UST IS PRO-LIFE. A delegate from the University including priests, faculty members and students join thousands of rallyists calling for the abolition of the Reprodctive Health bill. The rally drew around 200,000 people during the Mass at Quirino Grandstand last March 25. Photo by KARLA MIDES C. TOLEDO

A DIFFERENT people power.

Hundreds of thousands of “pro-life” supporters—including a delegation of priests, administrators, faculty members, and students from UST—gathered for a prayer rally and Mass to block the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill last March 25 at the Quirino Grandstand.

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales led the concelebrated Mass and spoke against the RH bill, which is pending in the House of Representatives.

Rosales reiterated the Church’s stance against the state-funded distribution of contraceptives and abortifacients, sex education as early as Grade 5, and penalties for “malicious disinformation” against coercive RH policies.

“There is still time to avoid a ‘moral tragedy’,” he said.

The prelate also urged legislators to alter some provisions, if not junk the whole bill.

“Baguhin ang mga panukalang ‘yan, o ibagsak ang kaniyang kabuuan na siyang pugad ng kawalang paggalang sa buhay, pagkawala ng responsibilidad at disiplina na siyang tunay na kailangan ngayon ng tao at bayan,” Rosales said in his homily.

Rosales said the indifference of people toward life could lead to moral decay.

“Kapag hindi pinahalagahan ang buhay na iyan sa alinman o saan mang yugto ng buhay ng tao, (sanggol, fetus, matanda, malakas, o mahina) hinding-hindi igagalang ang buhay nang sinuman—at diyan kapag wala ng halaga o walang pagpapahalaga, wala nang magtatanggol sa buhay,” the prelate said.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a message read by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, said the Church was not indifferent in “difficult” moments concerning life as “[the Church] believes that life is sacred, a gift from God who calls man to cooperate with Him, aided by a deep sense of responsibility.”

“I encourage you and all who value the human person to be firm in your commitment to honor God and, by doing so, to manifest a deep love for life and for its protection at this time,” Bertone said his message.

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The prayer rally, which coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation and the Day of the Unborn, was attended by bishops, priests, delegates from parishes and shrines of the Metropolitan See of Manila, as well as Catholic organizations, pro-life groups, catechists, students, the youth, and the “urban poor.”

“This is an interfaith gathering led by Cardinal Rosales to uphold the sanctity of life, family values, and the disciplining of oneself,” said former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Secretary General Msgr. Hernando Coronel.

‘God’s law’

Thomasian alumni also stood up against the RH bill.

“It’s against the law of God and the law of nature,” said former Philippine Medical Association president Primitivo Chua.

Chua said the passage of the RH bill would be a source of corruption.

“Anyone can buy contraceptives [since] they’re available [anywhere]; so why make a law to coerce people to use it and then use billions of pesos?” Chua said. “If [the legislators] pass the law, they will get a lot of money.”

Former senator and former Varsitarian editor Francisco “Kit” Tatad said that RH bill is unconstitutional.

“They can have all the votes in favor of this bill, [but] it cannot [trick] anyone in conscience because it is unconstitutional, it is immoral,” Tatad told the Varsitarian.

“[Congress is] legislating [the bill] for the entire country, and you cannot enact a law that divides the country,” Tatad added.

CBCP communications director and former Varsitarian editor in chief Peachy Yamsuan said there is no need for the RH bill.

“It’s really important that people build their character and that we imbibe the right values because with the right values, with the right conscience, we do not need laws to dictate to us what we should do—whether we should control, whether we should limit,” Yamsuan said.

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For Fr. Niño de Leon of the Diocese of Gumaca in Quezon Province, the RH bill would “pave the way for abortion.”

“What we need are laws that [will] promote health care regarding “killer” diseases, education and good governance. The alleged 11 [maternal deaths per day] can be avoided if the government has better pre-natal, natal, and post-natal care,” De Leon said. “RH bill is just a tip of an iceberg; underneath is the big truth of corruption.”

Echoing De Leon’s stand, Political Science alumnus Rogelio Lebanto said the bill could destroy the mores of Catholicism.

“Ang RH bill ay hindi maganda sa ating mga Katoliko sapagkat ang RH bill ay pumapatay ng tao, ang Katoliko ay hindi nagpapatay ng tao,” Lebanto said.

Mannix Fortz of the Association of Bukidnons in New York said this bill’s sole intention is in the commercialization of contraceptives.

“[It] could cause higher rates of unwanted teenage pregnancies and abortion, as well as boost the increase of HIV/AIDS cases,” Fortz said.

Thirteen-year-old Jomel Paul Palma, a second-year high school student from Bahay Pare National High School in Pampanga, said the use of contraceptives is against the law of God and will only encourage the youth to engage in sex.

“Kung aalisin natin ang RH bill, matatakot ang [mga kabataan] na makipagtalik dahil sa posibilidad na makabuntis sila,” Palma said. “At sa totoo lang, hindi naman talaga hadlang ang pagdami ng populasyon sa pag-unlad ng bayan, kung hindi ang korupsyon sa bansa.”

Also present in the rally were Cardinal Jose T. Sanchez, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, and former senator Aquilino Pimentel. There were also representatives from the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other faiths.

Actress and sports personality Christine Jacob-Sandejas and inspirational speaker Bo Sanchez spoke against the RH bill, while boxer and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao sent a video message.

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“Hindi solusyon sa problema ang pagbawas ng mga anak. Sisira ang [RH law] sa moralidad ng mga bata kapag tinuruan sila ng kalaswaan. Hindi ito ang solution; ang solusyon ay sugpuin ang korupsyon,” Pacquiao said in a pre-recorded video.

Early estimates placed the crowd at 40,000 but Radyo Veritas said the crowd ballooned to between 200,000 to 300,000 in the evening. 

UST: We are pro-life

In support of the pro-life rally, UST released a statement last March 24 opposing the RH bill, saying it violates conscience and tramples upon religious freedom.

The statement said any government-sponsored responsible parenthood program should be motivated by an “option for life and not against it.

Backing the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ stand on the bill, UST said natural family planning was the better option as it is “not only pro-life but also pro-poor and pro-women, since it does not endanger people’s health.”

“We believe that human life is God’s sole prerogative, having created this sacred gift immediately at the moment of conception,” the statement read.

UST is specifically opposing provisions in the consolidated RH bill or House Bill No. 4244, such as Section 9 which names contraceptives as essential medicines, Section 18 demanding all employers to include contraceptives in their employee’s economic package, and Section 22 that prohibits any person from “malicious engagement in disinformation about the intent or provision of this act.”

“This would mean that the purchase of contraceptives shall be the burden of all tax-paying Filipinos, even those who, in conscience, are pro-life,” UST said in its statement. “This is a violation of the freedom of religion, of freedom of conscience, and of freedom of expression.” Brylle B. Tabora, Charmaine M. Parado and Rommel Marvin C. Rio

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