Population Quality, C.B.C.P., and Elections

Manila Bulletin, December 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Population Quality, C.B.C.P., and Elections


"In the coming elections, don't vote for any candidate - national or local - who endorses or supports the Reproductive Health bill-."

ABOVE warning to Filipino voters comes from high priests of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. In recent months, they have publicized such dire threats in media messages, church homilies, and pastoral letters.

Catholic dignitaries have been especially virulent in their anti-RH attacks - ignoring factual comparative statistics and medical data presented by equally passionate Catholic advocates of reproductive health, family welfare, infant survivability, and population quality.

Perhaps, some Catholic clerics have been emboldened - even incensed to the point of apoplexy - by the growing number of pro-RH votes in Congress and in opinion surveys, with the likes of Senator Pia Cayetano and Congressman Edcel Lagman (both Catholics) as stalwart RH champions.

On the other hand, political analysts have countered that there is no such thing as a "Catholic vote" - because the majority of mature Filipinos are wise enough to vote according to their best lights.

One major newspaper, in fact, recently editorialized: "Every time the Catholic Church threatens to sic the Catholic vote on a candidate, the candidate wins..." (Philippine Star, 27 November). While there are enough anti-RH groups singing the CBCP tune, there are more who are pro-RH even if they are faithful Catholics, including Health Secretary Enrique Ona and former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez.

What matters most at this time is to bring this crucial national issue to a Congressional decision. President Aquino III (a Catholic) could well end the agony (already totalling 14 years of debate in 4 Congresses) by finally CERTIFYING THE RH BILL IN ITS AMENDED FORM.

From way back, FVR has appealed to the Filipino's inherent sense of caring and sharing in everything we do - in his belief that responsible parents produce equally responsible and (more importantly) higher-quality successor generations. (Please revisit "Unity of Earth, Population, Development," Manila Bulletin, 12 February 2012.)

Freedom Of Conscience

The Philippines was among the first signatories of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action (POA) in Cairo in September 1994. Our Philippine delegation headed by then NEDA Secretary Ciel Habito (a Catholic) was, in fact, the most sought-after group because of perceptions by both Christian and Muslim participants that our national policy was a balanced paradigm that respected and provided for the three vital components of POPULATION, ENVIRONMENT, and DEVELOPMENT - which are intimately intertwined in God's Earth.

We strongly pushed our Philippine position in Cairo because it put people and families at the center of sustainable development. The Cairo POA, indeed, integrated family planning within the broader framework of reproductive health according to the principles of human rights, gender equality, socio-economic justice, and environmental sustainability.

Family planning - if guided by responsible parenthood - is one program that offers so much to our better future. But, we need to understand what the program specifically means. First and foremost, family planning is anchored on basic rights enshrined in our Constitution and the UN Charter, among the most fundamental being the freedom of conscience guaranteed to all.

As articulated during FVR's Administration and now by The Forum for Family Planning and Development (FFPD): "Family planning is the exercise of the freedom of conscience of the married couple, as responsible parents, according to their aspirations for a better quality of life for themselves and their children." Such policy fosters QUALITY instead of QUANTITY and, equally important, underscores the couple's social responsibilities over a lifetime - instead of just satisfying their instant, self-gratifying behavior. …

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