By Thaddeus M. Baklinski
MANILA, Philippines, July 28, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A Mass and vigil was held on Friday at the University of Santo Tomas to mark the 40th anniversary of the encyclical letter of Pope John Paul VI on human life, Humanae Vitae. One goal of the rally was to pressure lawmakers into abandoning the proposed Reproductive Health and Population Development Act, which has passed the committee level in the Philippine House of Representatives.
The Act would create a new agency called the Commission on Population (POPCOM) which would "encourage" families to have only two children, and promote the use of a variety of abortifacient drugs, including the IUD and the pill.
In a massive gathering of pro-life supporters, leaders from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), members of the Christian charismatic group El Shaddai, politicians, personalities, students, professionals and laborers massed at the university parade grounds to the peel of hundreds of church bells throughout the city.
"This will express the Catholics' firm belief in life and their commitment to stand up for life," Manila Auxiliary Bishop Bernardino Cortez said.
The prayer rally carried the theme "Biyaya ng Buhay, Biyaya ng Pamilya (Blessing of Life, Blessing of the Family)," and was aimed at convincing lawmakers, especially those still undecided on what stance to take regarding the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, that it was unnecessary and would harm Philippine society in the long run.
Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of San Fernando said, "We pray that they change their minds. They are also trying to weigh matters. The first-termers, for example, they don't have much lawmaking experience and they are not really aware of the backgrounds and certain issues in Congress, like this [RH bill]. This is destroying the family, which is the foundation of all government and civilization."
Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said there was hope that legislators would not let the bill pass the House after the prayer rally.
"I hope they don't rush it. There's still a chance that they will have a change of heart," he said.
In his homily, Archbishop Lagdameo called for a "change in attitude" in society and stressed the Church's stand against contraceptives.
"We need a change of attitude. The attitude of 'what is mine is mine absolutely and I can do with it as I wish,' or the belief that 'my money entitles me to consume or control on my own terms as much as my money will buy' is not permissible anymore," he said.
"We in the Catholic Church...advocate only natural family planning methods as the only morally acceptable way of practicing responsible parenthood."
He said the Church does not forbid the advocacy of the increase or decrease of population provided that the religious beliefs of the couple on sexual and family morality are respected, and warned that the family as an institution is being threatened by the Reproductive Health bill.
"The subtle attacks on family and conjugal morality through legislations that promote artificial methods of birth control are couched in attractive but deceptive terminologies like Reproductive Health Care, population management, anti-discrimination of women and children, reproductive rights and patients' rights," he said.
The Archbishop said that poverty is not caused by overpopulation but by misuse of public funds.
"If all the money that goes to graft and corruption of government or is used for the wrong reasons were spent for our increasingly poor population, we will have indeed both population and true progress, a population that is the resource and object of development," he said.
"If only government would be really pro-poor, there would be less and less poor people," the prelate added.
Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales told married couples that if they conduct themselves with discipline and self-control, they would be "in possession of true values of life."
"If there is discipline in the marital bed, then there is discipline in the streets, there is discipline in schools, there is discipline in the government," Archbishop Rosales proclaimed.
He then compared the act of ending the life of an unborn child to King Herod's order to slaughter the infants of Bethlehem after Christ was born.
"Wherever this happens, in the clinics, health centers, or hospitals, ending the life of a child inside a mother's womb is a repeat of Herod's massacre of the innocents … and a Herod could be your neighbor," he said.
Pat Buckley of the European Life Network and a pro-life lobbyist at the UN and the Human Rights Council in Geneva, said of the Philippines Reproductive Health bill: "The act not only sets the scene for the introduction of abortion, it is also aimed at substantially reducing the population by various means including abortifacient birth control and sterilisation."
"While some of the language is about choice there is also coercion. Medical personnel will be forced either to comply or to refer people to someone who will. This is a direct attack on conscientious objection."
"There are also a range of penalties if various people do not comply, from dismissal to fines and imprisonment. There is also a provision that says any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act shall be subject to penalties. This is a grave attack on freedom of speech and is aimed at the pro-life community and the Church."