Philippines: Catholic Bishops and Aquino Can’t Agree on RH Bill

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 10, 2011   |   4:49PM   |   Manilla, Philippines

The Catholic bishops in the Philippines have ended negotiations with President Benigno Aquino because they say he won’t back down in his support for the RH bill they strongly oppose.

The bishops say the bill, which promotes contraception and originally had a two-child population control policy, could become the first step in legalizing abortions in the heavily Catholic nation. Aquino promised last month to promote the Reproductive Health bill that pro-life advocates have opposed since the 1990s because it pushes population control at a time when many nations are seeing too few people to be able to support aging populations.

The Catholic Church says the bill mandates that the government actively promote all forms of contraception, and which has provisions to jail critics who provide undefined “inaccurate” opposition to the bill.

“The bishops do not see any reason to further undertake a serious study or dialogue” on the bill, Monsignor Juanito Figura, secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said, according to a Reuters report.

Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, responded: “It’s an unfortunate development. Reproductive health is moving forward with or without dialogue. We told them our line is still open but they were very clear not to hold dialogue.”

Lacierda said he hopes there is would be “common ground” reached in dialogue with the Filipino Catholic Church.

But the bishops say it is Aquino who is not willing to negotiate, citing his increasing public declarations of support for the anti-life, anti-family “Reproductive Health” bill  and his unyielding stance on the bill’s more controversial elements.

The bishops say they will continue drumming up opposition to the bill, which is being debated in the lower house of the Philippines Congress.

Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carambula, Interim President of Human Life International, applauded the bishops’ move.

“While President Aquino has stated that he wants to find common ground with Catholics on the anti-life Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, Catholics cannot compromise on God’s teachings on the protection of human life. We are defending non-negotiable values,” he said in a statement to “While we would prefer that real negotiations continue and that the anti-life provisions of the bill be removed, we applaud the Filipino Bishops’ for their courageous statement of truth. Any independent observer can see the huge gap between the truth and the untenable position of the bill’s supporters.”

“This bill fundamentally disrespects God’s teachings on human dignity and the respect and protection of human life,” Monsignor Barreiro said. “That is the ‘common ground’ upon which President Aquino should meet opponents of this bill. Without that, there can be no agreement. Let us hope that the Filipino government does not try to ram this bill through congress in a dictatorial fashion.”