Some members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) are hot in the collar over a particular statement made by President Benigno S. Aquino III in his third State of the Nation Address (Sona).
The part of the Sona where P-Noy was supposed to aggressively call on Congress to pass the Reproductive Health (RH) bill was something that advocates on opposite sides keenly anticipated but the President chose to be cryptic, in my view. He neither mentioned the RH bill nor pushed for its passage into law. The unusual thing of it all is that his statements could actually be viewed two ways, which is a bad sign for pro-RH advocates.
Let’s review the Chief Executive’s allusion to the RH bill in the official translation from the government website.
“And what of our students—what welcomes them in the schools? Will they still first learn the alphabet beneath the shade of a tree? Will they still be squatting on the floor, tussling with classmates over a single textbook?”
“Before the next year ends, we will have built the 66,800 classrooms needed to fill up the shortage we inherited—of this, we expect 40,000 for this year. The 2,573,212 backlog in chairs that we were bequeathed will be addressed before 2012 ends. This year, too, will see the eradication of the backlog of 61.7 million textbooks—and we will finally achieve the one-to-one ratio of books to students. We are ending the backlogs in the education sector, but the potential for shortages remains as our student population continues to increase. Perhaps Responsible Parenthood can help address this.”
The presidential quip was woven in the context of the administration’s education programs aimed to uplift the system, the sad state of which was drawn by P-Noy who described the perennial lack of classrooms, chairs and textbooks in graphic terms. To those who continually rail against the system, he gave specifics to show that the administration is resolute in addressing the malady inherited from past administrations.
But while the backlogs are being tackled, the student population also continues to rise and in that sense, the government will have to continually keep pace year in and year out. In the end, P-Noy needed to give advice. “Perhaps, Responsible Parenthood can help address this,” he said.
If this is an allusion to the RH Bill, it was tokenism at best and generic at worst.
I don’t know if the bishops critical of P-Noy over the birth control issue are even aware of the psychology of the RH campaign. Advocates have mounted the population control policy on the platform of Responsible Parenthood because it appeals to supposedly “enlightened sectors aware of their rights in making informed and independent choices.”
In truth, RH proponents merely copied and twisted the meaning or significance of “Responsible Parenthood” to suit their ends. Responsible Parenthood was actually the title of a Pastoral instruction issued in March 1994 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on the issue of Ethical and Pastoral Dimensions on Population Trends.
On Responsible Parenthood, the USCCB had this to say:
“Responsible parenthood concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.
“From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out.”
In my view, the Church has a virtual patent to “Responsible Parenthood” but the bishops would rather play into the hands of RH proponents by declaring that the State is now at war with the Church just because the President used the phrase or title. How ungracious and divisive coming from men of the cloth.
That kind of knee-jerk reaction reveals a coarse insight into the politics of policy making because, unless they’re just inclined to shoot the message because they don’t like the messenger, the bishops could have used the presidential quip, which to me is already quite revealing at this time, to advance the Church stand. The USCCB instruction would have been a great platform to say the President could be seeing the light.
Another point that the CBCP conveniently overlooks is the fact that pro-RH elements have already conceded the bill could no longer be passed in the 15th Congress. A report in the news website rappler.com quoted House majority floor leader Neptali Gonzales II as saying that passing the RH bill is next to impossible because of time constraints.
There’s only a year left, and with 2013 elections just around the corner, the legislative priority will be the 2013 national budget. The window of opportunity for the RH bill is just one month, but the bill is still snagged on second reading in both Houses of Congress.
Whichever way one looks at it, the RH bill is dead and soon to be buried.
Why the CBCP would rather cross swords with the administration than rejoice in recognition of an imminent victory is beyond me.
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