Aquino to answer tax boycott over birth control bill with sedition charges
MANILA, Philippines—Groups threatening and calling for non-payment of taxes and other forms of civil disobedience if the reproductive health bill is passed are courting sedition charges, President Aquino said on Friday.
“I can’t believe anybody would air such a call publicly,” the President told reporters. “That’s a serious offense,” he said, mentioning the specific charge of sedition.
Queried on the rationale behind the possible civil disobedience, lawyer Lyndon Cana, chairman of the Citizens Alliance for the Protection of Human Life, said : “To show that some sectors are unhappy with the decision.”
Pro-RH groups have hit back, saying the threat of civil disobedience is uncalled for, and that the issue should be settled through free speech and discussion.
Not that there has been a lack of that. Philippine society is currently divided on the RH bill, as vitriol is spilled by both sides on social and mass media, the pulpit, on the streets, and elsewhere daily.
On Wednesday, former President Fidel V. Ramos, lawmakers, Cabinet officials, members of the academe, and celebrities aired their support for the RH bill and President Aquino during the launch of their Purple Ribbon campaign.
Lea Salonga, who was named ambassador of the RH movement, led the distribution of purple ribbons to symbolize their cause.
RH bill advocates said President Aquino has nothing to fear even if he loses the Catholic Church’s support amid his pursuit of the passage of the measure.
A heated debate on the issue transfixed local audiences Tuesday when outspoken panelists tore at each other in an effort to clarify issues about the bill now pending in Congress.
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, one of the proponents of the measure now called Responsible Parenthood-Reproductive Health Bill, cited United Nations data showing that 11 women in the country die every day due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.
He also mentioned surveys made by Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia showing that a majority of Filipinos support the RH bill. “Ang RH bill ay hindi tungkol sa religion. Ito ay tungkol sa karapatan, kalusugan, at kaunlaran (The RH bill isn’t about religion. It is about rights, health and progress),” he said.
Lagman added that it is not only about contraceptives but also maternal health, abortion prevention, HIV-AIDS management prevention, and efforts to stamp out violence against women.
Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez, who is opposing the bill, took the opposite road and said he and proponents of the RH bill would not be present at the debate if their mothers followed family planning.
He also claimed that contraceptives raise breast cancer rates and do not prevent HIV infections, citing Thailand.
Golez also said the Philippines’ population growth rate is going down. “Di na kailangan ng RH para bumaba (We don’t need an RH bill for population rates to go down).”
He and Lagman traded barbs during the debate over Golez’s statistical data, with his fellow lawmaker from Bicol accusing him of fabricating figures.
In the same show, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ Fr. Melvin Castro threatened Filipino women who undergo tubal ligation, a popular medical method involving the cutting women’s Fallopian tubes to prevent them from becoming pregnant again, with sin based on the church’s teachings.
University of Sto. Tomas’ (UST) Dr. Josephine Lumitao, who is also opposing the measure, said the method, called “pagpapatali” in Filipino, is a sterilization procedure.
She said Fallopian tubes should only be removed or cut if they are diseased. “Mutilation kung hindi. Hindi ako nagli-ligate,” she said.
Dr. Esperanza Cabral, a former health secretary, said Lumibao has the right to refuse conducting tubal ligation on her patients. “Pero wala siyang karatan na sabihin sa iba na wag magpaligate,” she said.
She stressed that the measure is aimed against abortion. “Walang abortion na isinusulong ang RH Bill.”