Ms Mae Belgica explains to teachers the developmental stages of an unborn baby during a pro-life seminar in Manila on May 20. Debate has been raging in the Philippines over a reproductive health bill that would make artificial contraceptives available. CNS photo

MANILA – Catholic lay leaders opposed to a controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill said that “civil disobedience” in the form of non-payment of taxes is an option if the bill is passed.

The country’s bishops, however, have opposed this form of protest.

Human Life International country coordinator Dr Rene Bullecer, speaking at a May 23 meeting in the central province of Cebu, said lay organisations are united in their resolve for a civil disobedience campaign.

“Let us see what lies ahead…. Not paying taxes is just one of the options when we talk about direct democracy,” Dr Bullecer said.

He said he preferred the term “direct democracy” and not “civil disobedience”.

Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, in a forum with businessmen recently, said disobedience is not an option but stressed that the Church would not stop in campaigning against the bill.

Catholic leaders, including the Philippine bishops’ conference, are opposed to the bill, which would mandate that artificial contraceptives be made available.

The bill’s opponents have scheduled prayer vigils, signature campaigns and caravans in different regions in the coming weeks.

However, debates on the Senate version of the bill may not start until at least late July, according to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

The next session of Congress will start on July 25, when President Benigno Aquino III is expected to deliver his second State of the Nation Address.

Meanwhile, Catholic schools have also joined a campaign against the bill as the country’s bishops have officially pulled out of dialogue with the government on the issue.

Schools in the Malolos diocese, for instance, are holding forums, seminars and teach-ins, and are distributing posters and reading materials about the alleged harmful provisions of the RH bill.

One priest said Catholic schools in the diocese are actively campaigning against the measure now pending in Congress.

After backing out of talks with the presidential palace, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is focusing its efforts on convincing legislators to vote against the bill.

President Benigno Aquino on May 18 urged the Catholic Church to work with his government on issues rather than engage in heated discussions over the controversial bill.

“I urge the Church to work with us instead on the many areas where we do agree: poverty alleviation, peace and order, and perhaps, even responsible mining. Let us work together,” he said.

Addressing the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), Mr Aquino said the issue of legislated provisions for the reproductive health of women “does not have to be as divisive as it has become”.

He said his administration had worked with the Catholic Church before, citing discussions with the Basic Ecclesial Communities, for instance.

“Other than the RH, [they] have raised the issues about flooding, deforestation and crime, which my administration has addressed,” he said. - UCANEWS.COM

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