July 25, 11:36 p.m. – A “CONGRESS of the Filipino Faithful” called on the Aquino administration and its allies to prioritize more than a dozen other urgent bills rather than the “reproductive health” (RH) bill, with Catholic and evangelical leaders delivering their “State of the Soul of the Nation” Address or SSONA hours before the President’s own State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Passing the RH bill – which will institute a massive, state-funded birth control program amid stiff opposition from religious groups – would only divide the nation further when the country’s “robust and vibrant” population should be the “primary and ultimate resource,” said the manifesto, which was read by a succession of speakers.

“We are a nation of believers, and that is the source of an even greater strength. Contrary to the error insisted upon by the dogma of political correctness, faith and democracy can coexist, without harming the other … As a predominantly Christian and partly Islamic nation, we must resist the temptation of following everything that moves,” said Dr. Eleanor Palabyab of the group Doctors for Life.

With the theme, “A Call to Heal and Restore our Country’s Moral Integrity,” the forum discussed the worsening economic and social conditions of the country in the first year of the Aquino administration.

It has been a “gross disservice” to make people believe poverty could be solved by allowing big foreign multinationals to “dump all their contraceptives and sterilization agents on the laps of our poor women,” said Erlie Arcadio of the Soldiers for Christ.

Francisco Tatad, former senator and Varsitarian editor, said the SSONA did not intend to “preempt” Aquino’s own address. “We are not here to negate, nullify, and dispute anything that he will say to us in the address,” he said.

“They have to listen to us as well, in the true spirit of give and take.”

Evangelical pastor Reyzel Cayanan said that rather than waste time, money, and effort on the RH bill, Congress should prioritize laws that would “eradicate poverty; strengthen education, healthcare, workers rights; broaden democratic space; and ensure long-term peace and stability.”

Speakers called for the passage of the following measures:

– the Freedom of Information Act;

– the Gun Control Law;

– protection for domestic helpers;

– the establishment of a bank for OFWs;

– a tree-planting program;

– repeal of the mining law to plug “loopholes”;

– a healthcare program addressing the leading causes of death;

– alternative systems of education such as homeschooling;

– electoral reforms including a ban on political dynasties;

– restructuring of the Department of Foreign Affairs to promote trade and investments;

– limits on media ownership of individuals;

– a ban on direct sterilization and a law requiring factual labeling of contraceptives; and

– restrictions on gambling establishments.

Former Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante of the Bible Believers League for Morality and Democracy, Inc. (Biblemode) said the Aquino administration’s P21.9-billion conditional cash transfer program was only promoting a “doleout mentalty.”

Economic activity has contracted because government agencies have been ordered to save 20 percent of their budgets, he said, adding that no major infrastructure projects have been started.

Bro. Rolly Dizon, former president of De La Salle University, said the President should provide a rare example by making the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, owned by the Cojuangco family of his late mother former president Corazon Aquino, a “showcase of real land reform.”

“This means land distribution to the farmers, rather than merely giving them shares of stock.”

Before the “Congress of the Filipino Faithful” at around 11 a.m., a Mass was offered by Manila Auxillary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, D.D., and Fr. Fernando Suarez at the Santuario de San Jose in Greenhills.

In his homily, Suarez called on everyone, particularly Catholics, to “promote life and kill the culture of death.”

“Let us work and do something together to protect life,” Suarez said. “Let us fight for everyone’s life.”

Pabillo, meanwhile, told the audience to follow their right consciences to fulfill the will of God. “What is right or wrong cannot be taken from public opinion,” he said. “Hindi ito pinagbobotohan.”

In his second SONA at 4 p.m., President Aquino did not discuss the RH bill, and instead thanked Church leaders for keeping the lines of communication open.

Salamat po sa mga pari at obispo na masinsinang nakikipagdiyalogo sa atin, katulad nina Cardinal Rosales at Vidal. Di naman po kami ganoong kalapit ni Cardinal Rosales, pero naniniwala akong ibinuhos niya ang lahat para mabawasan ang hindi pinagkakaunawaan ng gobyerno at simbahan,” the President said.

President Aquino
also hailed the election of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, a Thomasian, to
the presidency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. “
Sa paghahalal kay Archbishop Palma,
tagapagtanggol ng karapatang pantao at kalikasan, lalo pong tumibay ang aking
kumpiyansang ugnayan, at hindi bangayan, ang mabubuo sa pagitan ng estado at
Rafael L. Antonio
and Diana Jean B. Evite


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