Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Raging against the RH Bill

THERE is out there a bitter battle whose roots are inside our souls. It is actually born of a war much bigger in magnitude, much deeper in reach and much more comprehensive in scope. And, by the way, this is no mountain out of a molehill I’m making. Paul the apostle to the Gentiles speaks part of what I’m saying as he warns the Ephesian Christians: “Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the evil one. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the world rulers of this darkness” (Eph 6:11-12). This is not quite a description of pro-RH Bill advocates. And I don’t intend to enter into a name-calling game with any party to the issue. All I wish to make is perspective. Paul’s words remind us of the real war. What we have in the Philippines is a battle within it.

The poet Dylan Thomas once wrote a poem that makes a counsel: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

That is what the Church in the Philippines seems to be doing. The Philippine Church at this day and age appears like a raging bull against the raring RH bill train. At least to me the observation holds. To the local media, though, caught in the habit of making a one-sided spin favoring the bill itself, the Church seems a raging bull, all right, but not against the dying of the light. Rather it rages against the light itself perceived as the rational, pro-poor, pro-chance, pro-development population plan that the bill embodies. The pro-RH Bill proponents are cast as enlightened, pragmatic, patriotic, compassionate and more numerous while the anti-RH Bill advocates to which the Church aligns herself are seen as antediluvian in thinking, narrow-minded, extremely malicious allies of Padre Damasos that are behind the ‘dark ages’ mindsets they represent. Very often pro-RH Bill critics argue not against the Church’s position but against the persons perceived as Church, namely, the hierarchy. The Church’s stance cannot be supported, so the reasoning goes, because certain priests and bishops are child molesters, sex offenders, closet fathers etc. You can’t argue against the message. Hit the messengers. You can’t destroy their argument. Destroy those you argue against. Or cast them as very few in number. Let democracy rule.

This reminds me of a news conference former US President Jimmy Carter once conducted in which he was asked if it was not fair that women who can afford abortions get them while women who cannot afford them are precluded. His reply: “Well, as you know, there are many things in this life that are not fair, that wealthy people can afford and poor people can’t. But I don’t believe that Federal Government should take action to try to make these opportunities exactly equal, particularly when there is a moral factor involved.”

To this Pnoy this strikes the heart of the matter. There is a moral factor involved in the RH Bill and the bill as well as its proponents scarcely take it as crucial, which it is. Ironically, its principal proponent, President Noynoy Aquino, speaks of doing the “right thing”, walking the “matuwid na landas” as his reason in advancing the bill. There is no ‘right thing’ or ‘matuwid na landas’ that leads people away from God and his ways. The slip by Secretary Hillary Clinton who explained “reproductive health” in terms of giving people access to “contraception and safe abortions” indicates not only where the RH Bill may be ultimately headed but also what it ignores.

It ignores the moral factor and when it does, what ‘landas’ (path) can be ‘matuwid’ (right)?