x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Catholic church leads rally against family planning in Philippines

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Pangasinan province said in a statement that contraceptives corrupt moral values and promote the view that "babies are a nuisance."

MANILA // Philippine Roman Catholic Church leaders led a rally Saturday against a proposed law that would provide government funding for contraceptives and introduce reproductive health and sexuality classes in schools.

The House of Representatives is to decide next week whether to end debate on the bill and bring it to a final vote.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Pangasinan province said in a statement read to about 10,000 people at the rally that contraceptives corrupt moral values and promote the view that "babies are a nuisance."

The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing populations in Asia. President Benigno Aquino III has expressed support for the right to contraception, while the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy opposes artificial birth control.

Aquino called for passage of the bill during his annual address to Congress last month.

Socrates mocked Aquino's campaign to eliminate poverty by fighting corruption.

"You heard our president during his campaign say, `If there is no corruption, there will be no poverty,"' Villegas said. "Birth control, they say, means more food, more classrooms, more houses and better health for mothers. If more babies are the cause of poverty, are we now saying, `If there are no children, there will be no poor?"'

The bill being considered by the House would require the government to provide information on family planning methods, make contraceptives available, and hold reproductive health and sexuality classes from grade 5 through high school. It also seeks to raise AIDS awareness and help couples determine the right number of children and birth spacing.

House members are to vote Tuesday on whether to continue debate on the bill. The Senate still has not passed its own version. Any bill approved by Congress must be signed into law by Aquino.

In a statement Saturday, the Human Development Cluster - 20 government agencies dealing with poverty and development - cited Aquino as saying there is an "urgent need for responsible parenthood to counter the country's soaring population growth and the disturbing social consequences."

Church officials in the predominantly Roman Catholic country have blocked passage of family planning laws in the past, saying they would erode moral values and encourage promiscuity and early pregnancies.

On Friday, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle called for lawmakers to reject the bill because it "is not the solution to our many problems as individuals and as a country as it will even give rise to many other problems more pernicious and pervasive than the ones we face in the present."