By: Loejan S. Anudon
THOU SHALT NOT ANNOY THE CHURCH!
President Aquino’s reference to the Reproductive Health bill during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 16, 2012, no matter how vague, garnered the longest applause from the audience; however, the brief mention of “responsible parenthood” also drew the condemnation of the Catholic Church who immediately perceived the statement as a ‘declaration of war’ or at the very least that the president is unfairly imposing his will upon the Filipino people with that simple mention for “responsible parenthood”.
In a country like the Philippines, where over 80% of the population claim to be Catholic, the church is perceived to have strong and wide sphere influence on the political will of its citizens, an influence that is ingrained and does not go unnoticed especially during election season. This is the self-imposed 11th commandment of many politicians who are fearful of the diktat from the church should they go against their wishes. Fear of repercussions is the main reason why many legislators remain silent with regards to the Reproductive Health and Population Development Bill, popularly known as House Bill 4244 or the RH bill.
However, in these present times when many Catholics are more informed and more apt to question the fallibility of the dogma, the fear is diminishing. This is apparent in the willingness of political leaders like Congresswoman Kimi Cojuangco to stand up for the common good of all Filipinos, reconciling their personal religious beliefs with what is right for ALL people regardless of their religion. This is not only political will, it is political courage. Courage to serve those in the populace who need it the most.
The fearful play it safe, waiting for the right time to come in to vote YEA or NAY. Only when the majority is clear and they’ve ensured safety from censure will they cast their YES or NO vote. This practice has to end and representatives need to find the fortitude to truly represent their constituents. They just may discover that their fears are unfounded when they do the right thing.
“We are not representatives of the Church! We are representatives of our constituents!” Pangasinan solon Kimi Cojuangco emphatically declares. Not one to hold her tongue, the 5th District’s representative is a direct antithesis to the usual ‘wait and see’ practice by lesser politicians.
At the height of the RH bill forum held at the Lyceum-Northwestern University in Dagupan City on August 19, 2011 attended by college students from various departments, health professionals, the press, including Catholic Church devotees, Congresswoman Kimi Cojuangco who was tasked to discuss the features and salient provisions of the RH bill stressed her steadfast support to the bill as a certain aid to the problems that plague the country.
The solon’s stance is unpopular with the Catholic Church but she is not intimidated. “I am not afraid! I have not violated any Church law for supporting the bill! My conscience is clear!” she said when scornfully confronted by one local media if she is not scared of the ire of the Catholic Church especially that election is fast approaching again. “Sana huwag magdictate ang Simbahan sa gobyerno!” (I hope that the Church will not dictate the government) she said. “We respect them, sana they also respect our views”.
Some Catholic clergies are feeding skewed information to manipulate their flock and the public in an attempt to malign the government in its bid for reforms in population development and health care. They say, RH is PRO-ABORTION. It is an outright falsehood! Nowhere on the bill does it say abortion is condoned. It seems to not matter to them. They are bent on blocking the passage of the RH bill at whatever cost, even if it means denying the services and benefits offered by the bill to citizens who do not subscribe to the same beliefs.
Abortion is against the law of God; it is a crime punishable by the law of the land. “Under House Bill 4244 it will always be a crime!” the lady Solon said.
While it would be ideal for the religious wing to maintain the conservative culture Filipinos have grown up with, the reality is that the Philippines is a country evolving to meet the modern and global culture. No amount of prayer can deny or prevent that…unless we dismantle our current democratic system and turn dictatorial. CHOICE is the way of the democratic society. Surely the Philippines is capable of retaining its religion, morality and culture without sacrificing the betterment of its citizens?