP Meet to Discuss RH Dialogue Framework

MANILA, Nov. 20, 2010—Government and Church representatives yesterday met to discuss the possible framework in pursuit of a dialogue on the controversial Reproductive Health bill now pending at the country’s legislature.

Msgr. Juanito Figura, CBCP Secretary General, in an interview with CBCP News today said the meeting took place at the Presidential Management Staff conference room at San Miguel District, in Manila.

“The first official meeting between the CBCP and Malacañang about the Reproductive Health issues was held in preparation for a series of dialogues that will be held in the future,” Msgr. Figura said.

He explained the meeting was an offshoot from the controversies generated by the reported excommunication and calls for civil disobedience last month.

The CBCP has earlier written President Benigno Simeon Aquino III with the intention of pursuing the line of dialogue.

The preliminary meeting which discussed the dialogue framework was “very friendly and cordial,” according to Figura.

He said three important topics that will be included in the series of dialogues are health, social welfare and public policy.

The CBCP panel to the preliminary meeting was composed of Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, Chairman of Episcopal Commission on Catechism and Catholic Education; Imus Bishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith; and Atty. Jo Imbong of the CBCP Legal Office; Atty. Dindo Garciano, professor at the University of the Asia and Pacific and president of the Alliance for the Family Foundation; and Dr. Angelita Aguirre, a cardiologist with University of Santo Tomas and University of Asia and the Pacific. Msgr. Juanito Figura served as secretary of the CBCP Panel.

The executive branch was represented by PMS Chief Julia Abad, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, MD, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, Ms. Alona Bermejo of DSWD and Director Eugene Caw of the Presidential Management Staff.

Figura said both parties were looking forward to the meeting with sincerity and “we’re happy the meeting took place.”

The next meeting will take place between December 7 and 15, 2010. Figura said from tomorrow until December 7, Archbishop Villegas and Bishop Tagle will be in Rome for their ad limina visit. There will be no meeting after December 15 because the Aguinaldo Masses will take place.

The government panel for the next meeting will be composed of representatives from the Departments of Health, Social Welfare and Development, Budget and Management, Secretary Julia Abad and Presidential Spokesman Atty. Lacierda.

“We will still determine who will speak for the CBCP on matters of health because this is where our lay professionals will be tapped,” Figura added.