Catholics vs. Reproductive-Health Bill
Filipino faithful and their bishops oppose Philippine government's pending legislation.
MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Philippine authorities warned Catholics that they would be charged for back taxes if they withheld tax payments to protest provisions of the reproductive-health bill pending in the country’s legislature.
Authorities also urged groups opposed to the controversial bill to dissociate themselves from civil disobedience, the Asian Church news agency UCA News reported.
“If they don’t want to pay their taxes, they better talk to (Internal Revenue) Commissioner (Kim) Henares,” said Abigail Valte, spokesman for President Benigno Aquino.
Catholic leaders, including the Philippine bishops’ conference, are opposed to the bill, which would mandate that artificial contraceptives be made available.
Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr. of Kalookan said that while the Church is not advocating civil disobedience, “for now,” Catholics are obliged not to follow any law that violates their faith.
“Eventually, if the measure becomes law, Catholics will not obey it. If the state orders something contrary to your faith, you are obliged not to follow it,” said Bishop Iniguez, head of the bishops’ public affairs commission.
Meanwhile, another Catholic Church official called for an “all-out war” against the measure after the bishops pulled out of talks with government officials May 10.
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa said the talks were “doomed to fail” because Aquino has long been a supporter of the bill.
“It’s normal that we are going to have a total war now against the RH bill,” the archbishop said. “I said it before that the dialogue is useless. ... I know the president was not really open for a dialogue because of his fixed decision to push the RH bill.”
He also warned that a move in the Philippine Congress to amend the constitution could lead to the abolition of its “pro-life provisions.”
Rep. Loreto Ocampos earlier said the Philippine House of Representatives is reviving the public debate on changing the constitution.
“We will sell charter (constitution) change. We will go around the country and listen to the people first; then we’ll give the positive points of charter change,” Ocampos said.
Two Catholic bishops asked the Philippine Senate to investigate the alleged misuse of government funds for family planning by Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran and Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon urged senators to call for an inquiry into allegations of the misuse of funds in the Department of Health’s family-planning program made by Sen. Vicente Sotto.
Bishop Bastes praised Sotto, who admitted yesterday that his announcement of irregularities in the release of funds to local government units was timed to derail the reproductive-health bill. Sotto opposes the bill.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona denied Sotto’s charges.