Home > Church and State Relations, Essays in Diplomacy, University life in Australia > Is there a diplomatic solution to the impasse on the Philippine RH Bill?

Is there a diplomatic solution to the impasse on the Philippine RH Bill?

Is there a diplomatic solution to the impasse between the State and Church in the ongoing debate on the RH Bill?

(First of 3 parts)

by Juan  “Jed” E.  Dayang, Jr.*

The Reproductive Health Bill or simply called RH Bill, is a proposed bill in the Philippine Congress aimed at ensuring universal access and information on birth control methods and maternal care.  The RH Bill is in line with the World Health Organisation’s vision for all peoples to have the highest possible level of sexual and reproductive health through provision of information and quality services.

Although there is a general consensus on the benefits of maternal and child care aspects of the bill, there is a contentious and divisive debate on the proposed widespread information, distribution, government funding and enforcement of family planning methods.  The Catholic Church, which represents the largest religious group in the Philippines, has been most critical of the government’s promotion of artificial birth control devices, which they view as contrary to faith and morals.

The controversial bill has polarized various sectors of society including experts, academics, religious institutions, and political leaders who are either support or are against the bill.  Based on surveys, seven out of ten Filipinos are in favour of the bill. President Benigno Aquino has expressed his full support to the bill compared to his predecessors. The impact of his outward support of the RH Bill alienated the Catholic Church. In the end, the President decided to have a dialogue with the Catholic Bishop Congress of the Philippines (CBCP) and has since been less vocal of his support of the Bill pending deliberation in Congress.  The position of the Catholic Church is that  use of artificial contraception is a major attack on authentic human values and on Filipino cultural values regarding human life and enjoins its members to disobey the RH bill if passed into law based on freedom of conscience.

In formulating the bill, it is imperative to know the stand of its most visible and outspoken critic, the Catholic Church in the Philippines.  In crafting any policy, it is important to know the positions of the critics because they can dilute the influence and reach of the policy. In a setting where parties can negotiate and concede some positions in favour of others, a compromise can be reached. We can, however, expect the Catholic Church not to waver in its positions.

We thus have a situation where: (1) the critic is not willing to negotiate; and (2) the critic is extremely influential. It will be foolish not to know its stand. The bill can ultimately be passed but it can run the risk of having no or limited followers, in which case the entire exercise in legislation is rendered ineffective.

To be continued


* The author’s main argument is the strengthening of the partnership between the government and the state. This article was presented in  the Forum on RH Bill organised by the Philippine Study Group (PSG) on 25 March 2011 at the Toad Hall, Australia National University.  The views expressed by author is entirely his own and does not reflect the Philippine government’s stance on the RH Bill.

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  1. March 31, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Girly Garcia commented on your link. (Facebook on 30 March 2011)
    Girly wrote: “Thank you for this, Jed. I think that the thrust should indeed be on informed choices, rather than legislating matters that are actually personal choices. While I welcome the healthy debate over the RH bill, I believe that this would be more effective if more could be done to improve the quality of education in the Philippines. It is only when we have an educated population that the people will be able to make informed choices.”

  2. March 31, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Malou Talosig Bartolome commented on your link. (Facebook, 30 March 2011)
    Malou wrote: “nice series on RH Bill. very perceptive and very level-headed… ganyan! ganyan dapat ang approach ng lahat, diba?”

    Reply:

    Thanks Malou! Coming from an experienced Foreign Affairs journalist, I take your comment seriously. I’ll include your comment in my blog so I could re-read it.

  3. November 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Hi! Nice post; Thanks you))

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