Friday, January 4, 2008

QC Ordinance on Reproductive Health and Population Management

On the morning of December 18, 2007, the Committee on Laws of the Quezon City Council conducted its first public hearing on the Reproductive Health and Population Management Ordinance proposed by Councilor Joseph Juico (Dist. 1). The hearing was presided by committee chairman Councilor Jesus ‘Bong’ Suntay (Dist. 4). Also present were Councilors Dorothy Delarmente (Dist. 1), Joseph Juico (Dist. 1), Jorge Banal, Jr. (Dist. 3), Antonio Inton, Jr. (Dist. 4), and Edcel Lagman, Jr. (Dist. 4).

Seven speakers from both sides were given alternate turns to deliver a 10 min. speech. Below is the statement of bro Ed Sorreta which I reproduce in full:

“I am a father and represent many fathers who oppose the ordinance on Reproductive Health and Population Management proposed by Councilor Joseph Juico.

The 1st point that comes to my mind is “Can you make a legislation prohibiting our brother Muslims from having a 2nd or 3rd wife? Or an ordinance forcing Iglesia ni Cristo members to join unions or rallies?” The obvious answer is no, you cannot, simply because it is their belief and faith which is a basic human right. It is for this reason that no piece of legislation of this sort has ever been debated on the national and local levels.

Yet here you are with this ordinance that forces Barangay health workers and officials, public and private schools to implement a program that goes against the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Otherwise, fines and imprisonment await those who refuse to tow the line. I hope you realize you cannot do this, especially when more than 80% of your constituents are Catholic! This ordinance will result in a conflict between the state and the Church as it compels Catholics to go against the teachings of the Church. Where is the freedom of choice that Sec 2C of the ordinance provides? The Catholic Church is obliged to speak out the truth, and be clear on her teachings against the use contraceptives (for good moral and temporal reasons, I might add). But does she excommunicate the suppliers of contraceptives, or does she ask the faithful if they use contraceptives before giving them communion? She does not because she respects the basic freedom of every person to choose what is right or wrong. After all, at the end of the day, each one will be held accountable to God alone. And so, contrary to what one of your lawyer speakers said, the Church does not impose, rather it is this ordinance with its punitive action that does unjustly.

The 2nd point is something very close to my heart since it will affect my children, grandchildren and future generations of my family. Part of the definition of Reproductive Health in your ordinance means ‘the ability to have a safe and satisfying sex life’. This is a component of the sex education curriculum being proposed for grade 5 to 4th year HS students, including the use of contraceptives and condoms to avoid HIV infection. This kind of teaching simply is inconsistent, for how can you tell our children not to smoke, and yet on the other hand, teach them how to use filters just in case they do decide to smoke? Additionally, how can you tell our kids to avoid premarital sex, but at the same time, teach them the use of contraceptives and condoms just in case? Who among you, parents, especially our young councilors, would approve premarital sex for your teenagers?

In this regard, I wish to pose these question to our vice-mayor and councilors, especially to Councilor Juico: “Is this something you want the schools to teach your grade 5 to 4th year kids?” If your answer is ‘no’, then there is no need for this ordinance. However, if you honestly think this type of lessons will be good for your children, I have no problem with that. It is your right to bring up your children the best way you see fit. I would suggest though that you do it yourselves. Teach your own children. Or if you do not feel competent to do this, maybe you can organize a summer class for parents who think the same way you do, and they can enroll there, together with their kids. That would really be freedom of choice. But DON’T TEACH IT TO MY CHILDREN! As much as I respect your parental right over your children, so do I expect you to respect mine. I am a Catholic who adheres to the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially regarding contraceptives and I wish to pass these on to my children and their children. By making these lessons compulsory in all public and private schools, you are stepping into my parental responsibilities. UULITIN KO PO – RESPETUHAN LANG PO TAYO! Is that too much to ask? In the end, if my kids get into trouble, the government will not be around for them.

In conclusion, I, together with many parents, unequivocally state that we oppose this ordinance on Reproductive Health and Population Management. We pray that you will respect our basic human right to our religious beliefs and our primary responsibility as parents to our children.”

(In all honesty, all seven speakers against the ordinance presented incontestable arguments, while those in favor had shallow justification. Some of them even seemed unprepared. It makes me wonder. Could it be that the hearings are moot and academic? Could it be that in reality, the ordinance will be legislated, whether we like it or not? I hope I am wrong.

But all the more for us to be vigilant in our prayers and in our action. Our families are under clear and present danger.)

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