Philippine Government Threatens Catholics

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

The Philippine government has announced that any Catholic who refuses to pay their taxes in support of a radical reproductive health bill being debatedin Congress will be charged for civil disobedience.

UCA is reporting that the comments were made after leaders of the Filipino Catholic Church broke off dialogue with the government over the contentious bill, which will attempt to control population growth through widespread distribution of contraceptives and compulsory sex education in schools. The bill also contains a provision to jail critics who provide undefined “inaccurate” opposition to it.

Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. of Kalookan said that while the Church is not advocating civil disobedience “for now,” Catholics are obliged not to follow any law that violates their faith.

“Eventually if the measure becomes law, Catholics will not obey it. If the state orders something contrary to your faith, you are obliged not to follow it,” said Bishop Iñiguez, who serves as head the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) public affairs commission.

Even though the government claims they still want to find some common ground with the Church, an official warned those opposed to the bill that there would be a price to pay for civil disobedience.

“If they don’t want to pay their taxes, they better talk to [Internal Revenue] Commissioner [Kim] Henares,” said Abigail Valte, spokesman of President Benigno Aquino at a press briefing.

Other Church officials are calling for an “all-out war” against the measure after the bishops withdrew from talks with government on Tuesday.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa said the talks were “doomed to fail” because Aquino has long been a supporter of the bill.

“It’s normal that we are going to have a total war now against the RH bill… I said it before that the dialogue is useless… I know the president was not really open for a dialogue because of his fixed decision to push the RH bill,” said Archbishop Arguelles.

Human Life International head Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carambula observed on May 12 that while “President Aquino has stated that he wants to find common ground with Catholics on the anti-life Reproductive Health Bill, Catholics cannot compromise on God’s teachings on the protection of human life. . . . We are defending non-negotiable values.” 

Msgr. Barreiro added that the organization applauds the Filipino bishops “for their courageous statement of truth. Any independent observer can see the huge gap between the truth and the untenable position of the bill’s supporters.”

“That is the ‘common ground’ upon which President Aquino should meet opponents of this bill,” he added. “Without that, there can be no agreement. Let us hope that the Filipino government does not try to ram this bill through congress in a dictatorial fashion.”

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