UST must actively support a number of “pro-life, pro-family” bills introduced in Congress as part of an offensive to defeat a spate of “anti-life, anti-family” bills seeking to institutionalize population control, introduce abortion and “safe sex” education, and legislate divorce, academic officials said.

The offensive will help build a “culture of life” and should be part of the agenda of the next rector, officials added.

Political activism to press for the passage of the bills, according to a number of academic officials, will be a more positive approach at upholding pro-life, pro-family values, rather than simply opposing contrary bills.

“There are many ways to fight. When (you) fight for an ideal or a cause, the way you fight is as important as your goal. You just need to know which is most effective and dignifying to other people,” former rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. told the Varsitarian.

UST’s support will also encourage lawmakers to press for a pro-life, pro-family legislative agenda that could effectively thrust aside bills favoring birth control, abortion, and divorce, officials said. (See “Anti-life Bills on the Loose,” page 7.)

A pro-life, pro-family activism, UST officials said, would also be in keeping with the University’s pontifical character as well as consolidate its reputation as the pioneer of bioethics in the country.

De la Rosa said that the University must raise people’s consciousness on “life” issues, in time for the opening of the Congress on July 24. He said this could also be UST’s response to the pastoral letter last July 10 of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, “Shepherding and Prophesying in Hope: A CBCP Pastoral Letter on Social Concerns,” in which the bishops lamented that “the family is under siege”:

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“We are deeply troubled by attempts to legislate or make as state policy ideas that tend to weaken or even destroy cherished religious values regarding the nature of life, the nature of marriage as union of man and woman, child bearing, the values formation of children, etc.

“Such ideas are part of an orientation that is fundamentally secularistic and materialistic, separated from their religious and moral roots. We find them in pending bills about population, marriage and family, reproductive health, and sex education in schools.”

The pastoral letter added: “The Filipino family is ill-served by these developments. As the foundation of a civilization of life and love, the family is most seriously threatened. Therefore, Catholic lay groups as well as our Bishops’ Commission on Family and Life have made many public interventions about these and they shall continue to do so.”

The pro-life, pro-family bills basically put more teeth on statutes and policies against abortion, stem-cell experiments, euthanasia and contraceptive-based family planning, while generally providing services for unwed pregnant women, troubled couples, and families to discourage them from seeking abortion or divorce while enhancing family ties.

The bills include:

  • Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s Senate Bill (SB) 1225, which seeks to exact graver penalties on abortionists;
  • House Bill (HB) 4643, or the proposed Anti-Abortive Drugs and Devices Act, by Buhay Party List Rep. Rene Velarde, which bans intrauterine devices (IUD) and other abortifacient contraceptives;
  • SB 2194, or the proposed Pregnant Student Services Act, also by Santiago, which bans discrimination against pregnant students that is allegedly the cause why many young women are pushed to abortion;
  • SB 1661, or the Women and Children’s Resources Act, also by Santiago, which provides information and support services such as adoption and parenting alternatives for pregnant women;
  • HB 5327, or the proposed Pregnancy Care Centers Act, by Rep. Eduardo Zialcita (Parañaque), which seeks to set up public pregnancy centers to counsel and help pregnant women and provide natural family planning services;
  • HB 149, or the proposed Human Life Act, by Rep. Constantino Jaraula (Cagayan de Oro), which defines that life begins at the moment of conception;
  • HB 148, the proposed Anti-Cloning Act, also by Jaraula; its Senate counterpart is SB 1509, the proposed Banning of Experiments on the Cloning of Human Beings Act, by Santiago;
  • HB 5028, or the proposed Rights of Conscience Act. By Rep. Hermilando Mandanas (Batangas), which upholds a medical practitioner’s right to refuse providing services such as artificial family planning methods, stem-cell and fetal research, physician-assisted suicide, and abortion as a matter of conscience;
  • HB 216, or the proposed Mandatory Marriage Counselling Act, by Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon (Muntinlupa), which seeks to make mandatory marriage counseling regardless of age and discourage divorce;
  • Similarly, HB 4968, known as the “Anti-Divorce Bill,” by Kampi Party-list Rep. Ma. Armelita Villarosa, which expands grounds for legal separation in order to discourage divorce;
  • HB 1245, or the proposed Act Limiting Marriage to Natural Born Males and Females, also by Biazon, which bans homosexual marriage; and
  • HB 1818, the proposed Family Bonding Act, by Rep. Oscar Malapitan (Caloocan City), which seeks more weekend holidays so families can spend more time together.
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University officials said they were gratified that more and more lawmakers were contributing to the pro-life, pro-family advocacy.

“We need to have honest to goodness proponents and this should be undertaken by the congressmen themselves who are supposed to take the stand for life seriously as one of their advocacies,” De la Rosa said.

Of the lawmakers, Biazon is a UST alumnus, having obtained his Medical Technology degree from the UST Faculty of Pharmacy in 1991.

“The new rector needs to choose very well what form of activism the University should engage in,” De la Rosa said.

“I think that as an educational institution, our main form of activism is to mold the conscience of our students and our faculty; to really teach them well so that they can make decisions, in the light of what is true and good.”

In UST, socio-political issues are usually handled by the Committee on Social Concerns and Advocacy, which was organized during the term of the former rector, Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P., according to Fides Carlos, executive secretary of the Office of the Rector.

In the past, the Committee, which was composed of several deans, research center heads, faculty members, student representatives, alumni and professionals, and Dominican philosophers and theologians, had crafted UST’s stand on the corruption scandal involving President Joseph Estrada and the impeachment case against President Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Committee could be adopted by the next rector to define and design UST’s support for pro-life bills and its campaign against anti-life measures, UST officials said.

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De la Rosa said he is hopeful that UST would win the culture battle for life and family. K. P. Bayos, M. L. C. Celis, C. G. Fallorina, and R. S. Mejia

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