Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma told reporters on Wednesday he would not allow pulpits in his archdiocese to be used in the campaign in the elections next year against lawmakers who voted for the reproductive health (RH) bill.
“That is not bound to happen,” said Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, adding that the Pope would not allow this. However, he said that lay people could campaign against those who approved the RH bill.
Already, an international prolife group is asking the people to vote against the pro-RH lawmakers.
“To our voters, please remember the names of those who voted for the RH bill. Don’t return them to office,” said Ligaya Anacta-Acosta, Human Life International director for Asia and Oceania.
In Lucena City, Fr. Robert Reyes, an activist known as the “running priest” for using marathons to publicize his causes, on Friday blamed the Catholic Church hierarchy for its failure to stop the passage of the RH bill.
“The leaders of the Church should not always talk to the faithful from the comfort of the pulpit. Every priest and bishop should now learn to step down from their pedestal and reach out to the greater masses of our suffering people to know their true condition, needs and aspiration,” Reyes said in a phone interview.
“The presence of the Church against human rights violations, agrarian reform, the plight of the urban poor and other pressing social concerns is wanting,” he lamented.
With the RH bill set to be signed into law by President Aquino, its principal author on Friday said the measure would benefit at least 7.5 million students in public schools who would be exposed to sex education.
Citing data from the Department of Education, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who campaigned for the RH bill for many years, was referring to adolescents from Grade 6 to high school.
“The mandatory age and development appropriate reproductive health education among the young as prescribed in the reconciled RH bill will initially benefit no less than 7.5 million adolescents,” he said in a statement.
“The number of beneficiaries would even increase if RH education would start at an earlier grade than Grade 6 because the period of adolescence starts at an age lower than those of 6th graders,” he claimed.
Lagman cited the bill’s provision defining adolescents as “young people between the ages of 10 and 19 years who are in transition from childhood to adulthood.”
“Since the young should not be deprived of RH education just because they are enrolled in private schools, it is expected that many private elementary and secondary schools would opt to teach reproductive health education to equally educate their pupils and students,” he said.
The provision mandating sex education was a major issue during congressional debates on the RH bill.
During the period of individual amendments, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez asked that “mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education” be taught starting “senior high school,” not Grade 6.
Rodriguez was concerned that starting with Grade 6 pupils might lead to “misunderstanding” on lessons pertaining to “sex, sexuality and reproductive health.”
“It’s irreparable if these children will misapprehend (the lessons),” he said.
But Lagman was adamant, saying starting sex education lessons among adolescents aged 16 or 17 would be “too late.”
As a compromise, he accepted a proposal to amend the provision, which now states: “Age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education shall be taught by adequately trained and qualified teachers.”
He also agreed to a proposal by Rodriguez to include the sentence: “Upon due notification by the Department of Education and private educational institutions through the principals in writing two weeks before classes start, parents shall be informed of the option of not allowing their minor children to attend classes pertaining to reproductive health.” With reports from Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon; and Joey A. Gabieta and Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas