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PNoy seeks RHB talks with bishops

CEBU, Philippines - President Noynoy Aquino is seeking a dialogue with the Catholic bishops on the Reproductive Health Bill as he stands firm on his position that Filipino couples must exercise responsible parenthood and be given the freedom to choose how to plan their families.

Some bishops have criticized the decision of the government to distribute contraceptives and educate couples both on artificial and natural birth control methods.

Aquino said yesterday he has not seen the new RHB but stressed that “my stand has not changed”.

“The state has an obligation to educate all of its citizens as to their choices, the state was not empowered by any law to dictate upon any couple how they should plan their family,” Aquino told reporters in an ambush interview at the President Corazon C. Aquino High School in Baseco, Manila where Philippine Health Insurance cards were distributed to residents.

Aquino said his and the bishops’ opposing views on family planning might only be being blown out of proportion. He disclosed he had met with a few bishops for a dialogue and would set another one with as many of them as possible.

He noted that his stand on the issue of family planning had been the same since the campaign.

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During the campaign, Aquino said he wants some of the provisions in the pending RHB reviewed because he was not in favor of them. He also categorically said he was against abortion.

Aquino said the dialogue was meant to have a consensus on what should be done regarding the RHB.

“This issue is really inflammatory. But I suppose that if we are really looking for order and a so-called consensus by having the respective positions clarified, why shouldn’t we achieve that?” Aquino said.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said while there were a number of bishops who were dismayed and frustrated over Aquino’s position on artificial contraceptives it had not given up on dialogue as a means to resolve the issue.

Aquino said the details of the proposed dialogue with the bishops were still being worked out.

Meanwhile, Reproductive Rights Resource Group (3RG-Cebu) and Pro Quality Life Training & Development Inc. expressed their support for Aquino’s stand on family planning held at Department of Health regional office yesterday.

The problem of overpopulation here in the Philippines is becoming serious; the country now has a population of 94 million, the 12th most populous country in the world, according to statistics gathered by 3RG-Cebu.

Representatives from different organizations were also there during the conference to give their side.

Orlando Carvajal of the Association of Married Priests said that the RHB does not promote abortion but instead focuses on the prevention of the increasing number of population.

“Nakigbisog ang kababayinan alang sa ekonomikal, politikanhong katungod sa mga kababayinan isip maoy nagsabak ug namatuto sa mga bata, importante nga protektahan ang kahimsog ug ang panlawas sa kababayhan nga maoy nagduso sa Gabriela Campaign Reproductive Health Bill”, according to Cebu Urban Poor Women’s League Chair Belinda Allere.

Nurse Family Planning Coordinator Bernie Pongan said the problem of abortion can be answered through proper family planning to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

She even said the RHB is one way of giving maternal care; giving birth can be done at the health center for them to give enough care for the patient.

 Meanwhile, religious groups and pro-life advocates yesterday launched their campaign against RHB through a rosary at the Fuente-Osmeña rotunda.

Rene Bullecer, country director of Human Life International, said that the rosary prayer will be held at 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. everyday and they are expecting more people coming from different religious groups to come.

“We do believe that through prayers, madungog ang among pag-ampo sa Ginoo ug sa presidente,” he said. Bullecer said that they are now organizing a massive protest to be held in the middle of this month and they already have the blessings of Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.

Bullecer admitted that they are now in a difficult situation considering that Aquino and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte are not sympathetic to their cause.

Bullecer added that of all House legislators in Cebu, only Rep. Tomas Osmeña has yet to issue clear his stand on the matter.

All Cebuano legislators will be invited during the massive protest according to Bullecer.   (FREEMAN NEWS)

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