NGOs demand presidential bets’ stand on RH bill

September 18, 2009 10:21 am 

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, Sept. 18 – Non-government organizations (NGOs) advocating reproductive health (RH) legislation are challenging 2010 presidential contenders to bare their stand on this proposed law amidst some Catholic clergy’s threat to withdraw electoral support for those who back such measure.

”Presidential candidates should make their position on this issue very clear,” Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc. (PLCPD) executive director Ramon San Pascual said Friday during a forum on the proposal’s anticipated passage.

He noted such candidates must do so particularly as the administration’s 2010 presidential candidate and current defense chief Gilbert Teodoro already braved threats from the clergy and pledged his support for the proposal’s approval.

Reproductive Health Advocacy Network Secretary-General Elizabeth Angsioco also made the same call, noting controversy over proposed RH legislation “is a test of the candidates’ principles and character.”

Interfaith Partnership (IP) for RH’s Bishop Rodrigo Tano likewise urged candidates to make their stand known and to refuse being intimidated by the clergy’s threats.

They made such call as reports cited the clergy as threatening to deny support for Liberal Party standard bearer Sen. Noynoy Aquino if he continues backing proposals for legislation on RH.

Such proposals are in House Bill 5043, the RH and Population Development Act, and its counterpart Senate Bill 3122.

These aim to enhance people’s access to health care services which they have the right to avail of but generally can’t afford because of financial constraints, Angsioco noted.

Tano decries the clergy’s threat, saying religious personalities must not misuse their authority since the Constitution upholds freedom of religion as well as separation of Church and State.

”As a churchperson, I don’t believe one’s religion should be used to blackmail people,” he said at the forum.

IP’s Bishop Leo Alconga also laments the threats and pointed out such “extra-doctrinal interference” helped turn the proposed RH law into a political issue.

”We respect the opinion of other groups but intimidation isn’t good,” he said during the event.

Angsioco assured 2010 candidates need not feel threatened by the clergy’s threats since election results show people tend to vote for those who support proposals for an RH law.

”There’s no such thing as a Catholic vote and past poll results prove this,” she said at the forum.

Trade Union Congress of the Philippines’ Flor Cabatingan also reported surveys show majority of Filipinos believe family planning is important.

”Candidates shouldn’t be afraid since many people are supporting the RH proposal,” she said during the event. (PNA)

LAP/CJT/jsd

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