Pro-lifers show class amid discourtesy during forum

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Pro-life Philippines chairman Ed Sorreta (middle in plaid shirt) with students.

MANILA, Sept. 25, 2012—Those who spoke for the most defenseless in society and who championed genuine freedom showed class and composure amid discourtesy from some supporters of the reproductive health (RH) bill during a forum on the legislative measure at the University of the Philippines’ National Institute of Physics held September 19.

Dr. Ligaya Acosta, regional director of Human Life International – Asia & Oceania, and Edgardo Sorreta, Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Chairman, both held their composure even as purple-clad RH advocates spoke out from their seats, apparently in disagreement with what was being said by the speakers.

“We let the other speakers talk and we kept quiet. So we ask that you do the same for us,” Sorreta requested in the course of his presentation.

At one point, Acosta – toward the end of her talk – paused for a few moments when those seated in the first couple of rows in the audience became somewhat unruly and prevented the invited guest from proceeding as they chanted “Time! Time! Time!” – signaling that her time in the program was up.

“Okay lang,” Acosta calmly said with a smile as she waited for the disruption to end.

Mere opportunity for Church-bashing

The glaring difference between the speakers, too, did not go unnoticed by the students. Dash Cordero, a senior Statistics major, was immensely disappointed by the repeated jabs against the Church by one of the speakers, particularly due to the emphasis on academic and “research-based” information made in pre-event announcements.

“I was expecting that Dr. [Ernesto] Pernia would present his arguments the same way as economics expert Dr. [Bernardo] Villegas does – which is precise and easily understandable by non-economics people. But it was just a mixture of pang-aaway sa Church and presenting statistics that were really not that well-explained,” Cordero lamented.

She also pointed out that the surveys on perception of Catholics of the RH bill were “irrelevant, at the same time insensitive. I didn’t really like his talk because he kept dragging the Catholic Church into the issue – even making side comments that were insulting to us [Catholics].”

The student pointed out that it was unfair of Pernia to make “rude remarks about Dr. Villegas” since the latter was not present.

The talk was not worth her time, Cordero said, adding that what was presented was not new to her and her companions anymore and that economists advocating a culture of life had already refuted arguments brought up by Pernia.

What came as a surprise to Cordero and probably to most of the 100-plus attendees at the forum were Atty. Elizabeth Pangalangan’s remarks and demeanor in the open forum.

Responding to a question regarding the rights of mothers and their unborn children, the lawyer’s answer betrayed a belief that the equal protection of “the life of the mother and the life of the unborn” by the State as provided in the Philippine Constitution is not really equal.

Insisting on the inequality of mother and unborn

As observed by Cordero, though Pangalangan recognized the Constitutional provision, the lawyer put forth “the condition that the life of the mother is not endangered. Clearly, she doesn’t consider the mother and the baby having equal rights and dignity under the law.”

“She even said that it’s okay to use ‘procedures’ – which can be taken as their euphemism for ‘abortion’ – since the baby is not yet born,” the student continued, adding that the lawyer’s view was even worse than that of many, since it implied recognizing the baby’s personhood only after birth.

John Walter Juat found the implications of inequality between born people and babies in the womb objectionable, “as if it is the law that states that the life of the mother is worth more than the unborn. One cannot define anything based on what it has or doesn’t have. You define it by its identity,” the Education student said.

Human beings are defined by their DNA, Juat explained, and an unborn child or a person who has been born but has disabilities is not less human just because of the inability to do certain tasks that most people can do.

“It’s really wrong to say the mother has more worth because she can work, earn money, can walk, talk, etc. And the unborn child has less worth because it cannot do these yet,” he said. “But when the lawyer said something about the circumstances to veer away from the equal protection of the State, it really makes me question…”

Unwittingly revealing an abortion agenda

“And now they still deny that they are in favor of abortion? [Pangalangan] had just revealed their intentions – and that is to eventually find a way for abortion to be legalized [in the Philippines],” Cordero lamented.

During the open forum, the lawyer responded to a question concerning the rights of mothers and of their unborn children. When she answered, betraying a belief in the in equality in dignity between mother and unborn child, she was visibly peeved by the reactions of disapproval from the audience. This prompted her to ask the audience in clipped tones, “Are you a law student?”

The arrogant manner in which Pangalangan delivered the question and succeeding remarks generated yet more comments of protest.

During the lawyer’s presentation, she stated her belief of human beings “from the moment of birth” as entitled to human rights that are universal and cannot be alienated.

Cordero admitted being saddened by insinuations of the absence of facts in the arguments presented by anti-RH bill folks when “we are presenting the facts while their side always finds ways not to answer directly. Their response has often been derogatory remarks about the Church, the fallacy of  ‘11 maternal deaths per day,’ … and many more fallacious statements.”

“I’ve noticed that the pro-RH people fear so much when the truth is revealed – based on their reactions when Dr. Acosta revealed things about Likhaan and the RH bill budget,” the student continued. “Then their speakers didn’t have the same composure as ours did. And most of them were also very rude – you know, that ‘Time! Time! Time!’ incident.”

It is a challenge for life-affirming people to practice charity toward these persons who condemn the Church and destroy the sanctity of life, Cordero admitted. “I think our Lord is doing this for us to grow in virtue. Kaya sana the Lord always gives us the grace to love and to pray for them.” (CBCP for Life)

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