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Youth alliance rejects RH bill, backs pro-life solons
MANILA, May 10, 2012—An alliance of youth organizations declared its all-out support for pro-life lawmakers, citing specifically the Nine Young Legislators (9YL), in a press conference in which representatives of various youth groups presented a manifesto proclaiming their position against the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.
“We would like to support the Nine Young Legislators who are basically the vanguards and who would [go against] the RH bill on behalf of the youth,” said Eilleen Esteban, president of Youth Pinoy, when asked if the manifesto titled Our Voice, Our Vote was meant to send a message to those running in the 2013 elections.
“Pwede po nating sabihin na isa na ito sa mga pagkilos na gagawin namin para sa darating na eleksyon. Ang ginagawa po namin ngayon na pagsasama-sama, o [ang pagbubuo ng] coalition, is ourselves forming a movement along with different Catholic and non-Catholic youth organizations whom we are inviting to join us with the same cause as we have to support our legislators who will be opposing the RH bill, and if needed, we will be there for them in 2013,” Esteban said.
“This panel speaks for itself. The fact that the panelists can speak on behalf of numbers could mean that there is a substantial support for pro-life legislators in 2013,” added Kiboy Tabada of UP for Life, a system-wide alliance of students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University of the Philippines.
The group 9YL, the members of which decided to band together late last year to express the need for government to allocate the billions proposed for the RH bill’s implementation to more concrete solutions that will address the real needs of the people, is composed of Representatives Dakila Cua, Rachel Del Mar, Lucy Torres-Gomez, Fatima Aliah Dimaporo, Karlo Nograles, Mariano Michael Velarde, Irwin Tieng, Gabriel Quisumbing, and Lord Allan Velasco.
Besides Esteban and Tabada, the other youth leaders who delivered statements proclaiming their respective groups’ rejection of the RH bill were Lea Dasigan of the Federation of National Youth Organizations (FNYO), Peter Pardo of the National Capital Region Youth Ministry, Raymond Ibarrientos of CFC-Singles for Christ and Youth for Christ, and Allen Paolo Guballa of the Columbian Squires.
“We are for responsible parenthood and we, too, desire to see every Filipino family free from the burdens of poverty. However, spending for a measure to fiddle with demographics is a gross misallocation of scarce resources,” the manifesto stated.
“Addressing needs for quality education and opportunities for employment hits poverty at its core. Massive government spending for contraception and mandatory sex education in all schools enlivens the risk of aggravating the decline of our demographics, of eroding our values, and of reshaping our society after the designs of foreign intervention. There is no warrant against this. This is a gamble of our future.
“We are for population management and development and we, too, dream of progress. However, genuine progress can never be achieved until our government invests genuinely in our people. Our population is an asset. Government must treat it as an asset,” the manifesto, titled Our Voice, Our Vote, stated.
“Rural development, entrepreneurship, improved standards of education, expansion of opportunities for employment, intensified thrusts for scientific research and development, cultivation of our arts and culture—these constitute genuine investments in our people. This is the way to secure our future.”
“The youth, in defense of our welfare, can and will invest our support in legislators who know how to genuinely invest in us.
“In solidarity, we declare our opposition to the RH Bill. This is our voice. This is our vote,” it concluded.
More representative of the youth
Asked what made the coalition credible as a voice representative of the youth’s real sentiments when it expressed ideas contrary to the direction being taken by the National Youth Commission (NYC), Esteban pointed out that the government office was simply doing its job of carrying out the government’s directives.
“The National Youth Commission, opisina lang ho ‘yan ng gobyerno, and what we all know is [the government supports the] RH bill, kaya po [‘yang bill ay] nandoon at hindi naibabasura,” she said.
“We are here on our own volition,” Esteban added. “Though we have the blessing of the CBCP but we have come here representing our organizations, wala po kaming pera, wala po kaming funding mula sa malalaking institusyon. At naniniwala po kami na kaya kami nandito ay malaki ang stake ng future namin dito sa bill na ito, na gusto naming maibasura.
“Some people would speak for the RH bill perhaps because there’s so much money fueling their moves. But our coming here is out of our own volition…wala pong nag-pwersa sa amin,” Tabada said. “In fact, you might think that CBCP po ang nagpasimuno nito. We beg to differ. We came here, we came together and asked the CBCP for help and support, for a venue. This was not initiated by the CBCP. This is an initiative of the youth.”
The UP student pointed out that the Philippine government had recently signed an agreement with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that has poured massive funds into family planning programs carried out in developing nations including the Philippines.
Those in the NYC are appointed officials of a government office, Tabada said, reiterating Esteban’s statements that the agency does not necessarily express and respond to the youth sector’s sentiments on the RH issue, and simply plays its part in carrying out the government’s agenda.
Asked about the pro-RH position that representatives of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) declared in a March press conference, in which the student leaders disclosed plans to campaign against anti-RH legislators, Tabada revealed that some SCAP members were not even aware that such a statement would be announced.
“We have friends in the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines who tell us that the statement [the group] came out with during that press conference did not go through consultation. It did not go through proper consultation among all members of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines. Of course I cannot elaborate on that as I’m not a member of the SCAP. I leave it to the members of the SCAP,” he said.
Educate the young, fortify family values
Pardo, who heads the NCR Youth Ministry, revealed ongoing talks and other activities organized by different dioceses in the region that educate young people about the RH issue, while Guballa, the president of the Columbian Squires in the Manila Archdiocese explained that the group—the youth arm of the Knights of Columbus—regularly organizes seminars and other such activities to boost awareness and understanding of the RH bill and its incompatibility with Catholic teachings.
“I believe hindi lang sa kabataan ang bola ngayon. Sa totoo lang, ang bola ngayon ay nasa ating mga congressmen,” Pardo said.
“Sila ang boboto for or against the RH bill, that is why through the initiative of some youth leaders in the NCR, we are inviting our respective congressmen for a dialogue to express and manifest our opposition to the RH bill. Ito ang mga konkretong hakbang na ginagawa ng mga dioceses lalo na sa NCR para iparating sa ating mga representatives sa Kongreso ang ating stand against the RH bill,” Pardo concluded.
Ibarrientos of CFC Singles for Christ underscored the need to strengthen Filipino marriages, uphold the most defenseless person—the unborn—and use government resources on poverty alleviation, not on contraception, all of which the RH bill does not promote.
“The forces that are pushing to have the RH bill passed into law are blind to the impact of similar bills in other countries. While appealing to a sense of ‘progressiveness’ and modernity, the bill directly attacks values central to the Filipino family and specifically to womanhood,” he read from his organization’s statement.
“The bill destroys ‘life, the true freedom and the welfare of the youth. Catholic youth, women and children have values which [they uphold, such as] purity, holiness and chastity but it will be ruined and disrespected if the RH bill will be passed,’” Guballa of the Columbian Squires said.
Dasigan of the FNYO called on the government to support the youth through programs that address their real needs.
“Ang pangangailangan ng mga kabataan ay hindi mga contraceptives [kundi] edukasyon. Bigyan sila ng opportunities na lumago, mag-develop, at iyon ang kailangang bigyang diin ng gobyerno para sila ay mahubog.”
“This is a call to solidarity. The youth now calls upon the entire nation to rally behind us and demand that the Reproductive Health Bill… be laid to rest once and for all. The bill must never be passed, not just because it is uneconomic, not just because it is unhealthful, not just because it is impracticable, not just because it is flawed, but, most importantly, because it divides our people. A nation divided is easily conquered,” Tabada said, reading from his group’s statement.
“Indeed, we face the threat of being conquered by the motives of larger, more powerful nations who dangle the promise of aid and support in exchange for the shifting of our mindsets, the erudition of our values, and the degradation of our values as Filipino families and individuals. Against this, we must stand united.”
“Consider greater truths beyond imagined predicaments, consider our future beyond sensitized stories, and oppose the RH bill,” the UP student said, adding “We, the youth, know how to invest our support in legislators who know how to genuinely invest in us.”
Other youth groups and ministries so far that have joined the alliance in rejecting the RH bill are the Cebu Archdiocesan Youth Ministry, Bacolod Diocesan Youth Commission, Jaro Youth Ministry, Cubao Diocese Ministry of Youth Affairs, Bida Change – Diocese of Parañaque Youth Commission, Society of the Immaculate Conception, Salesian Youth Movement, Student Catholic Action Philippines and Students Choose Life Coalition. (Diana Uichanco)