Hundreds of thousands of Filipino Catholics rallied today in a show of force against a proposed reproductive health law.
The rally carried the theme “Filipinos! Unite Under God for Life” and coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation, which the activists have declared as the Day of Unborn Children.
Pro-Life Philippines said Pope Benedict VI has sent a “special message” which reportedly includes a “special indulgence” for all who will attend to Filipinos that would be read during the prayer rally.
At the House of Representatives, leading proponents of the controversial reproductive health (RH) measure withdrew several provisions of the bill, including a section “encouraging” limiting families to two children, hours before the start of the protest.
In a letter to priests, religious and laity of the archdiocese, Cardinal Rosales said the rally was for all those who value family and life values.
He urged the clergy and all Catholics to join the event to show “that our country will never allow the repressive bill to be passed.”
Similar activities were also held in other major cities.
But leftist lawmaker Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna (Nation First) said the “silent majority of Catholics” are in favour of the passage of the proposed measure in Congress to make individuals responsible for planning their families.
“As a practising Catholic, I believe the majority of us are in favor of the RH bill, having understood the salient provisions of the bill that would protect the reproductive health of women,” Neri said.
He said most legislators are in favor of the passage of the proposed measure, adding he is confident the “silent majority” of Filipinos are also for it.
In Cagayan de Oro in the southern Philippines, civil society and religious groups called for an “open and fair discussion” on reproductive health.
President Benigno Aquino, who was invited by the bishops to attend the gathering in Manila, said the government “cannot close our eyes to the reality of our huge population, that is why the state should address it along with other issues like maternal and child health.”
He said the centerpiece of the government’s policy is the promotion of responsible parenthood, which includes raising the awareness of those of reproductive age about the consequences, good or bad, of bearing children.
He clarified that his administration is against abortion.