MANILA, Philippines?In their first collective statement since the Aquino administration assumed office, leaders of the Catholic Church called on the President to drop government programs that promote artificial contraceptives as a means of family planning.
The Catholic Bishops? Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued the statement Monday after it concluded a two-day plenary assembly over the weekend at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.
?We bishops from all over the country call on President Aquino to listen to the call of the Church that the former program of the government to promote a contraceptive mentality through education and medical practices is immoral and will not bring about a people that is God-fearing, holding on to the sacredness of sexuality, life and the family,? the bishops said through CBCP president, Tandag (Surigao del Sur) Bishop Nereo Odchimar, who issued the statement.
In the last Congress, the CBCP succeeded in derailing the passage of the reproductive health bill which proponents claim would strengthen programs to promote maternal and child health and responsible parenthood.
The Catholic Church opposed the bill for promoting artificial contraceptives along with natural methods and for mandating sex education from Grade 5 up to high school.
In their statement, the bishops said ?there are no changes in the stand of the Church? about the reproductive health bill and the sex education modules being pilot-tested in selected elementary and high schools.
?Poverty cannot be solved by promoting contraceptive education and programs. Education does not merely deal with knowledge and skills, rather, it must promote values that are inherent to us as Filipinos,? they said.
Natural vs artificial
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the government would equally promote natural and artificial means of contraception but would leave it up to couples to choose which method they preferred.
He also said the government would make contraceptives available in health centers.
In a speech at the commemoration of World Population Day Monday, Ona was applauded when he declared that the Department of Health would ?champion reproductive health? in light of high maternal and neonatal mortality in the country.
He stressed that families ?must be guided and empowered to decide with complete and correct information about options that are available for them.?
He went on to say that the Aquino administration's population policy is one that ?prevents abortion and unwanted pregnancies.?
When interviewed afterward, Ona said he would respect the country's culture and religion, apparently referring to the strong political influence of the Catholic Church against all forms of artificial contraceptive.
?I want to be very clear that we are for responsible parenthood,? he said, adding that this means ?giving all necessary information to our people? about family health issues ?and letting the couple decide.?