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In US, Aquino makes pitch for responsible parenthood

Similar to what he did during his working visit to the United States last year, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on Wednesday (Tuesday in the US) made a pitch for the responsible parenthood (RP) bill in New York. Saying he does not mind earning the ire of the Catholic Church, Aquino, a Catholic, said he wants to separate his personal beliefs from the policy that his government will implement. Aquino is in the US for an official visit to New York and Washington from September 18 to 23. While fielding questions after delivering his speech at the Asia Society Forum, Aquino admitted that his government’s policy has gotten him into conflict with "certain conservative members of the clergy." “We have our own personal religious beliefs, but we have to separate those actions of the state and those actions of the Church," he said. For Aquino, throwing support for the RP bill is a way of uplifting the lives of marginalized Filipinos. "Should I attempt to mimic an ostrich that buries the head in the sand when I’ll be asked by God at some point in time, what did you do to the least of my brethren?" he asked. "I will be able to say that we stopped the condition where nobody seemed to care enough to educate them and empower them to effect their own decisions," he said.
For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV Conflict with the Church In his working visit to the US last year, Aquino earned the ire of Catholic officials for the statements he made about the reproductive health (RH) issue. In a meeting with a Filipino community in San Francisco, Aquino said the government "is obligated to inform everybody of their responsibility and their choices, at the end of the day government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method." The pending RH bills in the Philippines promote both artificial and natural family planning methods. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, accepts only natural family planning means. Malacañang Palace has yet to give to Congress a copy of its version of the RP bill which also espouses both natural and artificial family planning methods. The President said his administration does not subscribe to a policy of limiting children. “We do not agree that we should force anybody to do any act – because that I think is contradictory to the fundamental beliefs we have, democracy is a nation of choice," he said. He clarified that his administration is not after population control per se but after educating the citizens, especially the parents, about their responsibilities to their children. “That’s why we call the version of the bill “responsible parenthood," he said. "You’re parents, you’re supposed to take care of your children, you’re supposed to think of them at a point in time when they are not capable of doing the same for themselves," he added. Aquino said the government is obliged to remind the parents “that each child that you bring into this world, you have a certain responsibility." “Now we will help them, after education, we will rest on their consciences and their beliefs and enable them to act on their decisions as to how best to plan their prospective families and exercise responsible parenthood," he said. Church's stance Meanwhile, Catholic officials have repeatedly reiterated their stance against the RH and RP bills. In a pastoral letter issued earlier this year, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said, "Before us are several versions of a proposed bill, the Reproductive Health bill or sanitized as a Responsible Parenthood bill. This proposed bill in all its versions calls us to make a moral choice: to choose life or to choose death." "Human life is the most sacred physical gift with which God, the author of life, endows a human being. Placing artificial obstacles to prevent human life from being formed and being born most certainly contradicts this fundamental truth of human life," the CBCP said. It noted that, "Advocates also say that the RH bill is necessary to stop overpopulation and to escape from poverty." However, the CBCP said, "Our own government statistical office has concluded that there is no overpopulation in the Philippines but only the over-concentration of population in a number of urban centers." Protests against the RH bill To express their stance against the RH bill, Catholic groups have been holding protests against the controversial bill not only in the Philippines but also in other parts of the world. Earlier this month, the CBCP said Filipino chaplains in Europe, Middle East and Africa see the proposed law as “unfit for passage" and vowed to organize protests against the measure. In a statement, the chaplains said “We, shepherds to the Filipino faithful, declare the Reproductive Health Bill 4244 unfit for passage, and with the fullness of conviction we are determined to inform, educate and mobilize our constituents in Europe, the Middle East and Africa to uphold our cherished values through the rejection of this bill." The statement was released during the Filipino chaplains’ IX Regional Consultation Meeting for the Filipino Ministry in Europe held recently in Adliswil, Zurich, Switzerland. - VVP, GMA News