Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. explains the development of an embryo upon conception, in his talk opposing the Reproductive Health Bill this morning in The Varsitarian's annual journalism fellowship, Inkblots. Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon

Oct. 13, 2:34 p.m. – FORMER senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on Thursday said the “reproductive health” (RH) bill should be rejected on “constitutional and scientific” grounds, opening this year’s edition of Inkblots, the UST national campus journalism fellowship.

Pimentel, who served three terms as senator, told more than 200 Inkblots fellows from all over the country that the 1987 Constitution protects human life from conception or fertilization and bans abortion. On this basis, oral contraceptive pills, which have a mechanism that can prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum, are considered abortifacients and should not be promoted by the government and given away for free.

“Life is the utmost human right that a person could ever have,” Pimentel said in the three-day conference organized by the Varsitarian at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex.

Philippine laws also bar “abortives,” said the former lawmaker, who had also been a campus paper adviser.

The Revised Penal Code states that abortion and dispensing of abortives are criminal acts, he said. Intentional abortion is a crime under Article 256, while Article 257 states that the penalty for unintentional abortion “shall be imposed upon any person who shall cause an abortion by violence, but unintentionally.” Article 259, meanwhile, states that “Any pharmacist who, without the proper prescription from a physician, shall dispense any abortive shall suffer arresto mayor,” which is one month and one day to six months imprisonment with a fine not exceeding P1,000.

Pregnancy is not a disease, and is not even one of the top 10 causes of deaths among individuals in the country, Pimentel pointed out. The government should allocate funds to “more important” health matters, he said.

Pimentel also discussed the constitutional principle of “separation of Church and State” being used by RH lobbyists against the Church, which is staunchly against the bill dubbed by critics as a “contraceptive welfare” bill.

Pimentel said Constitution should not be interpreted in a way that Church cannot interfere with state policies. Rather, it is the state that cannot interfere with Church affairs.

The RH bill will require Catholic schools to follow a uniform sex education curriculum, while Catholic hospitals and doctors could face punishment for refusing to provide RH services. The draft RH bill also contains provisions requiring all employers, including the religious sector, to provide RH services to employees.

Inkblots, now on its 13th year, is a three-day national fellowship for campus writers and campus paper advisers, consisting of seminars on news writing, opinion writing, photojournalism, sports writing, feature writing, cartooning, and campus paper management. The event will run today until Saturday.

Other invited lecturers include Inquirer columnist and former Varsitarian editor in chief Rina Jimenez-David, Philippine Star sports columnist Quinito Henson, Manila Bulletin entertainment editor Nestor Cuartero, GMA News reporter Jun Veneracion, Radyo Veritas commentator Fr. Nick Lalog, Associated Press photographer Aaron Favila, cartoonist Manix Abrera, and TV5 host Lourd de Veyra.

Erika Denise L. Dizon


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