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After Ateneo, 45 DLSU faculty members sign pro-RH bill statement

September 4, 2012 1:04pm

De La Salle University professors have joined the fray over the Reproductive Health Bill, adding to the voices of nearly 200 Ateneo de Manila University professors who provoked the ire of Catholic bishops last month with their pro-RH statement.
 
Forty-five faculty members of DLSU, which is Catholic-run like its archrival Ateneo, sent media a statement on Tuesday supporting the RH bill, currently the most divisive piece of legislation facing both houses of Congress.

As of academic term 2010-2011, DLSU had 953 full-time and part-time faculty members

Dr. Antonio Contreras, a professor of political science and former DLSU dean who was one of those who initiated the statement, said the signatories are just a partial list, with many more signing up.

In the statement, the faculty members said they "express support for the Reproductive Health Bill in both houses of Congress as a much needed step toward the attainment of a just and democratic society which celebrates life at its fullest range and quality."
 
The DLSU signatories stressed that, like the statement from the Ateneo faculty, their support was done as individual professors and did not reflect the stand of their institution, one of the nation's most prestigious academic brands.

Among the signatories were several administrators and heads of departments at DLSU, which is run by the De La Salle Brothers.
 
Reacting to the statement, the DLSU Office for Strategic Communications sent this text message to GMA News Online: "De La Salle University is, and has always been respectful of the opinions of all its stakeholders. It believes that discourse that contributes to the enlightenment of our community of learners as they seek the path of truth in the light of faith and scholarship will always have an esteemed place in our institution."

Opportunities for the poor
 
"Enacting the RH Bill into law would strengthen the capacity of the State to assist women and their partners to make informed choices," the faculty members said in the statement.
 
"Beyond protecting the very important right of the unborn, it must extend to a recognition that a life that is weighed down by poverty, sickness, and social inequality–now compounded by environmental stresses–deprives humans of agency to transform themselves and the world for the common good," it said.
 
"In a society marred by great imbalances of power and wealth, the freedom that comes with choice has become a privilege," it added. "Empowering the poor and the marginalized, women in particular, requires opening up opportunities for their self-actualization."
 
According to the statement, maternal death continues to claim 4,500 women every year or about 12 every day.
 
"Lack of access to quality and affordable reproductive health services and timely information as much as poverty has kept many women from finding their own voice, exercising their basic rights, and taking their place as full members of society," it said.

Academic freedom
 
Last month, despite the opposition of the president of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), some of the school's faculty and students released a declaration in support of the RH Bill
 
Ateneo de Manila University President Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ reacted to the declaration with the following statement: "Together with our leaders in the Catholic Church, the Ateneo de Manila University does not support the passage of House Bill 4244 (The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill),"
 
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' (CBCP) subsequently urged the investigation of the ADMU professors who declared their support for the Reproductive Health bill.
 
Earlier, CBCP sent out threats to sanction Catholic schools whose faculty members do not follow its stand against the legislation.
 
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, however, said the CBCP's threat violates academic freedom.
 
"The threat of the Catholic Church to blacklist the members of the Ateneo faculty just because they took a position in favor of RH is an infringement of a Constitutional right — the right to academic freedom. You cannot dictate to a professor what to teach," said Santiago.

The CBCP is set to tackle on Tuesday the "academic concerns" involving the stand of some ADMU officials favoring the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.
 
High population, fewer resources
 
According to the statement from the DLSU signatories, one of the factors leading to the decline of quality of life of Filipinos is the imbalanced ratio of the current population against the country's physical, environmental, and natural resources,
 
"While our population growth rate has declined somewhat below the two percent threshold, it is still higher relative to the increase in the incomes of families in the 7th to the 10th decile groups–the segment of the population with the highest proportion of those living in absolute poverty as well," it said.
 
Knowledge and information
 
The RH Bill would strengthen the government’s capability to assist the poor and marginalized sectors in society to make informed choices, the statement added.
 
"The ability to make moral judgments, however, requires knowledge and information, and for those living in materially constrained circumstances, requires further support from the society," it said. "The capacity to provide that support now rests with the State and its instrumentalities."
 
"This is achieved by providing women and their partners, particularly the poor, with information and other forms of reproductive health support, including safe and affordable methods that do not violate the Constitutional provision declaring as illegal abortion and, by implication, the sale and promotion of abortifacient birth control technologies," it added.
 
In addition, the enactment of the bill "with the active participation of parents and the guidance of the educational and moral leaders of society, will help provide the youth with access to age-appropriate knowledge and information that would equip them to make decisions that would prevent them from having early and premarital sex, unwanted and teen pregnancies, and abortions, and help them become healthy and responsible parents in the future," it said. –KG/YA, GMA News




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