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Year-ender report: The crusade for a culture of life

MANILA, Dec. 31, 2011–The crusade for a culture of life is an advocacy of truth, and based on the goings-on in 2011 alone, the pro-life advocacy has covered a lot of ground and, inadvertently, saw much success in promoting the truth.

Though reproductive health (RH) legislation in the Philippines is not new — being proposed, discussed, rejected and resurrected for decades now — 2012 saw significant developments in its promotion as well as in its opposition. The year ended with the RH bill reaching the period of interpellation in both chambers of Congress, heated debates in progress when legislative sessions went on adjournment on the final month of the year. Mass actions such as rallies and prayer vigils to express opposition to the bill happened not just in the country’s capital, but in many other cities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Civil society seemed to wake up to the folly of the legislative measure and wanted to be heard loud and clear.

Never has an issue divided the nation as much as RH has, and with more of the truth coming out and, hopefully, enlightening the minds and hearts of more Filipinos, this division will eventually be healed and unity, attained.

With this hope we begin the new year and look back at what went on in 2011 through the words uttered by various players in the quest to have the culture of life prevail in Philippine society.

“Banal ang pag-aasawa; banal ang pagtatalik sapagka’t ito ay kalakip ng pagbibigay ng buhay na galing sa Panginoong Diyos. Hindi ito laru-laruan na ituturo sa mga bata sa paggamit ng goma, lobo o condom, para iwasan daw ang sakit? Bakit mga bata ang tuturuan ng ganitong laro? Hindi po ba ang tamang ituro sa kabataan ay ang magandang halimbawa ng matatanda at ang kahalagahan ng buhay, ang kabanalan ng pagpipigil sa sarili na ang tawag ay disiplina? Ang tawag po noong una ay kapag may pagpipigil, mayroong disiplina at paggalang at magkakaroon din ng Karakter ang tao. Ngayon ang gustong ipamulat sa kabataan ay ito: gamitin ang goma, maglaro kayo! Ganyan kabarato ang buhay ng tao ngayon.” – former Archbishop of Manila Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, at the March 25 pro-life rally to which the former Manila Archbishop issued a call, filling the Quirino Grandstand with an 80,000-strong crowd — which expectedly was reported as some 40,000 — of pro-lifers who came to demonstrate their protest against the coercive RH bill.

“[In the RH bill] you are reducing a human being into nothing but an object. A human being is rational. He is endowed by God with will. We have a will to say no to ourselves—puwede mong pigilin ang iyong sarili. Kung ang tao ay nakakaramdam ng sexual urges sapagka’t tao ka, maaari mong pigilin at maaari kang magtimpi.

“Hindi po tayo parang mga aso sa kalye. If they are in heat, they have to do the sexual act because they have no will to control their actions. But we are human.” – Atty. Marwil Llasos, a staff apologist for Defensores Fidei Foundation, during an anti-RH symposium in June at St. Isabel College, attended by high school and college students as well as faculty members.

“Ang hindi ko maintindihan dito, bakit kinakailangang sampung taon pa lamang ay mag-aral na ng sexuality education. From grade 5 to 4th year, so anim na taon. Ano po ito? Kailangan po ba ng PhD para sa sex education?” – Atty. Concepcion “Girlie” Noche, president of Alliance for the Family Inc. (ALFI) during the May 8 Harapan/ RH Bill: Ipasa o Ibasura television debate on ABS-CBN, adding that it is the government and not the parents who have formulated the mandatory sex education program the RH bill seeks to carry out in all private and public schools.

“Wala na nga pong obligasyon na ito, tinanggal na nga ito.”

“Walang basehan ‘yung apprehension na walang makaka-graduate. Exempted sa pag-attend, exempted din sa pagkuha ng periodic tests. Ang mga estudyante po ay makaka-graduate.” – Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman in a May 18 plenary debate, explaining that the provision on mandatory sex education has been amended after interpellator Saranggani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao expressed concern about the program and the possibility of more students failing to graduate should their parents instruct them not to attend sex ed classes.

“Amended na ang provision na ito. Hindi mo yata narinig dahil nag-eensayo ka para sa laban mo. Incomplete ang impormasyong ibinigay sa iyo. Hindi ito sapilitan.” - Lagman in the same session, responding to Pacquiao’s query on penalizing employers who choose to follow their religious convictions.

(The plenary debate concluded with the neophyte solon discovering that no such amendments had been and could be made on the bill — in contrast to what the veteran solon repeatedly claimed, since the measure had not yet reached the period of amendments. The congressman from Albay had no response to give to the discovery.)

“‘Yung pinagpipilitang State intervention, itanong ko lamang po sa mga nagpo-propose ng bill na ito: Pinagdududahan po ba natin ang kakayahan ng mga magulang?” – Rev. Fr. Melvin Castro, Executive Secretary of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) at the May 8 Harapan television debate, commenting on the sex ed program and the inconsistency shown by government representatives on their concurrence that parents have the primary duty to educate their children.

“The RH proponents, ang gusto nila, ang solusyon sa kahirapan is to reduce the population growth rate. All your statements are bolstering the argument that we are poor because we are many…That’s why we are saying, we are poor not because we are many; we are poor because of the mismanagement of our economy. We are poor because of graft and corruption! If there is proper management of resources just like what’s being done in other countries, we will not suffer the fate that we are suffering now. The solution you are offering is not the solution.” – former Senator Joey Lina during the same television debate.

“Kung may bansang pinagpala ng Diyos sa kalikasan, ito ang Pilipinas. We have so much mineral resources; gold, which is so precious, is abundant in the Philippines. Almost all minerals needed by industries are here. We have what it takes to sustain a big population if we handle our resources properly.

“We must make it clear in our minds how fundamentally wrong this proposed law and how destructive it will be for us. It goes against God, faith, everything that we stand for as a nation. It is against our values, it will break up the family, our relations… [and disregards] primarily the value of life.” - former Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Jose “Lito” Atienza during the November “Philippines for Life” National Congress in Cebu.

“To the argument that curbing population is the solution to poverty, I would say that it is not the ultimate solution. The ultimate solution to poverty alleviation, besides good governance, is education.” - Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay in a pro-life symposium in Caloocan City in June.

“The proposed P3 billion appropriation for the RH bill, if put towards education, can help secure the future of young Filipinos. That amount can build 4,644 new classrooms…or it can subsidize the college education of 300,000 scholars — a chance for underprivileged student achievers to earn their diploma.” – from the official statement of Nine Young Legislators (9YL) released in September, to express their conviction that the RH bill is not the solution to the country’s problems.

“Human life is a gift. Human beings are assets and not liabilities. And the true wealth of a nation is really in its people.” – Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, at the September launch of 9YL and Youth United for the Philippines (YUP!).

“Sabi ho ng kabilang partido, kaya daw po naghihikahos ang gobyerno ay dahil walang budget for stretching. Nanggaling na mismo sa kanila ang stretching… eh di kung linagyan pa po ng pondo na pambili ng condoms at contraceptives, eh di you stretch [the budget] further. So alin po ang willing i-sacrifice ng pro-RH legislators sa budget para lang po namin maisingit ang gusto nilang pondo para sa procurement of condoms and contraceptives?

“We can even see that the budgets for education, for tertiary educational scholarships, skills training, livelihood projects, assistance for farmers, agrarian reform beneficiaries, are being cut.” – Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay in a May press conference

“[Iyan ay] sapat na halaga para bigyan ng lupa ang squatter sa probinsya.” – Sen. Lito Lapid, while interpellating RH bill sponsor Sen. Pia Cayetano, who admitted that the Dept. of Health had asked for P13.7 billion to implement the measure for 2012 alone

(In the same floor debate, Lapid pointed out that even at P3 billion per year, slum dwellers could be sent back to the provinces and given their own land over a 10-year period.)

“We have no need for this bill because this is like repacking something and making it appear as if it were your own, when it’s not. I have shown that this [House Bill 4244] has been copied almost word for word, without attribution, from an existing law. Alam niyo, kapag ganitong kinopya lang, redundant na itong bill na ito as far as these provisions are concerned. Inulit lang eh.” – Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez, pointing out the redundancy of the RH bill owing to the existence of Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women, during May plenary debates

“Palagi nating reference ang ibang bansa sa reproductive health. Iyan ay pag-amin din na isang banyang konsepto ang RH. Bakit nating pinaggigiitan na yakapin ‘yan ng Sambayanang Pilipino [samantalang] nakakubli nga diyan ang access to “safe” and legal abortion. Bakit natin pinagpipilitan ang isang banyagang konsepto sa isang bansa na tulad natin na likas na maka-pamilya at likas na maka-buhay? We reject the RH bill at huwag nang ipasa ‘yang batas na ‘yan dahil hindi kailangan ng Sambayanan.” – Rev. Fr. Melvin Castro, Executive Secretary of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life

To present what transpired at an August 24 plenary debate at the House of Representatives in which Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco admitted to Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay that the RH bill was a measured aimed at curbing the population, here is the exchange verbatim:

(Magsaysay) “Is [the RH bill] a population measure?”

(Cojuangco) “Of course.”

(Magsaysay) “Of course? It’s a population measure? To curb poverty, do you need to curb population? In your eyes?”

(Cojuangco) “Definitely.”

(Magsaysay) “In other words, you are contradicting the position of all your other co-sponsors there who said that this is not a population measure, that this is not a poverty alleviation measure.”

(Cojuangco, after a few seconds’ pause) “Well, it’s not a population… ay, it is a population measure but it’s not population control.”

“It appears that UNFPA has participated in this bill through RHAN and Likhaan. Why am I concerned? … [A US government] investigation [had] found that UNFPA was complicit in the coercive implementation of China’s one-child policy.” - Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, expressing concern during a September plenary debate that the international agency notorious for promoting coercive population control worldwide had given funding to RH lobby groups to speed up the passage of the RH bill

“I’m very much interested in looking at the financial statements of these organizations, [as there are] reports that these are receiving subsidies from foreign organizations particularly those foreign organizations whose main thrust is to legalize abortions … through the help of NGOs. We might also have to check from their financial statements if they have been nurturing legislators in the past two years.

“’11 mothers die everyday’ is a phrase used by NGOs to drive home the point.” – Sen. Pia Cayetano, during a Sept. floor debate with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile

“I want to make sure that statistical numbers used for the possible passage of this bill are beyond doubt.” – Enrile, replying to Cayetano

“In plain language, maternal mortality went down by half in two decades – even without an RH law. To highlight the problem of maternal deaths is one thing. To use numbers for deception is another.” – Filipinos for Life in a statement released in August calling out Akbayan on its using outdated data to push the RH bill

“Nakikialam sila sa paggawa ng batas dito sa atin eh. ‘Di po ba dapat alamin natin kung sino sila?” - Sotto while interpellating RH bill sponsor Sen. Pia Cayetano in a December floor debate, inquiring about details on the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines’ getting millions of dollars in subsidies from UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the largest abortion provider in the world

“The RH promoters do whatever they have to do to get these things passed — they spend their money in promotion, in getting journalists on their side, opening clinics to circumvent pro-life laws, wooing politicians who value their own power more than they do the families and culture of the nation they represent. If they can’t get what they want — which is free-of-charge and full access to contraception and abortion — passed democratically, they will use the courts or other non-democratic means to get what they want.” – Stephen Phelan, Human Life International (HLI) Communications Director, reacting to President Benigno Aquino III’s directive issued in August to prioritize the passage of the RH bill despite public outcry against it

“Ordinary people don’t want their governments passing anti-life, anti-family legislation. That’s why these measures can only be passed when government officials force their will on the people. That’s what happened in the United States in 2010 with “Obamacare” — which expanded taxpayer-funded abortions, despite massive public opposition — and it’s the same tactic President Aquino is trying now in the Philippines.” – John Jansen, Director of Generations for Life, the youth arm of the Pro-Life Action League, reacting to the same directive

“As a doctor of medicine and a pro-life fighter, I cannot afford to just close my eyes and ears to the truth that the use of oral contraceptive pills as well as Depo-Provera injectables can cause cancer, as the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization declared on July 29, 2005 that ‘artificial contraceptives’ are ‘carcinogenic,’ at par with cigarettes and asbestos.

“I am challenging all doctors, nurses and midwives in this country, particularly those working in the government or NGOs who vigorously promote these products in their day-to-day campaign… to speak up for the truth and expose the hidden agenda of the multi-billion peso pill manufacturers at the expense of the health and lives of Filipino women.” – Rene Josef Bullecer, M.D., Human Life International (HLI) Pilipinas country director during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

“They want us to accept from Congress what is contrary to our faith. They ask Catholics to show tolerance for their belief or non-belief, but they show complete non-tolerance for our Catholic belief.” – former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad at the November “Philippines for Life” National Congress in Cebu

“We wish to make it clear that the Church does not recognize this group to be an authentic Catholic association or group since it espouses and supports a stand contrary to the magisterial teachings of the Church. The uncompromising stand of the Church to uphold the dignity of the person and to protect and respect the life from conception to natural death has always been the constant teaching of the Church.” – former CBCP President Bishop Nereo Odchimar in a Clarificatory Note on “C4RH” (“Catholics for RH”) released in May

“What you are prohibited from doing directly, you are mandated to do indirectly. At mas imoral po ‘yon. Bakit? Kasi kung siya lang ang gagawa ng paglabag sa kanyang konsensya―halimbawa, nagbigay siya ng condom o pills, nag-perform siya ng vasectomy o naglagay siya ng IUD sa isang tao, siya lang ang nagkasala. But if he is going to refer to another doctor, dalawa na silang nagkasala.” – Atty. Marwil Llasos, staff apologist for Defensores Fidei, in a pro-life symposium

” What we ought to do is linked to what is true and what is good… It is true that we have the obligation to follow what our conscience tells us before we act. But we also have the obligation to try our best to have a correct conscience.

“This Church teaching is based on natural law, which we know through natural reason… By the efforts of the Church to go against the RH bill, the Church is not imposing her religious beliefs on others. She is trying to stop a bill which is against natural law, a law which all human beings, Catholic or not, should follow.” – CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life Chairman Bishop Gabriel V. Reyes, at the Cebu “Philippines for Life” National Congress

“[The RH bill] will mean the total surrender of our national sovereignty, for it is not of Filipino origin. Nor is it meant to strengthen or enrich the culture, character and conscience of the Filipinos. It is dictated by foreign population controllers using so many of our unfortunate countrymen as proxies and cats’ paws.” - Tatad at the Cebu National Congress (CBCP for Life)