Running priest hits gov’t, Church for using poor as pawn in RH bill debateBy Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LUCENA CITY — Activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes on Sunday chided the government and the Catholic Church hierarchy for using the poor as convenient pawn in their heated debate on the controversial Reproductive Health Bill.
“While both sides argue for or against the RH Bill, the poor watch and ask themselves what the hell are they quarrelling about?” Reyes, known for his social and political activism, said in a statement Sunday.
He added: “What really are both sides of the debate defending, better protecting? The poor? Or is it something else?”
Reyes maintained that most Filipinos are poor because they continue to be jobless whether seasonal or permanently, are homeless, uneducated or undereducated, malnourished or undernourished, among many others contributory factors on the widespread poverty in the country.
“Their poverty is not only caused by the so-called corruption of government officials allegedly pushing for the RH bill,” said Reyes, popularly known as the “running priest” for his fondness of initiating marathons to raise public awareness about a variety of social and political issues.
Reyes, arguably the Roman Catholic Church’s most maverick cleric, then questioned the sincerity of the Church leadership in its avowed mission to help the poor and the oppressed.
“Yes the Church has always been on the side of the poor. But how much has this been the case? Can the Church and the other churches also say the opposite then, that they, have not been and will never be on the side of the rich? Doesn’t this also smack of dishonesty if not hypocrisy?” Reyes said.
The influential Catholic Church has consistently opposed various attempts to pass a reproductive health measure over the past 10 years.
While believing that there are corrupt government officials, Reyes dismissed the argument that all pro-RH bill in the bureaucracy are corrupt and called the church stand as “simplistic.”
He noted that both sides “have successfully coined pejorative tags against each other and demonizing slogans to be chanted by each other’s choirs whenever necessary.”
Reyes cited Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ tirades at the Church-sponsored anti-RH rally at the historic Edsa Shrine on Saturday where he dished out his latest slogan “contraception is corruption” against the controversial measure.
“I agree in part with the implication that money, a lot of money is involved in the production and sale of contraception, which, with favorable government legislation will certainly raise profits to mouth-watering levels,” Reyes said.
He said big pharmaceutical companies and their political benefactors in the government are both pushing for the passage of the bill.
“This is where temptation, more than corruption lies. A different addiction, unrestrained, unbridled which no type of condom can restrain is at work here: the addiction to money, money, and more money,” the priest said.
However, he branded the argument that contraception is corruption “is just as simplistic as not using condoms and contraception causes poverty.”
“Both arguments are just as simplistic before a monster that grins and gloats while we carry on this most unproductive, and wasteful exercise of unproductive debate,” he said.
He argued that poverty is a “complex phenomenon” that cannot be explained away with simplistic arguments.
On Saturday, Catholic bishops organized a protest rally at the Edsa Shrine as a show of force against the proponents of the RH bill which will be put into a vote in Congress on Tuesday.