Sex and Religion

Finding Religion and Spirituality in Population, Gender, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health Advocacy in the Philippines.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reproductive health and religion

By Marit Stinus-Remonde
Reproductive health and religion

Research suggests pregnancy is healthy, The Manila Times reported in one of its series of articles on abortion. But maybe not if there are too many of them. A neighbor died giving birth to her 11th child. Her jobless husband became alone raising the children, some of whom were already engaged in petty crimes. A colleague’s 40-year-old mother died from cancer. Her body was worn out after so many pregnancies and childbirths, the doctor said.

Abortions, too, kill and wreck the heart. A mother died due to abortion complications leaving her six children and husband behind. The abortion was supposed to have removed an additional financial burden from the family.

A friend had her baby aborted because her married lover didn’t want a child out of wedlock. She has never stopped mourning the loss of the baby whom she would rather have raised alone than never have had.

It is so easy to condemn women who resort to abortions. Yet, in many cases, society didn’t present them the available alternatives to abortion. True, some couples don’t think of the possible consequences of engaging in unprotected sex. They will have to live with their decisions for the rest of their lives.

Sex and procreation shouldn’t be separated, the church tells us. Old people, including old women who can no longer have children, have sex drives. Is it immoral for them to have sex? Lovers invent numerous positions to find maximum pleasure, and not all involve the ejaculation of the sperm into the vagina. Are such kinds of sex immoral? Sex is as old as the human race, and the art of giving and receiving the highest sexual pleasure has occupied the minds of men for thousands of years. Men would live their fantasies with professional lovers while sex with the wife was for the purpose of producing offspring. Fortunately, more liberal views on sex and marriage have enabled men and women to find love, exciting sex and family in marriage.

Sex is more than the act of procreation. We are, after all, human beings, not animals. While the need for sex may be purely physical and the sex drive biologically determined, sex is also a means to give and receive warmth, love and affection.

On the other hand, a sexual attraction expressed in a manner unwelcome by its object becomes a violation of the latter’s dignity and integrity. A Catholic priest who plays with the straps of the bras of 20 female high-school students during confession and pinches their armpits is obviously guilty of such violation. The Archdiocese of Cebu has staunchly defended the priest and his acts, thus revealing its poor understanding of sex and sexuality, and how these cannot be separated from the personality, integrity and dignity of the individual.

God gave man the gift of freedom. “The freedom to choose what is right and wrong. However, when one’s freedom of choice is exercised erroneously, it may result in regret, disappointment and failure. Choosing abortion present countless dangers to women.” (“Abortion vs. Freedom of Choice, Manila Times, Oct. 23, 2007).

But we don’t choose what is right and wrong. God equipped us with mind, heart and soul aside from freedom. We have the capacity to discern, to evaluate opposing information, and make up our own mind. Regret, disappointment and failure are prices worth paying for the exercise of freedom. The problem with the Roman Catholic Church and its rigid doctrine on reproductive health is that it is imposing its ways on everybody, thus taking away people’s freedom to make choices based on our own discernment and beliefs. Abortion is a last, desperate resort. Other options, while being available, are scarce and remain unaffordable to a majority of the population, in no small degree thanks to the lobbying of the Catholic Church. Information about reproductive health is deliberately being withheld. Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, in a homily some years ago, put men who undergo vasectomy, in the same moral class as drug lords.

Sexuality is complex. It is probably the most personal, private and individual aspect of a person, yet also something that is visible and open for interaction, a space where biology, politics and emotions mix in a dynamic, ever-changing combination. Thus, to address the reproductive health needs and concerns of society and the individual, we must go beyond both religious doctrine and contraceptive supply

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Women Priests

By Domini M. Torrevillas / Tuesday, October 16, 2007 / Philippine Star

This month, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) celebrates a Decade of the Women Clergy (October 1997-October 2007). During these past ten years, it has ordained 630 women to the priesthood, whose functions are virtually the same as those of its male clergy. 

One of the activities for the decade celebration was the launching of a small booklet, titled Celebrating the Gift of the Woman Priesthood. Rev. Vicky Esguerra, priest and project director, writes in the foreword that the publication documents the plight of the women clergy “from the biblico-theological interpretation and hierarchical mandates to downright emotional overtones experienced by the women priests themselves.”

The book is a must reading, writes Reverend Esguerra. “Where the Church preaches liberation from human bondage of sin and social injustice, the IFI women priests have emerged triumphantly from their silent struggles, asserting their complementary roles with their male counterparts, through the unifying grace of the Holy Spirit.”

The Most Rev. Godofredo J. David, Obispo Maximo XI of IFI, writes of the women priests’ prevailing “over the unwelcoming attitude that greeted them a decade ago and how their ministry has enriched the IFI, making the Church more responsive with the ever-growing challenge of doing mission.”

Women’s ordination was approved by the church’s Supreme Council of Bishops on Oct. 1, 1996. The first to be officially ordained in February 1997, was the Rev. Rosalina V. Rabaria, She was first assigned to the IFI church in Maayon, Capiz, as a deacon. As related by Jocelyn D. Villasor, the church in Maayon had “fallen asleep” for 20 years, and was reactivated by Deacon Rabaria. The woman priest had “a big heart, elastic patience, (was) energetic, spiritually intelligent, and most of all in her humility was able to handle her ministry.”

Parishioners were skeptical when female priests were assigned to their dioceses. Rev. Lucy Dagandan was sent to the Parish of the Holy Child in Pines, Oroquieta City. But she was able to win the hearts of her parishioners, writes Maria Lucinita T. Antawil, a member of the church, with her compassionate nature. She helped take care of the parish finances, organize barangay chapels, improve and repair the parsonage, build a native-inspired multi-purpose hall, monitor church attendance, and revive novenas and prayer meetings.

Rev. Rhea Bitacura-Loquias, ordained in 2004, moved parishioners first skeptical about having a woman priest in the Diocese of Surigao, to become more prayerful and loving.

Rev. Vicky Esguerra writes that societal viewpoints on the issue of women’s ordination has, over two millennia of discord, varied “from silent indifference to eloquent outrage.” The issue had IFI bishops and lay members split hairs over why women should not be ordained. Passages in the Scriptures were used to oppose — if not to espouse — women deacons the right to become priests. Many IFI women members thought — and some still do — that women’s place is the home — and not behind the pulpit. The national women’s organization president, Marita Medina, writes that the church women leaders “have to do their share in educating the women to fully support the ordained ministers — female and male alike.”

Two male priests — the Very Rev. Eleuterio Revollido, CoP, and the Rev. Thaddeaus Barrameda, NPO — write about the issue in the booklet. Women Aglipayanos fought with IFI Founder Gregorio Aglipay in the battlefront during the war against the American colonizers in Ilocos Norte, in 1900, and when Aglipay accepted the leadership of the newly-proclaimed IFI in 1902, it was the women of Pandacan, Manila, who led the occupation of the parish church, and, almost on the same ground, a nationalist woman named Saturnina Bunda, led the faithful of the town of Malabon, Rizal, to take over the church building. Write the two priests: “These exploits of women in the early history of the IFI were the solid bases that proved the capability of women even in the bloody war of liberation or in a nonviolent act of emancipation.” But why is it so hard for them to be accepted as servants behind the altar, they ask?

The IFI started discussing the role of women in the ordained ministry with the encouragement of her Concordat partner, the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA). ECUSA’s presiding bishop, John Allin, asked the IFI Supreme Council of Bishops to study the matter. Fresh winds came with the acceptance of the first woman seminarian at St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary (SATS) in Quezon City in 1972, after which women seminarians were ordained to be deaconesses. In 1997, the first woman to be ordained was the Rev. Rosalina Rabaria of Aklan.

Ironically, women’s ordination split the ECUSA, giving rise to a separatist Episcopal Synod of America (ESA). This group, according to Revolido and Barrameda, emphasized the conservative theological idea that, “If we change the masculine imagery by which God has eternally revealed Himself to us by having a woman behind the altar, then we will feel compelled to reject the language of Lord, Father and Bridegroom. And then, we will no longer have Christianity, but a return to ancient paganism. It is certainly not just a matter of ‘women’s rights,’ but the stepping-stone to a new man-made (woman-made) religion.”

Not true, not true, write the two male priests: “Truly the decade celebration of the gift of the woman priesthood in the IFI should be seen in the complementary roles of the IFI women’s true commitment to the ministry that Christ has been giving . . . The obstacles are still formidable for the IFI women clergy but with more and more male clergy embracing them as co-equal partners in one ministry in Christ, it is a sign of maturity in the IFI.”

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Friday, October 12, 2007

A tale of two religions

Here's an interesting article on two religions. It does not really talk about differing views on sex and sexuality but rather a story of how one person breezed through a life of diverse religious practices and eventually coming out with a firm and solid grasp of truth and reality.

An article RGS trainees would appreciate. Read on...
A tale of two religions

By Pam Pastor
Last updated 10:13am (Mla time) 10/04/2007

MANILA, Philippines—I was 10 years old when R.E.M. released the song “Losing My Religion.”

And because this was before I discovered the magic of reading between the lines and the horrors of people not saying what they actually mean, I found the song amusing. Here was this guy whining about losing his religion while I had one too many. I remember thinking about giving him one of mine to make both our lives easier.

Yes, I grew up with two religions. My dad’s side of the family is Catholic while my maternal grandparents head a Born Again Christian church.

Confusing religious path

Here is the very brief summary of my confusing religious path—Catholic baptism as a baby, Born Again baptism officiated by my grandfather when I was around 8 years old, then my Catholic confirmation in sixth grade.

Growing up, some Sundays meant going to Mass, lining up for communion and afterwards visiting the toy store across the church. Some Sundays meant singing in the church band and listening to my grandfather talk about God and the wondrous things He’s done.

On Sundays, my Religion class required me to reflect on the priest’s homily but there were times when I had to rely on the newspaper to tell me what the Gospel was; during those weeks I went to the other church.

For eleven years—from prep to high school— I also went to an all-girls Catholic school. After that I attended a Catholic university.

The Bible I used in school was different from the post-it covered pink Bible I used at home and in my grandparents’ church. The things I was taught in school religion-wise were different from what I would hear from my grandparents. These became the things I had to learn and unlearn at the snap of a finger.

A double life

In many ways, it was a double life.

The elements of my Catholic life included the sign of the cross, the rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the saints, praying to Mother Mary.

My Born Again life involved speaking in tongues, getting slain, attending Bible study nights and long praise and worship sessions.

One set of cousins had to recite memorized passages from the Bible while the other set had to stop playing at around 8 in the evening every night to pray the rosary with their mom. Some days I was one of the kids quoting the Bible; other days I would sit on my aunt’s bed, my thumb and forefinger moving from one rosary bead to the next.

When I was in high school, I missed World Youth Day and the Pope’s visit because I was attending a faith convention in Singapore with my grandparents, my mom and my brother. When I went back to class, my classmates had a lot of stories to tell about the Pope mobile, about the people they met and how they stood in the heat for hours. But I had a story of my own. At the faith convention, a speaker from the US asked me to stand up in front of the packed auditorium because he had a prophecy about me. I stood there, a mere girl in a pink suit and watched as he declared my future as a woman of God.

Fervent beliefs

In reality, I should have grown up really confused. But my family’s two different sets of beliefs only helped strengthen my faith in the existence and power of God. My family taught me to believe. Not just that, their fervent belief in their own religions taught me the importance of being open-minded and respecting the principles other people live by.

And while they might not realize it, their beliefs are alike. The truth is, Born Again or Catholic, the people I love believe in the same things. The ideas are the same—love and respect God, love and respect the people around you, live a good life, forgive, do not hurt the people around you.

And while it might have been simpler to grow up with just one religion, with just one kind of Sunday, without having to switch from mode A to B in a split second, my double life taught me a lot about faith and respect.

I wouldn’t trade those lessons for anything in the world.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nalzaro: Dismissal of Fr. Ejares' Case

Opinion / Sexual Harrassment

Saturday, October 06, 2007 / Sunstar Cebu
Nalzaro: Dismissal of Fr. Ejares’ cases
By Bobby Nalzaro / Saksi

I AM a Roman Catholic, although I would be ashamed to claim I'm a devoted one. I seldom attend mass but I often go to church and pray alone. For me, faith is not measured by how often you go to church and attend mass. It is not about reading and memorizing the verses of the Bible. It’s about how you practice your faith and your personal relation with God.

When I was in first year college at the Ateneo de Zamboanga, I almost entered the seminary when my seminarian-classmates recruited me. But because I was already working in radio at that time, it did not happen.

Unsaon naungo naman ko sa radyo. I was a working student then.

Still, knowing my nature, I doubt if I could have stayed longer in the seminary and became a priest had I relented. With all the temptations outside, especially in matters of love and romance, I would have walked away. I was a lover boy at that time.

Joining the priesthood needs determination. It is a personal conviction and a vocation. As they say, many are called but only few are chosen. And being a Catholic, I don't want Church leaders to commit sins because we look up to them being our moral guardians.

But what is so special with priests? The Cebu City Prosecutor's Office, in its resolution on the Fr. Ben Ejares case, described priests as not ordinary human beings but as the “alter ego of Jesus Christ,” especially when they perform sacraments.

I don't know where the prosecutors anchored that argument, which they used in dismissing the case for acts of lasciviousness and sexual harassment filed by female students of the Abellana National School against the priest. It's not even in the Bible passage (John 20:220) quoted by the investigating prosecutor.

The students complained that Ejares, one of the priests who graced a Life in the Spirit seminar sponsored by the Oasis of Love last year, touched them and toyed with their bra straps during confession. He also uttered green jokes.

Prosecutors dismissed the cases, however, saying these did not fall under the crime of acts of lasciviousness and sexual harassment. They added that, based on evidence gathered, Ejares should have been charged with unjust vexation because there was no lewd intent on his part. But that case can no longer be filed because the period for doing so has already lapsed.

But why did the prosecutors not give weight to the testimony of the complainants? The students would not have complained had their rights not been violated. What Ejares did to them was an insult on their persons being minors.

And why didn’t the prosecutors take into consideration the students’ agonizing and shameful experience? Are they saying that the students lied and that Ejares’ version is more believable because he is the alter ego of Christ? And who said that there was no lewd intent? Is touching the sensitive parts of the girls’ bodies not lewd?

Adding insult to injury was the part of the resolution that said that what Ejares did was just part of a “routine” and a “habit” in the conduct of confession. Does this mean that in the conduct of a religious activity we will just allow ourselves to be exploited by church authorities because they are Christ’s alter ego?

It was not Jesus’ hands that touched the students’ bodies but the hands of Satan. The prosecutors who cleared Ejares have no concern for women and minors. What if the victims were their daughters? Unsa kahay ilang buhaton no?

Pinoys say kin, health, religion spell happiness

Pinoys say kin, health, religion spell happiness
10/09/2007 09:53 AM

For Filipinos, family, health and religion are the three (3) most valuable sources of happiness. Sex, on the other hand, ranked low as a source of happiness, but was voted as a significant factor in the list of things giving Filipinos the most satisfaction.

A recent study conducted by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) showed that Filipinos regard the family as the most important source of happiness, giving it a score of 9.45 in a scale of 10.

Health was identified as the second most important source of happiness, with a score of 8.95, and religion placed third at 8.59.

"The most important sources of happiness are family, health, and religion, in that order. Other important sources of happiness include friends, financial security, education, work and love life... Noteworthy is the fact that family is clearly the number one source," NSCB said in its study "Measuring Progress of Philippine Society: Gross National Product or Gross National Happiness."

The study was conducted by the NSCB to find out which things or factors are the most important sources of happiness for Filipinos, as well as the level of happiness Filipinos actually derive from them.

In its study, NSCB showed that Filipinos consider their sex lives – ranking only 14th – as among the least important sources of happiness in their lives, along with community and volunteer work (15th), cultural activities (16th), and politics (17th).

But while Filipinos give low priority to sex as a source of happiness, the study revealed that 72.6 percent of those polled enjoy their sex lives, and ranked sex as one of the major factors giving them the highest level of happiness.

"Quite surprising is that sex is not an important source of happiness! In fact, it is among the five least important! Could it be that the respondents were just too shy to reveal their true feelings about sex? Or time to shift stories away from the birds and the bees?" the NSCB said.

"Sex life is not considered important, but, boy, 72.6 percent of enjoyment of sex is not bad, if work could only give 71 percent, leisure and sports, 70. 0 percent, financial security, 68.8 percent and cultural activities, 66.6 percent! And yes, climate change could be an inconvenient truth, but the respondents will take sex anytime over the environment," it added.

The study was based on a non-random poll of 167 respondents. The NSCB conducted two pilot tests of the questionnaires which list 15 possible sources of happiness.

The study ranked the following factors: family, friends, religion, love life, health, education, sex life, work, leisure and sports, community and volunteer work, technological know-how, income and financial security, cultural activities, environment, economy, government, and politics. - GMANews.TV

CBCP hits the P1-B Condom Fund

By Evelyn Macairan / Monday, October 8, 2007 / Philippine Star

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has called on legislators to spend on projects that would alleviate poverty and provide free education to poor children, instead of spending P1 billion for the purchase of contraceptives, CBCP president and Jaro, Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said in a statement Saturday.

“We hope it is not true that Congress plans to appropriate P1 billion for the purchase of condoms, birth control pills and other ‘reproductive health’ products to control population growth. It if is true, we categorically object to it and instead strongly recommend that the one billion pesos be directly appropriated for hunger and poverty alleviation projects, as well as for free education of extremely poor children.”

He said using abortifacent and contraceptive pills are against nature and God’s teachings. The Church teaches that using these items is wrong because they destroy the fruitfulness of human reproductive capacities.

For the CBCP, the natural family planning method is the only morally acceptable way to practice responsible parenthood.

The CBCP also debunked the census data released by the United Nations, which reported that the population growth rate in the country is 2.36 percent. Based on the National Statistics Office (NSO), the rate has only been pegged at 1.99 percent.

Lagadameo added, “We exhort our clergy to proactively preach the doctrine of the Church on principled population control. We strongly encourage and support our legislators in Congress and the Senate who promote the moral teachings on life, family and population

Bishop thankful for USAID’s exit from contraception program

Bishop thankful for USAID’s exit from contraception program
10/10/2007 12:30 AM

San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto on Tuesday said he was thankful that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has decided to stop giving free contraceptives to the Philippines.

“Praise the Lord! ... Because by promoting contraception you do not eliminate poverty by weakening and killing the poor," Aniceto, who chairs the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said in a statement on the CBCP Web site, Tuesday night.

Aniceto said the use of contraceptives “is immoral," and a part of a massive depopulation agenda of some political leaders.

He said contraception won’t solve the country’s economic woes unless the government comes out with “real serious economic management and proper economic planning of our country."

The USAID said it had already stopped giving free condoms since 2004. The agency plans to cut the rest of its donation of other birth control products next year.

USAID said its phaseout is in line with the government’s promotion of natural family planning.

Earlier, the CBCP denounced a plan at the House of Representatives to purchase P1 billion worth condoms, pills and other “reproductive health products" to control population growth.

The Church called on legislators to instead spend the huge amount on projects that would alleviate poverty and provide free education to poor children. - GMANews.TV

More related articles in the PhilMADE blog.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Prelate: Sex education better taught in classroom than on TV

10/04/2007 12:07 AM /

Sex education belongs more to the classrooms than on television, a senior Catholic archbishop reminded teachers Wednesday night.

Nueva Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Legazpi, OP issued the reminder as he admitted some teachers fail to implement this policy properly.

“The problem is when sex education becomes too visual and may end with unintended results," Legazpi said in an interview on Church-run Radio Veritas.

The excerpts of interview were posted on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Web site (

“It would be easier if sex education is discussed in a classroom atmosphere rather than on television, which has a wide audience from various age groups," Legazpi said.

Even then, he said sex education should always be in the context of family education.

In underscoring the need for sex education in the classroom instead of on television, Legazpi said television is too far-reaching a medium and could do more harm than good.

“You wouldn’t exactly know who’s watching or listening and the possibility exists it would do more harm than good," he said.

On the other hand, he said the Church continues to do its share through the “Pre-Cana" conferences it hosts for people preparing to get married. - GMANews.TV

Friday, October 05, 2007

Rescuing Morality

Opinion / Dr. A.G. Romualdez / Health News and Views

Rescuing Morality
Malaya / 2 October

Last Saturday, a group of women’s rights advocates launched a publication entitled "Imposing Misery: The Impact of Manila’s Contraceptive Ban on Women and Families". Linangan ng Kababaihan (Likhaan) is based in Quezon City and is a non-governmental organization devoted to the promotion of women’s reproductive rights.

The Reproductive Health, Rights and Ethics Center for Studies and Training (ReproCen) is a multidisciplinary, multi-professional academic entity based in the UP College of Medicine devoted to the study of social, ethical and legal aspects of gender and reproductive health issues. The Center for Reproductive Rights based in New York City collaborated with their two Philippine counterparts to produce a remarkable document that hopefully will convince people that the atrocities committed by the Manila city administration from 1998 to 2007 should never again be repeated.

The publication confirms the fact that whenever extremist religious beliefs are allowed to dominate public policy, the burden of suffering falls mainly on the poor who are in fact already disadvantaged in so many other ways. For nine years, the city government actually imposed a ban on all methods of "artificial contraception" throughout the city but particularly in the slums whose inhabitants were completely dependent on government for family planning information and supplies.

By issuing Executive Order Number 003, the then mayor of Manila, Jose L. Atienza, coerced city health officials and frontline workers into denying their poor constituents any access to effective family planning methods. While pretending to recognize that "natural family planning" (a method requiring abstinence from sex during a woman’s fertile period) was a religiously acceptable practice for the purpose of spacing births and limiting family size, the city government did not have a systematic program to promote even this method – one which is extremely difficult to implement in urban poor communities whose residents are less educated than members of higher income groups.

But the city government at that time was not satisfied with merely withholding information and services on family planning; it actively promoted antiquated and discredited notions that accentuated the misery of poor city dwellers. During visits to these poor neighborhoods, it is reported that the mayor distributed monetary rewards to mothers who had produced the most number of children, promoting the absurd idea that big populations translate into more workers to further enhance the economy.

What is worse is that non-governmental organizations that attempted to fill in the void left by City Hall’s abandonment of family planning were in fact driven out of the city by a number of coercive means including harassment and intimidation. Even the national government was kept out of the picture by preventing any contact between the Department of Health and the city’s health units. Attempts by the DOH family planning program to share what was left of donated contraceptive supplies were rejected by cowed city health workers who were not even allowed to cooperate in surveys and other demographic exercises conducted by national agencies.

The medieval thinking on which the mayor’s executive order was based is illustrated by the fourth operative paragraph of the issuance:

"That the various activities geared on moral rejuvenation shall be encouraged to equip its people against amoral influences brought about by the excesses of modernization."

"Imposing Misery" is actually an indictment of the lack of a firm national reproductive health policy that created an environment allowing one man to impose his narrow view of morality on the country’s largest and still most important city.

The different tales of woe told by the poor women in the document revolve around a recurring theme where women, deprived of access to services and information about family planning, continued to get pregnant, despite being informed of the dangers of multiple unwanted pregnancies. Allowing such a situation is not just amoral, it is downright immoral.

"Imposing Misery" illustrates the urgent need not just for population advocates but for all those who profess concern for the poor to rescue morality from the hands of narrow-minded, unthinking and heartless religious fundamentalists who believe that non-procreative sex is the gravest of sins that should be prevented at the cost of human suffering and even death. Such people are convinced that lying, cheating and stealing is justified provided it is done in the name of their distorted moral sense.

The Appropriations Act of 2007 contains an allocation of P180 million for "artificial family planning supplies." Of this amount, P30 million has been released for the operation of the Department of Health’s family planning office. The balance of 150 million is to be released through DOH to local governments in need of family planning supplies based on conditions and guidelines approved by Malacañang. Optimists among population management advocates think that this will happen sometime soon. There are pessimists, however, who believe that the releases will be delayed past the December 20 deadline for the obligation of budget allocations so that they can actually be spent for intended purposes. There are now 79 days left.

Bantay RH in Manila

Two (2) opposing news on Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza's acts re: RH issues during his term. Read on....

Family-planning advocates plan to sue Lito Atienza
Sunday Times / 30 September

FAMILY planning advocates in the Philippines said Saturday they are readying a legal suit against a member of President Gloria Arroyo’s cabinet for his opposition to artificial contraception.

The groups said they will sue Environment Secretary Lito Atienza for removing all contra­cep­tives from city clinics when he was mayor of Manila, the capital city.

The suit aims to “hold [Atienza] liable for acts which caused injury to wo­men,” said Elizabeth Panga­langan, executive director of the Reproductive Health, Rights and Ethics Centre, a social research and study group attached to the University of the Philippines.

Her group and other organizations presented testimony on how Atienza, three-time mayor of Manila and a devout Catholic, introduced a policy in 2000 banning city government clinics from issuing contraceptives or informing people how to use or obtain them.

Pangalangan said the groups were looking at either administrative charges or a civil suit, but said the details would be revealed later.

Atienza finished his third term as Manila mayor on June 30, but was later appointed Environment Secretary by Arroyo, also a devout Catholic.

The Catholic Church, do­minant in the Philippines, frowns on artificial birth control.

Pangalangan said they had wanted to file a suit for years, but had difficulty finding women to testify against Atienza due to fear of his position.

Pro-life groups bat for Atienza on birth control issue

Monday, October 1, 2007 / Philippine Star

Pro-life Philippines founder and chairwoman Sister Pilar Versoza expressed her support for former Manila mayor Lito Atienza after family planning advocates threatened to sue him for banning artificial contraception in the city.

“Pro-life Philippines, like the Church, is not against family planning. However we advocate the natural way of planning which are already scientifically proven to be accurate and safe,” Versoza said, adding that Atienza, a devout Catholic “shares the same view.”

Family planning advocates said Saturday that they are planning to file a tort case against Atienza to hold him liable for an executive order he issued that allegedly “caused injury to women.”

The order reportedly deprived many Manila women the chance to avail of artificial family planning methods. The family planning advocates said Atienza’s order violates the Philippine government’s obligations under national and international law, as well as rights of Manila residents – particularly the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their personal religious convictions.

Lawyer Jo Imbong, executive secretary for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines legal office, said Atienza’s constituents “should actually be thankful to (him) for teaching them authentic health program.”

In a statement, the pro-life groups cited studies showing that although artificial contraceptives are legal, they may also cause adverse effects in women.

“In some cases, birth control pills were proven to be a contributing factor in breast cancer, especially if used for a prolonged period. Progestin, the second artificial hormone in birth control pills, can have serious cardiovascular effects,” they said.

The pro-life groups added that intrauterine devices are suspected to cause ovarian cysts and vaginal infections.

“Lito Atienza was being a man of God when he prevented access to contraceptives in Manila. In my opinion, (he) is just protecting the health of the women and is doing a preventive act in the commitment of other criminal acts like concubinage and adultery,” former Bulacan congressman Willie Villarama said.

Villarama is a member of the board of trustees for the Buhay party-list group.

Atienza, after serving for nine years as Manila mayor, stepped down earlier this year. He was appointed environment and natural resources secretary by President Arroyo last August.

The pro-life groups noted that Atienza formed and personally runs an orphanage called “Home for the Angels,” which became a temporary home for over 200 unwanted babies.