Pro-life solon’s clause on respect for religious freedom, rejected

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MANILA, Dec. 4, 2012—Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia has proposed another amendment to the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, a phrase meant to ensure the government’s non-violation of the right of couples to practice their religion. However, nominal voting yielded a result which showed that majority of lawmakers present during proceedings held a different view as regards the State’s duty to protect the people’s freedoms even though these are enshrined in the Constitution.

Garcia proposed that the line 3 of the Declaration of Policy be made such (proposed addition is the italicized text):

“The State recognizes and guarantees the exercise of the basic human right to reproductive health by all persons particularly of parents, couples and women, consistent with their religious convictions, cultural beliefs and the demands of responsible parenthood, and the state shall refrain from taking any action or mission that will tempt or tend to make any woman or couple to violate the tenets or teachings of their religion.”

“The State recognizes the right of couples… to be consistent with their religious convictions, and to implify that right, we must include the statement,” Garcia said.

The Cebu solon pointed out that the promotion of the use of birth control supplies going against the teachings of the Catholic Church “is a fact known by everybody.” Why should the State promote such devices and “tempt our women by giving them free contraceptives – condoms, in the case of men?” he asked.

Garcia, one of the stalwarts in the pro-life movement among House members, explained that as far as the relationship between the State and religion is concerned, the state must look at religion “with benevolent neutrality and accommodation, such that the State may even accommodate a teaching or tenet of a religion. But in this case, in the case of House Bill 4244, the State is not neutral, much less benevolent to the Catholic Church because the State is promoting and distributing free contraceptives and other devices which are in violation of a tenet of the Catholic Church.”

The proposed amendment was rejected, with a nominal aye-nay vote of 75-100.

Pro-RH legislators yesterday also shot down an amendment proposed by Garcia which would have included only married couples among the recipients of free birth control supplies and services, making even adolescents as young as 13 entitled to contraceptives and essentially eliminating the significance of parental authority. (CBCP for Life)

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