Palace: Aquino firm on birth control stand
By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:28:00 10/01/2010
MANILA, Philippines – Stating President Benigno Aquino III is not a leader exclusively of Roman Catholics, Malacañang said Friday he would remain “resolute” in his position allowing the propagation of artificial birth control methods despite opposition from the country’s biggest religious denomination.
“He will be resolute in his stand—the position he took in the campaign is the same position that he will be taking now,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda a day after Aquino was reminded of the possibility of excommunication for Catholics allowing abortion.
The Palace acknowledged that the Catholic Church could not be kept out of the debate on the reproductive health bill owing to “certain moral dimensions” of the measure.
But Lacierda pointed out: “The President is the president, not only of Roman Catholics, but also of other faiths, so he has to be above faith(s).”
“Responsible parenthood is something which is, I believe, favorable to all faiths,” he added. “No one will dispute that you would rather have a family of two for whom they could provide a good quality of life rather than have a family of six for whom you can’t provide a better tomorrow.”
But while Aquino has said he would support poor couples preferring the use of contraceptives, Lacierda said it did not necessarily mean that he was throwing his support behind the RH bill now filed in the Senate and House of Representatives. He said the President has yet to receive and read a copy of any of the bills.
Asked if such measures were a priority, Lacierda said Aquino’s primary concern at present was the Incident Investigation and Review Committee report on the Aug. 23 hostage crisis.
“Once that is settled, we will ask the President on his other priorities,” he said.
Amid the disparate positions, Malacañang sought common ground with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines whose president, Bishop Nereo Odchimar, said he was open to a dialogue with Aquino.
“We don’t know how this will be resolved, but what we’re saying is we are open to a dialogue,” Lacierda said. “We understand from the statements of Bishop Odchimar that he’d rather not be confrontational but also be open to a dialogue.”
He added: “That is a good beginning, a good start. Let’s see it from there, how we can come up with a fruitful dialogue.”
Lacierda said Aquino had a standing invitation for such an exchange with the CBCP. The Palace said earlier that the President was open to such a dialogue.
If the dialogue takes place, Lacierda said, the Palace would explain that the government program has “no bias toward any particular (birth control) method.”
“We are presenting everything. The Catholic Church believes in natural planning. We are presenting that as well,” he said.
“There have been a lot of misconception(s) going around so we want to clear the air with the bishops. We want them to know what the true position is of the President.”
A centerpiece component of the RH measure is the free distribution by the government of contraceptives to poor couples who would ask for them. Critics argue that the government has no business using taxpayers’ money for such a program.
Lacierda said such contraceptives were already being made available to the poor in local health centers. He said the government has also allotted a portion of the proposed P1.645-trillion national budget for next year.
“The position is this—we will be informing you of the various menu of family planning methods,” he said.
“You will be coming up with an informed decision. If you, for instance, prefer natural family planning method, there will be (less) expenses. But if you prefer artificial family planning method and you don’t have the means to purchase those contraceptives, the state will provide you.”