by Tsard Pazcoguin, Associate Professor, UST. Posting here with permission.
Our present situation is PERFECTLY RESPECTFUL towards those who favor the use of contraception. Any person may buy contraceptives in the Philippines freely, without the fear of being sanctioned or penalized whatsoever. Thus, the existing laws of our land respect the freedom of conscience of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” people alike. And even if am a staunch pro-lifer, I’d say this present situation is quite fair enough.
Now, once the RH BILL gets approved, the balance is upset. OK, the Bill says MANY GOOD THINGS, I concede to that. Then why do I oppose it? Simple: because NOT ALL IT SAYS ARE GOOD. Should the RH Bill get approved, I will be COMPELLED by law to do things or support government projects that go against my conscience. For instance:
1. Section 10 of the bill says that “Hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other allied reproductive health products and supplies shall be considered under the category of essential medicines and supplies which shall form part of the National Drug Formulary and the same shall be included in the regular purchase of essential medicines and supplies of all national and lord hospitals and other government health units.” Furthermore, Section 11 says “Each Congressional District shall be provided with a van to be known as the Mobile Health Care Service (MHOS) to deliver health care goods and services to its constituents, more particularly to the poor and needy, as well as disseminate knowledge and information on reproductive health: Provided, That reproductive health education shall be conducted by competent and adequately trained persons preferably reproductive health care providers: Provided, further, That the full range of family planning methods, both natural and modern, shall be promoted. The acquisition, operation and maintenance of the MRCS shall be funded from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of each Congressional District.”
Now, where will they get the money to pay for these medicines? From taxpayers like you and me. My HARD-EARNED MONEY which I WILLINGLY SHARE for the COMMON GOOD (and I believe “COMMON” includes me and all pro-life advocates) shall now be used to purchase drugs which I consider as WRONG. My only point is that the purchase of these drugs should be the sole burden of those who want them. Sure, I’d want my money to be used for buying anti-tetanus and anti-rabies for the indigent patients in San Lazaro Hospital, for building roads and bridges, for keeping basic services accessible…these are things everyone agrees on. But the issue of contraception is a debate at hand, and one could hardly equate it now with “common good” – the cause for which we pay our taxes.
2. Section 17 of the bill which discusses the Responsibilities of Employers says “All Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) shall provide for the free delivery by the employer of reasonable quantity of reproductive health care services, supplies and devices to all workers, more particularly women workers. In establishments or enterprises where there are no CBAs or where the employees are unorganized, the employer shall have the same obligation.”
What happens now to a good Catholic pro-life employer? He or she will now be COMPELLED BY LAW to go against his/her conscience by including contraceptives in the economic package of workers. This is just not right. Why is there a need to specify “reasonable quantity of reproductive health care services, supplies and devices”, when a general health care package would suffice to include these “services, supplies, and devices” for THOSE WHO WANT THEM? Let me try to illustrate my point. As an employee of the University of Santo Tomas, I receive some amount of medical allowance over and above my salary; and UST does not interfere on how I would want to spend it. (Meaning to say, there’s no trouble if I spend my medical allowance on contraceptives and it’s no burden to UST anymore since it’s my personal choice, right?) However, if the RH Bill gets approved, UST, even as she is The Catholic University of the Philippines, will be compelled to contradict her own teachings by seeing to it that women employees get the specified “reproductive health care services, supplies, and devices”. PLAIN AND SIMPLE COERCION. You call this democracy?
3. The section on Prohibited Acts (section 21) penalizes a person who “maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act.”
My concern is on how “malicious disinformation” is determined. As it appears now, “malicious disinformation” simply means “opposition”. Advocates of this bill are strongly pitted against the Catholic Church, pointing at her as the principal culprit of an apparent malicious disinformation concerning the RH Bill. Anything now that the Church says about the RH Bill is easily labeled by RH Bill supporters as “disinformation”. On the other side of the coin, this is likewise the accusation of the Catholic Church against the RH Bill advocates. Catholic Authorities are strongly convinced that the RH Bill contains malicious disinformation. Now there is a conflict for both sides claim to have the correct information, and both accuse each other of malicious disinformation. The implementation of the RH Bill terminates the conflict arbitrarily by simply favoring one side and outlawing opposition to it. It automatically turns sincere Catholics, who cannot in good conscience remain silent about the ills of this bill, into CRIMINALS.
I am neither an expert in law nor in medical science. But I am a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines who happens to be a Catholic, and who is trying his best to be a good son of his Church. The views I expressed here may not be shared by other Catholics, but just the same, I think the essence of democracy is our free expression, even of our opposition, especially to laws which we think are unjust.
I AM CATHOLIC. I AM THOMASIAN.I AM PRO-LIFE.