MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s recent speech supporting the Reproductive Health Bill at the risk of excommunication is the last straw for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The latter decided to pull out from dialogues with Malacañang over the controversial bill, saying “there’s no reason to further undertake a serious study/dialogue in House Bill 4244 with the administration as proposed by President Aquino himself.”
CBCP secretary-general Msgr. Juanito Figura and legal counsel Jo Imbong personally went to Malacañang to deliver a letter stating prelates are backing out of discussions. The parties had 2 meetings previously.
The letter was signed by Imus Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith; Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the Laity and Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, former chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the Laity.
CBCP News said the prelates cited 5 salient points for their withdrawal.
They said the bill had good provisions, but are offset and “interwoven and packaged with the bad provisions.”
These provisions include the promotion and legalization of contraceptives as a means for population control. They added these are widely acknowledged to bring serious and adverse consequences on human health and lives and hampers creation of “human lives that are formed at fertilization.”
The provisions also “establish a mindset and a value-system that are secularist, materialistic, individualistic and hedonistic in the guise of development and modernity.”
“The bill abuses the meanings of ‘rights’, ‘choice’, ‘freedom’, and ‘responsible parenthood’ as these trample on the religious and moral exercise of conscience,” the prelates added.
In fact, all its so-called good provisions are already incorporated in the 1987 Constitution, they said. “These simply need to be implemented through aggressive and sincere policy enforcement,” they added.
They also took offense over the use of public funds for the promotion of artificial contraceptives.
They added the government should not yield to pressures from monitoring bodies of the United Nations.
In a press conference in Malacañang, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda expressed disappointment over the CBCP’s decision.
He said the prelates took out of context the President’s speech.
He added it is more prudent for the bishops to join the debates since their stand is crucial in keeping the public informed. The Palace said it is still keeping its lines open should the CBCP decide to again involve itself in the discussions.
Because of this development, the Palace no longer has plans to draft a copy of the bill and will instead review the consolidated version. – with reports from Jenny Reyes, ABS-CBN News