MANILA, Philippines - Calling natural family planning immoral, the influential Christian denomination Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) has expressed support for the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.
In a letter to House population and family relations committee chairman Rep. Rogelio Espina on October 2010, INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo said the bill needs to be passed.
In the letter, Manalo said it is the "moral imperative" of every parent to guide their children and make sure they have food, shelter, clothing, and proper education. This can be done if they "plan the number of their children and keep it under control."
He added that INC supports artificial family planning methods as long as they do not induce abortion, while taking a swipe at natural family planning, which the Catholic Church endorses.
Using natural family planning methods, couples will only have sex during naturally infertile periods to avoid pregnancy.
"These methods are not only unnatural and ineffective but they also are immoral, since they contradict the commandment that God has given to married couples. The Bible instructs married couples not to deprive one another of intimate marital relations for long, extended period of time," Manalo said.
"Further, any abstinence at all for a married couple is supposed to be with the mutual consent of husband and wife and not for the purpose of preventing pregnancies,” he said.
INC is a member of the Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood (IPPRP), a group of Christian denominations that support the RH Bill.
In a statement, the IPPRP also urged legislators to pass the bill.
"We believe that the bill is truly pro-life, pro-poor, and pro-national development," the statement read.
Bishop Rodrigo Tano, chair of the IPPRP, said that although they differ with the Catholic Church on the issue, they have one goal in mind.
"There is a common denominator among all religious groups," Tano said in a news forum. "That is the concern for the human person as well as the common good. To me, supporting life and promoting the common good should be considered religious and moral."
Confident of RH bill's passage
Meantime, advocates of the Reproductive Health (RH) and Responsible Parenthood Bill are confident Congress will pass any of the controversial measures, even as a Catholic cardinal urged bishops to launch a "charm offensive" to convince lawmakers into junking them.
Former Health Secretary and RH supporter Esperanza Cabral even lauded Jose Cardinal Sanchez's call for bishops to use their charm.
"Mahusay 'yong gumagamit sila ng charm offensive kaysa sa minumura nila ang mga tao na kakampi ng RH Bill," she said in a news forum.
"Pero kung charm ang pag-uusapan, palagay ko'y mas charming si Risa sa kanila," Cabral added, referring to fellow RH advocate and former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel.
In the forum, Baraquel said that as far as she knows, the RH bill already has the support of many lawmakers at the House of Representatives.
She said that aside from the more than 100 authors of the bill, hundreds of other congressmen have pledged to vote for it, while around 30 are still undecided.
"I'm very, very hopeful," Baraquel said. "Unang taon pa lang nitong 3-year term ng Congress, nando'n na sila sa period of interpellation and debate."
Sen. Panfilo Lacson also believes the bill has a big chance of getting approved at the Senate, where it is still at the committee level.
Lacson, who went into hiding and was absent in Senate sessions for more than a year, supports the proposed measure.
He said President Aquino's support for the bill boosted its chances of getting passed.
"Nagkaroon ng masyadong maraming disinformation kaya nade-demonize ang advocates ng RH Bill," he said in the forum. "It becomes an obligation or a responsibility of the State to inform the public, more so yung mga kulang sa kaalaman tungkol sa pagplaplano ng pamilya."