Photo: (REUTERS/Erik De Castro)
Roman Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines filed a motion on Wednesday against the country's new contraceptives program, protesting what they see as a step in the wrong direction for the Pacific country.
President Benigno Aquino III signed the controversial bill last month, called the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, which seeks to provide free contraceptives to people, especially those in poor communities, in order to help decrease unplanned pregnancies.
Msgr. Joselito Asis, Secretary-General of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, has spoken out strongly against the bill, and promised that the Church would legally oppose it.
"The RH bill is against the goodness of family, the stability of marriage," Asis said in a statement. He added that promoting the use of contraceptives was what led people in the Western world to indulge in "promiscuity, premarital sex and extramarital affairs" and that the Philippines is in danger of a similar fate if it does not reject this law.
Supporters of the bill, however, have said that it is a necessary measure in order to address the population growth of the Philippines, where children are often born in poverty and receive little help in their upbringing.
"If the church can provide milk, diapers and rice, then go ahead, let's make more babies," said Giselle Labadan, a 30-year-old roadside vendor, according to The Associate Press. "But there are just too many people now, too many homeless people, and the church doesn't help to feed them."
The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act has generated a lot of controversy in the Philippines, although it was approved on Dec. 17 by the House of Representatives by a 133-79 vote with seven abstentions, while the Senate passed it by a 13-8 vote with two abstentions.
Dr. Ricardo Boncan, a spokesman for the Catholic Vote Philippines alliance, said that the battle over the legality of the bill has just begun, however, and that the Catholic Church, which is opposed to all forms of artificial birth control, will continue opposing it.
"We will exhaust all legal remedies to fight this unjust, unethical and anti-poor and anti-life law," Dr. Boncan said, adding to the Philippines Inquirer that President Aquino's decision to sign the bill was "highly dishonorable and unprincipled."
He also accused President Aquino of lying to the people by declaring that he would not make a decision on the bill before Christmas, yet he signed it on Dec. 21.
"This, to us, has been the hallmark of his presidency, deception and dictatorial," Boncan insisted.
Contraceptives is not the only issue Catholics are protesting. The legislation will require government-sanctioned sex education for adults, middle school and high school students, while artificial birth control will be available through government health insurance programs.
Abortion remains illegal in the Philippines, except in cases where the mother's life is directly in danger. The country has over 92 million people, and while it considers itself a secular nation, more than 80 percent of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, with another 10 percent representing other Christian denominations.