Thousands of Catholic faithful are expected to attend a prayer rally and march at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on Friday in protest of a proposed population policy. Some policy provisions would permit government funding for artificial birth control, while others would fully fund tubal ligations and vasectomies. The bill also proposes a non-mandatory “two child policy” and requires employers in collective bargaining agreements to fund contraceptives.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said in a statement that the rally and march will be a movement of Christian believers who oppose “immoral” policies. The event coincides with the fortieth anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae.
“It will be a bit festive because of the Humanae Vitae’s fortieth year but very militant as well,” said Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary for the CBCP’s Commission on Family and Life. “It is our way of telling our legislators strongly but respectfully that we are in opposition of these bills,” he continued.
Members of over 45 lay and religious Catholic groups will attend the three-hour rally, which will include a Mass celebrated by several clergymen, including Angel Lagdameo, Archbishop of Jaro and CBCP President. The event will also feature testimonies and talks from clergymen, married couples and experts on Humanae Vitae, including the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Gaudenico Rosales.
Father Castro said the rally could be the prelude to many others if Congress approves the bill, whose full name is an “Act providing for a national policy on reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development.”
According to Father Castro, the bill is moving through the lower House with “great speed.”
Attorney Jo Imbong, executive secretary of the CBCP Legal Office, said the bill would fully fund tubal ligations and vasectomies for indigent patients and others as part of PhilHealth benefits. She reported that the bill also defines hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, and other contraceptives as “essential medicines.”
It also proposes that taxpayer-funded Mobile Health Care Service vans provide birth control methods in all congressional districts.
Fenny Tatad, executive director of the Bishops-Legislators Caucus of the Philippines, criticized the bill’s requirement that some employers provide contraceptives for employees and also its two-child policy.
“This and all the above-mentioned proposals are considered gross violations of the pro-family provisions of the Constitution and the universal right to health of citizens,” Tatad said. “Public funds coming from Catholic taxpayers will fund these programs which is oppressive and in violation of their universal right to religious freedom and the freedom to live their faith in an environment that is free of coercion and harassment.”