Home > Church and State Relations, Essays in Diplomacy > What can government do to navigate the complexities of the RH Bill?

What can government do to navigate the complexities of the RH Bill?

What can government do to navigate the  complexities of the RH Bill?

(Part 2 of 3)

by Juan  “Jed” E.  Dayang, Jr.*

So what can government do to navigate the complexities of the RH Bill ? How does the government promote its objectives of population control and health care without dividing its citizens who are predominantly Catholics?

Having worked for the government for more than a decade, I know the importance of knowing your stakeholders. The government must be knowledgeable of the situation on the ground and must be sensitive to its citizens’ culture and religious beliefs. It is not simple as enforcing the principle of “separation of Church and State” because a citizen’s action and behavior cannot be removed from his or her cultural and religious belief system.

The government may have well-written laws passed by Congress but may be opposed by the citizens. In such case, the problem will remain and objectives unfulfilled. It may even open unintended costs for the government. In order to garner mass support from the citizens, the government must its people aware of the bill and  constantly engaged them in  dialogue.  Listening and reviewing its policies are investments to ensure that policies are run-smoothly.   It also has to justify its use of public funds in promoting birth control methods which may be viewed as private goods.

The politics of the RH Bill is that the government cannot ignore the Catholic Church because of its influential presence in the Philippines.[1] The Catholic Church has for its mandate the formation of faith and morals of its members. In the Philippines, it remains to be a key player in influencing public opinion in matters of faith and morals.

I believe that it is imperative upon the government to find a common thread and an agreeable compromise with its objectives and the position of its citizens, including the Church.  It is not just a matter of relying on surveys, which as we know are only opinion-based.  The RH bill to be successful must be inclusive  rather than be in  a position of “take it or leave it”.  It has to be able to adjust to the views of the its citizens, majority of them are Catholics.  For instance, wording in the preamble could state that the government will provide all forms of comprehensive information, including and not limited to artificial contraception but also natural family planning methods which are in keeping with religious beliefs.[2]

[A friend of mine whose mother is a midwife narrated that as a child, he read brochures from the local health center regarding natural contraception. He remembers reading about the fertility cycles and the number of days before and after menstruation that a couple needs to consider before having sex. The partnership then between government and the church should be strengthened].

There is a need for government to be positive and open to dialogue with stakeholders . It must not alienate the Church by making policies inclusive.  Instead of being adversarial, it could maintain close partnership with the Church and its members. There are areas which the government and the Church can cooperate closely such as in education, values formation, responsible parenthood, and teaching of human sexuality to the youth. The top ten universities and Colleges  in the Philippines, apart from the University of the Philippines are catholic institutions. The public school system, which are lacking in resources, are relatively inferior to private schools. The Catholic institutions are ubiquitous in Philippine society.

to be continued

*the author’s view are entirely his own and does not reflect the views of the government nor the church.

[1] It was noted during the Forum by Prof. Paul Hutchcroft of the Australian National University that the issue is no longer debated in many countries and it is not enough to say that the division is caused by the Catholic Church. I , however think that in the Philippines, unlike other countries where the religion is largely Catholic, the church remains to be an influential institution and its views must not be ignored to ensure the successful implementation of the RH Bill.

[2] The preamble could also state the state policy against abortion.

  1. Amar
    March 28, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I think there is chicken and egg problem between population and jobs, in other terms prosperity. Views presented here appear to me as biased towards action from government, which would may result mostly ineffective in the short run (if RH bill is opposed).
    So what if we just let the government execute its long term economic strategy. On the other side, as churches dominate more than a significant, what are the factors by which they could strongly influence population. This influence may not be targeted towards child births but rather focus on education and overall developement. I have a stong viewpoint that if churches work in collaboration with government would create stronger effects than the other way around.

    Thank you for the blog post!

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