09/12/2008, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Filipino president renews commitment in favor of life

by Santosh Digal
Arroyo, a Catholic and the mother of three, restates her opposition to the reproductive health bill, supporting the firm stance expressed by the country's episcopal conference. The bishops have launched a campaign to gather signatures against the "pro-abortion" law.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Filipino president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has reiterated her support for the Church and its promotion of natural family planning methods, as she stated last July in her address to the nation. Arroyo - a practicing Catholic and the mother of three - is not giving in to the pressure from one of the factions in parliament, and is confirming her rejection of the reproductive health bill, supporting the stance of the Filipino bishops' conference, which recently began to collect signatures to block approval of the proposed law.

Yesterday, health minister Francisco T. Duque III confirmed that the executive branch intends to promote natural family planning methods - including at the economic level - and at the same time says that "we have not laid out a supplemental budget for the newly proposed reproductive health program", and that it will be up to congress to provide a supplemental budget if the bill is passed.

The health department has begun a series of programs on behalf of infant health, the prevention of tumors in women, childhood development, and natural family planning methods, plus norms against violence on women and minors, and a program for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. The provisions have not been enough to quiet the controversy over the reproductive health bill, which the bishops condemn for legalizing abortion, spreading the use of contraceptives (from condoms to the pill to intrauterine devices), promoting artificial birth control and a "distorted view" of sexual education. The promoters of the reproductive health bill continue to work in parliament to find new support and pass the bill into law, while the Church has begun to collect signatures all over the country to call for its rejection.

Fr Melvin Castro of the episcopal commission for family and life notes that the awareness-raising campaign was begun in July, but it is only in the past week that it has been extended to the whole country. More than "100,000 signatures" have been gathered in a few days, but the goal is to collect at least 2 million, and then present the signatures to the parliament. The campaign was begun on the initiative of Paciano Aniceto, archbishop of San Fernando and head of the episcopal commission for family and life, who emphasizes that it is necessary to combat "the culture of death and of economic interests: at the basis of the proposed law is a logic driven only by business and commerce".

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