Churches unite for RH bill

By LILITA BALANE, Newsbreak

Posted at Nov 22 2008 12:01 AM | Updated as of Nov 22 2008 12:54 PM

A coalition of churches and faith-based organizations in the Philippines has given their support for House Bill 5043, also known as the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, which seeks to address the high population and worsening poverty in the Philippines through the promotion of reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development.

Contrary to the Catholic Church's position that the RH Bill was pro-abortion, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches of the Philippines (CMACP) , United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA), Apostolic Catholic Church , and the Philippine Council for Evangelical Churches said the RH bill clearly espoused that abortion is a crime.

Moreover, they said that it seeks to provide mothers to the right to have safer pregnancies by giving them access to information and services.

“Primarily, we read and see it as a more intentional effort by our government to clear and provide for our nation a path that would lead to better management of our resources, both human and otherwise, which will eventually bring us into a more sustainable future,” CMACP explained.

A position paper submited by the Iglesia ni Cristo also said that one need not be an expert to see for himself that the problem on population is real. The INC said rapid population growth amply shows the need for family planning.

A group of professors from Jesuit-ran Ateneo de Manila University also attended the symposium to show their stand on HB 5043. The ADMU professors said that their move to support the bill was dictated by their conscience and not by their religious belief.

Patriach Dr. John Florentine Teruel, founding bishop of the Apostolic Church, made it clear that not all Catholic churches oppose the RH bill.

Teruel said that the Apostolic Catholic Church was once skeptical of the bill. But after hearing the discussion of Representative Edcel Lagman, principal author of the bill, they now fully support the measure.

A Catholic denomination which started in Bataan, the Apostolic Catholic Church separated from the hierarchy of Roman Catholic in the 1980s. Though the church follows the Roman Catholics’seven sacraments, they have a patriarch instead of a Pope and a “Mahal na Ingkong” as their Holy Spirit.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, Teruel said his church is more conservative.

“We denounce sin vices. We observe modesty in dressing among women and we do not allow members below 24 years old to engage in courtship or sexual relationship,” he said.

Teruel said that RH bill is pro-life, which is contrary to the information disseminated by the Catholic Church.

“It is now clear to the Apostolic Catholic Church that the artificial family planning method in the bill is not an abortive measure. Let us leave the fathers and the mothers to decide. Let us not control how they will plan their families. Let’s us give them free will as the Bible says,” Teruel said adding that the CBCP should not resort on threatening legislators just to advance their interests.

The CBCP reportedly threatened that lawmakers will be deprived of communion in their dioceses if they vote in favor of the bill.

Church groups however vowed to help in Lagman’s efforts to have the RH bill approved in the House of Representatives and the Senate.