CATHOLICISM IN THE PHILIPPINES: CUSTOMS, BIRTH CONTROL, CARDINAL SIN AND ITS DECLINING POLITICAL POWER

CATHOLICISM IN THE PHILIPPINES

Catholics make up about 83 percent of the Philippines 107 million people. The Philippines is the only predominantly Roman Catholic country in Asia and the third largest Catholic nation after Brazil and Mexico. It has more Catholics than Spain, Italy or France. A World Youth Day in the Philippines in 1995, attended by Pope John Paul II, drew four million people.

Filipino Catholicism is a fusion of Catholicism brought by the Spanish and local animist and traditional beliefs, particularly a belief that deceased ancestors and land spirts influence the lives of the living. The character of Filipino Catholicism and religious practices vary a great deal from region to region. Among the local animist practices incorporated into Filipino Catholicism are offerings made to volcano spirits and the goddess of the seas. Catholics living in urban areas tend to be more liberal and Westernized than those living in the countryside. Philippines is the one Asian country where Confucianism and Buddhism have had little influence. The history of religion is mainly a leap from animism to Catholic Christianity. Confucianism and Buddhism have been practiced almost exclusively by the small ethnic Chinese community, most of whom are Christians.

The Catholic Church made a remarkable comeback in the Philippines in the twentieth century, primarily because the Vatican agreed to divest itself of massive church estates and to encourage Filipinos to join in the clergy. This resurgence was so successful that Protestant mission efforts, led by large numbers of American missionaries during the period of American colonial rule, made little headway. In the early 1990s, the clergy were predominantly Filipino, all of the diocesan hierarchy were Filipino, and the church was supported by an extensive network of parochial schools. *

Philippine Catholicism usually takes the form of formal religion and following the tenants of Catholics. The ways these are observed are often shaped by local and individual interpretations. Faced with typhoons, earthquakes, tropical diseases and volcanic eruptions, Filipino Catholics have a strong sense of fatalism expressed in the phrase bahala na “i’;s all up to God.”

Many Filipinos are losing their connection with Catholicism. Many young people don’t know how to use a rosary or properly say a Hail Mary.

See Separate Article on RELIGION IN THE PHILIPPINES

Filipino Catholicism

Catholicism, as practiced in the Philippines in the 1990s, blended official doctrine with folk observance. In an intensely personal way, God the Father was worshiped as a father figure and Jesus as the loving son who died for the sins of each individual, and the Virgin was venerated as a compassionate mother. In the words of scholar David J. Steinberg, "This framework established a cosmic compadrazgo, and an utang na loob to Christ, for his sacrifice transcended any possible repayment . . . . To the devout Filipino, Christ died to save him; there could be no limit to an individual's thanksgiving." As in other Catholic countries, Filipinos attended official church services (men usually not as regularly as women) such as Masses, novenas, baptisms, weddings, and funerals. They supplemented these official services with a number of folk-religious ceremonies basic to the community's social and religious calendar and involving just about everyone in the community. [Source: Library of Congress, 1991]

Perhaps the single event most conducive to community solidarity each year is the fiesta. Celebrated on the special day of the patron saint of a town or barangay, the fiesta is a time for general feasting. Houses are opened to guests, and food is served in abundance. The fiesta always includes a Mass, but its purpose is unabashedly social. The biggest events include a parade, dance, basketball tournament, cockfights, and other contests, and perhaps a carnival, in addition to much visiting and feasting. *

Christmas is celebrated in a manner that blends Catholic, Chinese, Philippine, and American customs. For nine days, people attend misas de gallo (early morning Christmas Mass). They hang elaborate lanterns (originally patterned after the Chinese lanterns) and other decorations in their homes and join with friends in caroling. On Christmas Eve, everyone attends midnight Mass, the climax of the misas de gallo and the year's high point of church attendance. After the service, it is traditional to return home for a grand family meal. The remaining days of the Christmas season are spent visiting kin, especially on New Year's Day and Epiphany, January 6. The Christmas season is a time of visiting and receiving guests. It is also a time for reunion with all types of kin--blood, affinal, and ceremonial. Children especially are urged to visit godparents. *

During the Lenten season, most communities do a reading of the Passion narrative and a performance of a popular Passion play. The custom of reading or chanting of the Passion could be an adaptation of a pre-Spanish practice of chanting lengthy epics, but its continuing importance in Philippine life probably reflects the popular conception of personal indebtedness to Christ for His supreme sacrifice. At least one observer has suggested that Filipinos have, through the Passion, experienced a feeling of redemption that has been the basis for both millennial dreams and historical revolutionary movements for independence. *

Prayer Ladies and Other Unorthodox Filipino Catholic Customs

Filipino Catholicism has a few elements not found elsewhere. At the Quiapo Church in Manila, for example, Catholics crawl across the floor on their knees in hopes of receiving a miracle or hire “prayer ladies” to say their praying for them. Outside the church hawkers sell candles, amulets, herbals cures, and during the Christmas season, pancakes.

Prayer ladies can be hired for a s little as a few pesos. One of them told the Los Angeles Times, “God does not care who the prayer is coming from, as long as the person who paid for the prayer is sincere.” The ladies wear normal clothes are hard for casual observers to spot. They pray from plastci chairs rather than pews and can be hired to pray for anything: good health, love from a special person, good grades, help kicking drugs, protection from terrorists. Sometimes the ladies serve as make-shift priests, listening to the confessions and problems of their customers.

Many of the people who hire prayer ladies also pray themselves and say they hire the ladies because of their skill in praying and the belief that offering as many prayers as possible from as many people as possible increases the chance of a prayer being answered. One prayer lady told the Los Angeles Times, “Most of my prayers are answered.” People “often come back to me to thank me, especially if they passed the bar or medical exam.”

See Festivals

Catholicism and Life in the Philippines

Many Filipinos are deeply religious. Entire families get down on their knees and pray together and don’t sleep until they have said several rosaries. In many communities there is an Angulus bell that rings at 6:00pm to announce that it is time to pray. Even tourists are expected to stop whatever they are doing when they hear it and wish anybody around a good evening when it stops. If anything Protestants, many of them evangelicals, are even more fervent in their religious practices than Catholics.

Filipinos have high spiritual fervour. They observe holy days (business establishments are normally closed on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, All Saints’-All Souls’ Days and Christmas). Sunday is considered both a religious and a family day. On that day because most Filipinos go to church and do things together as a family. [Source: Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning+++]

Nearly 70 percent of people regularly go church. The rosary is said in the home at 9:00pm , just before the family retires for the night. Children are introduced to the statue of "Mama Mary" at a very early age. Each barangay has a patron saint. The saint's day is celebrated by a fiesta that includes a religious ceremony. Large amounts of food are served at each house. Friends and relatives from other barangays are invited and go from house to house to enjoy the food. A talent show, beauty contest, and dance are part of the fun. Carnival rides and bingo games add to the festivities. [Source: everyculture.com]

Catholicism is very strong among the poor in the Philippines. Kate McGeown of the BBC wrote: “I have visited many of Manila's slums in the course of my job. Almost everyone is Catholic, and almost everyone attends Sunday worship - large families filing out of the rabbit warren of precarious structures they call home and piling into the churches.[Source: Kate McGeown, BBC, June 11, 2011 \*/]

Church and state were officially separate in the 1990s, but religious instruction could, at the option of parents, be provided in public schools. The Catholic Church's influence on the government was quite evident in the lack of resources devoted to family planning and the prohibition of divorce. *

Catholic Church in the Philippines and Birth Control

The Catholic church in the view of many is the biggest obstacle to reducing population growth. Contraceptive use is banned by the Catholic Church and promulgated by Catholic clergy at all levels. Following Vatican guidelines, Philippine bishops oppose any "artificial" measures to prevent pregnancy, sanctioning only natural means such as periodic abstention from sex. One priest told the International Herald Tribune that when poor mothers, burdened by large families come to him, he tells them, “Adopt the self control method and look to the life of Christ for inspiration.” In addition to its objections on theological grounds, the church contends that easy access to contraceptives would only lead to promiscuity among the young.

The Philippines influential Cardinal Jaime Sin was staunch opponent of the Philippines family planning program. In 1994, he appeared with former Philippines president Corazon Aquino at a protest at the U.N. population conference in Cairo, where the two Filipinos criticized birth control as "intrinsically evil" and burned a replica of the conference's draft program of action.

Blaine Harden wrote in the Washington Post, “In 2005, Catholic bishops in the southern Philippines announced that they would refuse Communion to government health workers who distributed birth control devices. In the past two weeks, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines declined repeated requests for comment on its family planning policies. The church leadership made its last major statement on birth control last fall. “Chemical agents and mechanical gadgets that make up the cluttered display of contraceptive methods of birth control have caused serious damage in family relationships, disrupting the unity and openness that build family life by the effects that accompany the contraceptive culture which include extramarital relationships, adolescent pregnancies, and even the hideous murderous act of abortion,” said Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, chairman of a bishops’ commission on family life. [Source: Blaine Harden, Washington Post. April 21, 2008]

Filipino Catholic Traditions

The main Filipino Catholic rites and traditions are baptism, Holy Communion, funerals, weddings, Christmas and Holy Week ceremonies. Catholic Baptism ceremonies are religious ceremonies done to cleanse our spirits and become part of Christ. A short church mass is held which serves as an orientation for the family, godparents, and parents. After the homily, the holy water is poured on the head of the infant and the father saying the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” as a sign of cleansing his or her spirit. Baptism Ceremonies are important for Filipino Catholics because it is a step for welcoming the infants to being a Catholic. [Source: Larissa Ubungen, larissaubungen.wordpress.com, December 9, 2012]

Holy Communion is a religious ceremonies done to establish partnership and relationship with God. This ceremony is prominent to the 3rd Grade students ages 6 to 7. Before the ceremony, Filipino children are taught by a brother or sister about the religious prayers, mortal sins, the sacrifices and forgiveness of Christ. In the ceremony, the children are dressed in formal white clothing and they will receive Christ’s body and blood by bread wafers dipped wine after the homily. With the completion of the ceremony, the children are able to receive communion together with the adult members of the church in a Eucharistic Mass.

Funeral ceremonies are religious ceremonies which involves the blessing of the people who passed away before they are buried or cremated. The ceremony includes vigil, funeral liturgies, and rite of committal according to Diocese of San Diego. These ceremonies helps us accept the reality of death, give our last testimonies, and encourage us to embrace and let our pain out. The family and friends sprinkle holy water through the corpse as a sign of good bye with prayers. In this ceremony, Filipinos learn the acceptance of lost and pain with the deceased loved one.

Wedding ceremonies are the religious ceremonies in which a couple is joined in Holy Matrimony. For the traditional Filipino wedding ceremony, the bride wears custom-made white wedding gown with cloth covered from her face and accessories the should be like something blue, something borrowed, something old, and something new ( the wedding sayings). On the other hand, the groom wears barong tagalog (embroidered polo that is made from pineapple fibers). The ceremony has paraphernalia from the bridesmaid up to the ring bearer which are the wedding rings and arrhae, wedding candles, wedding veils, and wedding cord. In this ceremony, Filipinos give themselves to the person that they are committed. Wedding ceremonies shows the importance of life-long commitment of an individual to another.

Holy Week ceremonies are the religious festivals celebrated at the last week of Lent and week before Easter as it was mentioned in Holy Week: Filipino Style. These ceremonies serve as the contribution of the people for repentance and renewal. Penance can be done by Fasting, Way of the Cross, Passion plays or Sinakulo, and reading or even chanting the Pasyon or the Passion of Christ. As other Filipinos celebrates them brutally like flagellating one’s self, carrying a cross and by crucifixion. By paying penance, they are able to reflect and improve one’s spirituality. It doesn’t matter whichever one will choose on how they will pay for penance but the important part is the reason why are we doing it.

Baptism in the Philippines

In the Philippines, Catholic christening involves a priest baptizing a baby in private or simultaneously with other children. In a mass christening, the priest goes from one child to another, blessing them with holy water and performing the baptismal rite, as the parents and godparents respond in behalf of the children. It is customary to have several godfathers and godmothers, as parents believe that the more godparents a child has, the more assured he/she is of a good future. [Source: ehow.com]

In the Roman Catholic Church the person is sprinkled with water as the words, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" are said by the person doing the baptizing and sprinkling of water. Sponsors (god parents) are charges Php 50. When the family of the baptized picks up the baptismal certificate a few days later they are charged an additional Php 50. Many families have a party or reception at home or fancy restaurants. It is always a big occassion for Pinoys. [Source: christianfilipina.com/forum]

Before the celebration, the parents of the child must choose their respective godparents which are chosen to be the next parents who can guide the godchild from religious education. The short church mass is held which serves as an orientation for the family, godparents, and parents. Baptism Ceremonies are important for Filipino Catholics because it is a step for welcoming the infants to being a Catholic. [Source: Larissa Ubungen, larissaubungen.wordpress.com, December 9, 2012]

Baptismal in the Philippines depends on the denomination. Born again AG- Pentecostal are totally immersed in water in a pool or at a beach. A child must be 7 years or above: old enough to understand what the baptismal means. Catholic christening is usually performed inside a church with. The family and the sponsors of a baby stand nearby as a priest sprinkles water on the baby's forehead. it's free. [Ibid]

See Godparents Under FAMILIES IN THE PHILIPPINES: GODPARENTS, KINSHIP STRUCTURE AND BLOOD FEUDS

Filipino Baptismal Celebration

One Filipino woman wrote in her blog: “I am currently planning for Guijo's baptism, and this prompted me to look back at his older sister Narra's baptism held two years ago on August 8, 2009. What we had then, was a distinctly Filipino baptismal celebration. The church we chose was the historic national treasure: Barasoain church in Malolos, Bulacan - hometown of my husband Oliver's Carsi Cruz side of the family. Barasoain's baptistry is located deep inside the church, all the way to the back, in a concealed chamber behind the altar, and getting to it is like traveling back to the Spanish colonial era. One has to pass through thick adobe arches, and walk on sturdy adobe paths, through silent courtyards populated by wise old plants. [Source: nikki-mama.blogspot.jp, September 24, 2011 \*/]

“Most of our guests came from Manila and the church offered charming attractions - its architectural features, a museum with historic artifacts, and a baptismal ceremony officiated in beautiful Tagalog with Bulakenyo flair. Like most other Filipino couples, we asked a good number of our friends and family to be ninongs and ninangs. Narra had 8 pairs of godparents. Narra's christening gown was made of piña fiber which was elaborately embroidered. It was done in the romantic old style of puffed sleeves, and extra long length, and came with matching booties and cap. It came from the Tesoro's line of Filipiniana formal wear, and we were fortunate to get it as a gift from our generous Ninang Alice Tesoro Guerrero.” \*/

The reception was held at a nearby restaurant. “Oliver's mother, my mom-in-law Mama Rubi Socorro Carsi Cruz started the family restaurant called Taberna Maloleña in the first floor of the Carsi Cruz summer home in Malolos, just a block away from Barasoain church. The food offerings during the reception included signature family recipes, including my all time favorite Kare-Kare and my sis-in-law's award winning shrimp lumpia, as well as my favorite deserts of mini turon with langka and sesame seeds topped with a dollop of cream - yummy! \*/

“Looking back, I found that baptismal celebration simply enjoyable. I did not stress out with the preparations at all - no invitations were needed (we just sent text messages by phone) - we didn't spend on decorations anymore - and not even a cake or souvenirs. We didn't really go for a theme party, but we ended up with a Filipiniana feel because of the location, the food, the architecture, and I think even the lack of party planning - this lent the event an old school sense of celebrating sans the newer party fads. What we did have were all the essentials: a solemn ceremony in a picturesque church, a lot of great tasting heritage dishes from the family's culinary treasure box, and a good many hours of spending time with family and friends chatting the afternoon and evening away in a quiet corner of Malolos. I have fond memories of that day, August 8 2009 (which also marked our first wedding anniversary - Oliver and I were married on 08-08-08). \*/

Guidelines for Baptismal Rites at a Philippine Church

Baptism Requirements: Registration : At least three weeks before the Baptism date. Submit the following upon registration: 1) Photo copy of the child’s Birth Certificate: 2) (for non- parishioners only) Permit from the parent’s church to have their child’s Baptism outside of their own parish. Present the following upon registration or during the seminar: 1) Original copy of Parents’ Catholic Marriage Contract; 2) Confirmation Certificate of Sponsors, if single and Catholic Marriage Contract, if married. Fee (Non-refundable): Php 300.00 for the principal sponsors (first pair) inclusive of the cost of baptismal candles and certificate; Php 100.00 for every additional sponsor (200.00 per pair). [Source: sjbmakati.com]

Parents who want their child baptized should be married in the Catholic Church. If parents want their child to grow in the Catholic faith, they should live this faith and follow the discipline of the Catholic Church. Parishioners who are married civilly or not married at all should see the Parish Priest for an interview before the seminar. Non-parishioners are advised to have the baptism in their respective parishes.

Sponsors (godparents) must be Catholics who have received the sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist, and are practicing Catholics (active in the celebration of the Sacraments – Eucharist and Reconciliation. Foremost of all, the sponsors must be willing to undertake the responsibility of partnership with the parents, in the Catholic upbringing of the child into a mature and committed Christian. A maximum of five (5) pairs of sponsors are allowed.

Seminar: Parents and all Sponsors are required to attend the Baptismal seminar. Baptismal seminars are scheduled on Saturdays from 2:30pm to 5:pm (please refer to schedule below). Parents and Sponsors may choose one Saturday to attend, provided, this is at least three weeks before the scheduled Baptism.

The Sacrament of Baptism is a celebration of the parish community. It is celebrated within the Holy Mass on a Sunday designated for Baptism, from 2:00pm to 3:30 pm (please refer to schedule below). In Baptism your child becomes a member of the Church. Our parish community is glad to welcome and be present in this meaningful beginning of your child’s journey in Faith. In this context, Baptism becomes more meaningful when more people pray for your child. To show the communitarian dimension of the sacrament, the parish does not encourage individual/special baptism except for serious reasons (medical, emergency cases, security, etc.) “For convenience” is not a serious reason.

Dress Code: Proper church decorum is strictly enforced. All are expected to dress properly and decently for church. Ladies wearing attires with plunging/revealing necklines, bare backs, or short skirts, and men wearing “sandos” and shorts will not be allowed to enter the church.

Catholics Urged to Have Babies Baptized as Soon as Possible

In April 2012, an official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines told parents they should get their babies baptized within three months of their birth. Philip C. Tubeza wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Fr. Genaro Diwa, executive secretary of the CBCP Commission on the Liturgy, said parents should not wait until they are “financially ready” to have their children baptized. “What is becoming the normal thinking of us Filipinos is that what qualifies one for baptism is when you are financially ready,” Diwa said. “What becomes the qualification is if the feast is already ready, which is not good. It destroys the whole experience of Christian initiation.” [Source: Philip C. Tubeza, Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 7, 2012]

In February, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas also issued a circular which urged parents to have their children baptized three months after they are born. “I think there is wisdom in the circular letter of the bishop to remind his Christian community that they should desire for the faith of the child and not for the perks of the celebration of baptism, which is like it is reduced to a mere social gathering to invite politicians and personalities,” Diwa said. “I think that is the whole spirit of the circular letter—to focus on the essential of baptism. Although the family still has no financial capacity, they should already seek baptism for the child,” he added.

In his circular, Villegas said that he had “sadly noticed a diminishment in the proper understanding” of the sacrament of baptism. “First, we wish to stress emphatically that the baptisms of infants must be scheduled a few weeks but not later than three months after birth. Ideally, as soon as the mother has recovered her strength after the child’s delivery, the baby must be rushed to the Church for baptism,” Villegas said. “Secondly, we must bring back the primacy of baptism as a spiritual birth of a child into the family of God. It must not be reduced to a mere social event necessitating a party or banquet,” he added.

The archbishop also insisted that a baby’s parents and godparents should be dressed in white for the ceremony. “The proper color for baptism is white. It is advisable for parents and godparents to be dressed in white in order to signify the cleansing from original sin that they seek for the infant in their arms,” Villegas said. He also reminded parents about the admonition of Pope Benedict XVI about giving names to children. “The Pope urges parents not to give their children names that are not included in the Christian martyrology and to refrain from choosing different names, even if these are in fashion,” Villagas said. “Every baptized person acquires the character of ‘child’ starting with their Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit gives birth ‘anew ‘ to infant from the womb of the Church,” he added, quoting the Pope.

Catholicism and Character

Catholicism has a strong influence of the Filipino character. According to Thank God I'm Filipino: “ The Philippines is one the most religious countries in world, particularly in Catholicism and Islam. Families would encourage and strengthen the values of their children and would at least have one day a week for worship and at the same time strengthening family ties. Religion is the foundation of most of the country’s morals and values and sometimes, the church greatly affects the minds and opinions of the general populace, affecting its decisions. Sadly, this also applies to the government as they are troubled by whatever the Church’s stand is in every matter, as people see their opinion to be the “right” one. Thus, many of our politicians go with whatever the Church says, fearing that they would lose vote if they go against it. [Source: Thank God I'm Filipino - TGIF, Facebook, October 8, 2010]

The Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia and Filipinos have high spiritual fervour. They observe holy days (business establishments are normally closed on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, All Saints’-All Souls’ Days and Christmas). Sunday is considered both a religious and a family day. As much as possible, avoid working on that day because most Filipinos go to church and do things together as a family. [Source: Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning+++]

Most Filipinos are Roman Catholics, but there are other large Christian groups throughout the country especially among the Indigenous ethnic groups in the Autonomous Mountain Region of Northern Luzon. Most traditional elites are Catholic. In southern and western Mindanao and the islands of Jolo and Sulu Sea that constitute the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, there is a substantial Muslim community, which has been aggressively pushing for independence through such organizations as the Moro national Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front. +++

Religion is openly and overtly practised throughout all aspects of life in the Philippines, including the work place. Strong beliefs and religious practices and events are not always matched by social norms and practices. While the Catholic Church makes divorce very difficult, if not impossible, it is not uncommon for married couples to either drift apart and enter into common law relationships with new spouses. In business and when exploring informal personal relationships with colleagues, it is prudent not to try to nail the formal relationships down if they do not seem to "add-up". +++

There is widespread misunderstanding and uneasiness regarding the Muslim religious minority and its demands for independence amongst the majority of Filipinos, especially in Mindanao. It is therefore wise for expatriates to avoid debate of the Muslim claims for independence and to check out the current safety of specific itineraries and proposed meetings when planning business trips and holidays to predominantly Moslem areas of Mindanao. +++

Pope John Paul's Visit to the Philippines in 1995

On January 18, 1995, Pope John Paul II offered mass to an estimated 4 to 5 million people at Luneta Park, Manila, Philippines. The Guiness Book of World Records recorded the event as “the Biggest Papal Crowd” ever.

During the January 1995 World Youth Day event, over 4 million people jammed downtown Manila to take part in Pope John Paul's final mass in the Philippines. There were so many people that the Pope had to abandon his armor plated Pope mobile—which was blocked by traffic—and instead had to be brought in by helicopter. He was 80 minutes late. People lined the roads 50 deep, hundreds fainted and more than a thousand people were treated for dehydration.

Before the open air mass given by the Pope, priests were frisked by security guards to make sure they weren't carrying any weapons. The government-supplied "Popemobile" used in the Philippines was a remodeled armored truck with four-inch-thick plates. The $200,000 vehicle was outfit with 4-inch thick bubble glass built to withstand grenades and machine-gun fire. Before the tour the Popemobile was blessed Jaime Cardinal Sin.

Attacks and Plots Against the Pope in the Philippines

In 1970 a Bolivian painter disguised as priest tried to stab Pope Paul VI at the Manila airport. There were no major problems when Pope John Paul visited the Philippines in 1981.

Twenty foreign Muslim extremist, including a Kuwaiti-Palestine "electronics expert," were accused of plotting to kill Pope John Paul II with a fragment bomb during a January, 1995 visit to the Philippines. Six days before the pope’s visit a tip off lead to the raid on a apartment that overlooked the pope’s motorcade route and was less than a mile from the residence where the Pope was going to stay. In the apartment police found at least four bombs with timing devises, several bibles, a priest's garb, maps of the pope’s route, and a large picture of the pope. The apartment was used by Ramziz Yousef. the mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and nephew of Khalid Shailkh Mohammed, mastermind of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001.

Catholic Church and Politics in the Philippines

During the Spanish colonial period, the Catholic Church was extensively involved in colonial administration, especially in rural areas. With the advent of United States control, the Catholic Church relinquished its great estates. Church and state officially were separated, although the church, counting more than 80 percent of the population as members, continued to have influence when it wanted to exert it. For much of the Marcos administration, the official church, led by archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, adopted a stance of "critical collaboration." This meant that although Sin did not flatly condemn Marcos, he reserved the right to criticize. Below the cardinal, the church was split between conservative and progressive elements, and some priests joined the communistdominated National Democratic Front through a group named Christians for National Liberation. Cardinal Sin was instrumental in the downfall of Marcos. He brokered the critical, if temporary, reconciliation between Aquino and Laurel and warned the Marcoses that vote fraud was "unforgivable." In radio broadcasts, he urged Manileños to come into the streets to help the forces led by Enrile and Ramos when they mutinied in February 1986. The church, therefore, could legitimately claim to be part of the revolutionary coalition. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Aquino is a deeply religious woman who has opened cabinet meetings with prayers and sought spiritual guidance in troubled times. Although there were reports that the Vatican in late 1986 had instructed Cardinal Sin to reduce his involvement in politics, Aquino continued to depend on him. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter urging people to vote yes in the 1987 constitutional plebiscite. In March 1987, Sin announced that he was bowing out of politics, but two months later he broadcast his support for ten Aquino-backed candidates for the Senate and recommended that voters shun candidates of the left. In 1990 Sin defined his attitude toward the government as one of "critical solidarity." *

The church was very pleased with provisions of the 1987 Constitution that ban abortion and restore a limited role for religion in public education. The Constitution is essentially silent on the matter of family planning. The church used its very substantial influence to hinder government family-planning programs. Despite the fact that the population grew by 100,000 people per month in the late 1980s, Cardinal Sin believed that the Marcos government had gone too far in promoting contraception. He urged Aquino to "repeal, or at least revise" government family-planning programs. In August 1988, the bishops conference denounced contraception as "dehumanizing and ethically objectionable." For churchmen, this was an issue not to be taken lightly. One bishop called for the church to "protect our people from the contraceptive onslaught" and the bishops conference labelled rapid population growth a "nonproblem." In 1989 the United States Department of Commerce projected the Philippine population at 130 million by the year 2020--in a country the size of California. *

Catholic Leaders and Politics in the Philippines

The Catholic church is one of the strongest institutions in the Philippines and major player in Philippine politics. Support of the Catholic church, and the military, are key to political survival and success in the Philippines. The Catholic is very involved in fighting poverty and in some cases some of its members have been involved in supporting poor tenant farmers in their battles against their rich landlords.

Priests and bishops and other religious leaders are powerful figures in the Philippines. Local priest and ministers are so highly respected that requests from them take on the power of mandates. A family considers having a son or daughter with a religious career as a high honor. Personal friendships with priests, ministers, and nuns are prized. Clerics take an active role in the secular world. An example is Brother Andrew Gonzales, the current secretary of DECS. [Source: everyculture.com]

The Catholic Church and, to a lesser extent, the Protestant churches engaged in a variety of community welfare efforts. These efforts went beyond giving relief and involved attempts to alter the economic position of the poor. Increasingly in the 1970s, these attempts led the armed forces of President Marcos to suspect that church agencies were aiding the communist guerrillas. In spite of reconciliation efforts, the estrangement between the churches and Marcos grew; it culminated in the call by Cardinal Jaime Sin for the people to go to the streets to block efforts of Marcos to remain in office after the questionable election of 1986. The resulting nonviolent uprising was known variously as People's Power and as the EDSA Revolution. [Source: Library of Congress, 1991 *]

The good feeling that initially existed between the church and the government of President Aquino lasted only a short time after her inauguration. Deep-seated divisions over the need for revolutionary changes again led to tension between the government and some elements in the churches. *

Catholics fall into three general groups: conservatives who are suspicious of social action and hold that Christian love could best be expressed through existing structures; moderates, probably the largest group, in favor of social action but inclined to cooperate with government programs; and progressives, who do not trust the government programs, are critical both of Philippine business and of American influence, and feel that drastic change is needed. In the past, progressives were especially disturbed at atrocities accompanying the use of vigilantes. They denied that they were communists, but some of their leaders supported communist fronts, and a few priests actually joined armed guerrilla bands. There appeared to be more progressives among religious-order priests than among diocesan priests. *

Cardinal Sin

Cardinal Jaime L. Sin was the top Catholic figure in the Philippines for decades until his death in 2005. Arguably one of the most powerful men in the Philippines and one of the most powerful Catholic clerics in the world, he was mentioned as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II. The son of Chinese immigrants, Cardinal Sin is well-known for his sense of humor, his name and his jokes about his name. When asked what his chances are of becoming the Pope, he says, "First of all, my name is bad." He often greets guest to his residence with "Welcome to the House of Sin" and is notorious for his bawdy comments.

Hrvoje Hranjski of Associated Press wrote: Cardinal Sin “shaped the role of the church during the country's darkest hours after dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law starting in 1972 by championing the cause of civil advocacy, human rights and freedoms. Sin's action mirrored that of his strong backer, Pope John Paul II, who himself challenged communist rulers in Eastern Europe. Three years after Benigno Aquino Sr., a senator opposing Marcos, was gunned down on the Manila airport tarmac in 1983, Sin persuaded Aquino's widow, Corazon, to run for president. When massive election cheating by Marcos was exposed, Sin went on Catholic-run Radio Veritas in February 1986 to summon millions of people to support military defectors and the Aquino-led opposition. Marcos fled and Aquino, a deeply religious woman, was sworn in as president. Democracy was restored, but the country remained chaotic. [Source: Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press, January 3, 2013 <<<]

Cardinal Sin influence goes back to the Marcos era. Once when he sitting between Marcos and his wife Imelda in the back seat of the presidential limousine, Marcos asked him why he was so quiet. "Because," he said, "I feel like I am being crucified between two thieves." Marcos reportedly thought comment was funny but Imelda wouldn't speak to the cardinal for three months after that.

Michelle O'Donnell wrote in the New York Times, “Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, the powerful Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila, used his influence to champion the rights of the poor and rally the widespread popular resistance that brought down the presidencies of Ferdinand E. Marcos and Joseph Estrada Cardinal Sin led the nearly 40 million Catholics in the Philippines for almost three decades, through political upheaval that brought martial law, repressive dictatorship and democratic rule. A round-faced, bespectacled man, he was known for his sense of humor that included poking fun of his own name. But it was through his withering and unwavering public criticism of the Marcos regime in the 1980's that Cardinal Sin became an international figure. [Source: Michelle O'Donnell, New York Times, June 21, 2005 +++]

“At a time when reform-minded clergy in other developing countries were targets of assassination, Cardinal Sin tirelessly used his pulpit first as bishop, then archbishop, to attack Mr. Marcos' martial law, corruption and policies that oppressed the poor. Yet unlike Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a contemporary who also worked to empower the poor and was fatally shot as he delivered a homily in 1980, Cardinal Sin seemed insulated from personal harm. "If you compare him to Romero, he spoke out as much as Romero did," said the Rev. Paul L. Locatelli, the president of Santa Clara University. "He saw justice as making sure that the poor had a voice." But he was not witho Under the cardinal's tenure, the church was shaken by accusations of sexual misconduct by some of its priests, according to The Associated Press. Two years ago, Catholic bishops apologized for grave cases of sexual misconduct by priests and pledged to act on complaints. +++

During his long career, the cardinal was not without his critics. He staunchly opposed artificial means of birth control, which some critics said left the country overpopulated and mired in poverty. Under the cardinal's tenure, the church was shaken by accusations of sexual misconduct by some of its priests, according to The Associated Press. Two years ago, Catholic bishops apologized for grave cases of sexual misconduct by priests and pledged to act on complaints. +++

Cardinal Sin’s Political Life

Jaime Lachica Sin was born on August 31, 1928 on the Philippine island of Panay to Chinese parents. The 14th of 16 children, he was sent away at a young age to become a priest. Martin Weil wrote in the Washington Post, “The cardinal was born into a religious family, of Filipino and Chinese descent, in Aklan province. Jaime Sin was ordained as a priest in his mid-twenties and rose through the hierarchy to become bishop, archbishop and, in 1976, cardinal. [Source: Martin Weil, Washington Post, June 21, 2005 ||||]

“Although he had showed considerable ability early in his church career, some accounts indicated that in his early days in Manila, he showed little sign of his later opposition to the regime. But he was credited with vigorously resisting government attempts to raid a seminary in search of reputed political dissidents. For years, his formal policy toward Marcos was described as one of "critical collaboration." While he refrained from condemnation of the regime, it was said, the cardinal nevertheless accorded himself the right to criticize, and he used it. Objecting to inequality and opposing corruption, he was known as a voice of morality to Catholic communities throughout Southeast Asia. ||||

“Sometime after the revolt that brought Aquino to power, the cardinal redefined his position on the government. While he still could be critical, his policy had become "critical solidarity." The installation of Aquino did not bring to an end the cardinal's willingness to involve himself in political issues, especially those with a moral component. He took issue at vital junctures with Aquino's successor, Fidel Ramos, and he later was influential in expelling the man who followed Ramos, Joseph Estrada. Estrada, who was the target of corruption charges, was ousted in 2001 after being impeached by the Congress. "May God show him the heroic value of relinquishing his post for the sake of our people," the cardinal said. ||||

Michelle O'Donnell wrote in the New York Times, “The cardinal was a popular figure at protests throughout his career. He directed street protests that led to Mr. Estrada's ouster in January 2001, and spoke forcefully at them. "Mr. President, how could have done this to us?" he asked. "The poor trusted you and you betrayed them, the businessmen trusted you and you lied to them. The first lady married you and you have betrayed that vow and used many women." After Mr. Estrada's ousters, his followers, many of them impoverished, denounced the cardinal and other politicians who forced Mr. Estrada from power, and stormed the presidential palace in May 2001 in riots that killed six people . Cardinal Sin apologized to the poor shortly thereafter, A.P. reported. He said that the church had neglected them and made them easy prey for selfish and powerful politicians. "You and I lived dangerously together through five presidents now," he told Filipinos when he resigned in 2003, according to Japanese news agency. "Honestly, I was always a reluctant political archbishop." [Source: Michelle O'Donnell, New York Times, June 21, 2005]

Looking back on his long career, Cardinal Sin said his public actions were not prompted by politics, but rather by "a moral dimension." “In explaining his willingness to intervene in politics, he said the church "cannot proclaim eternal salvation to our flock when we are blind to the physical realities which deny them that very salvation here on earth." In his resignation letter, Cardinal Sin he wrote: "I have given my very best to God and country. I beg pardon from those I might have led astray or hurt. Please remember me kindly." ||||

Cardinal Sin retired in 2003 and died of renal failure at the age of 76 in June 2005. He suffered from kidney and heart problems. His poor health prevented him from attending the gathering of cardinals in Rome that picked the successor to Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal Sin and the Marcos Regime

Michelle O'Donnell wrote in the New York Times, “Beginning in the 1970's, Cardinal Sin, a moderate, was among the leaders who publicly pressured Mr. Marcos to end the martial law that he had imposed in 1972 out of concern that leftist radicals would overthrow the government. For his part, Cardinal Sin had pledged to rein in Marxist priests and nuns in the ranks of the clergy. They had angered the government for, among other things, reporting to Amnesty International the military's systematic killing of villagers, and they concerned Cardinal Sin because they preached the gospel in Marxist terms. [Source: Michelle O'Donnell, New York Times, June 21, 2005 +++]

“At first, he was careful not to attack the First Family as he assailed the regime's policies. As the Marcos regime wore on, his opposition became more strident, despite the lifting of martial law in 1981. Often, he used his famous sense of humor to deliver thinly veiled jokes that devastated the Marcos's power and style. In a joke he told about the "mining industry," a wealthy and powerful woman - not unlike Imelda R. Marcos, the country's flamboyant first lady - pointed to things and proclaimed: "That's mine! And that's mine!" +++

“But after senator Benigno S. Aquino, Mr. Marcos's leading political opponent was assassinated in 1983, it was the cardinal's unwavering support of the senator's widow, Corazon Aquino, in her campaign to overthrow Mr. Marcos, that showed his power as a popular kingmaker. After Mrs. Aquino returned to the Philippines from self-imposed exile to mount her campaign, she was barred from equal access to the media. Cardinal Sin's regular radio addresses on the Catholic radio station calling for the people to support her became a critical tool to rally millions to her side. After her election in 1986, he became known in Manila as the "unseen general" who handed down on earth orders from above. +++

Cardinal Sin and the People Power Revolt in 1986

Cardinal Sin was a close friend and political ally of Cory Aquino. He played a significant roll in the ousters of Marcos in 1986 in the “People Power” revolt, and of President Joseph Estrada in 2001. Martin Weil wrote in the Washington Post, Cardinal Sin was “the curiously named archbishop of Manila whose crucial support for his country's "people power" revolution of the 1980s made him one of the most politically influential members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Amid the swirling political ferment that engulfed the Philippines in 1986, the cardinal won international renown for helping tip the scales against the authoritarian rule of Ferdinand Marcos and in favor of Corazon Aquino. [Source: Martin Weil, Washington Post, June 21, 2005 ||||]

“As events reached their climax in the Philippines and an election was suddenly called, he admonished both Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, that holding on to power through fraudulent balloting schemes would be "unforgivable." At a key moment in February 1986, he called on Filipinos to surround the police and military headquarters in Manila to protect then-military Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos, who had broken with Mr. Marcos, and they did. More than 1 million people took to the streets, clutching Bibles and uttering prayers, in an outpouring that shielded anti-government rebels from attack. That was one of the principal events in the revolution that forced the resignation of Marcos, whose regime, dating from the 1960s, had been accused of corruption, electoral fraud and violations of human rights. Later, the cardinal, while delivering a homily at a Mass of thanksgiving, demonstrated what was described as unprecedented personal support for a political leader, clearly endorsing Aquino as he led a chant of "Co-ry! Co-ry!" ||||

“Beyond its effects on the Philippines, the peaceful ouster of Marcos has been cited as a milestone in the movement toward popularly chosen governments throughout the world. The cardinal's actions did not necessarily make him a role model for political participation by the clergy, however. It was reported that he caused uneasiness at the Vatican and that he was summoned to Rome to explain himself.” ||||

Cardinal Sin on Birth Control

Cardinal Jaime Sin was staunch opponent of the Philippines family planning program. He called women "heroes" for providing for their families and accused the U.S. government of "implementing programs' that are actually Satan's" by pushing birth control in Third World countries, a view shared by a Filipino senator who said the U.S. government forged a coalition "bigger than the one assembled for Desert Storm" to promote abortion and "spearhead...global decadence, destruction and death."

In 1994, Cardinal Sin appeared with Aquino at a protest at the U.N. population conference in Cairo, where the two Filipinos criticized birth control and condoms as "being intrinsically evil" and burned a replica of the conference's draft program of action. One of Cardinal Sin’s chief critics, Health secretary Juan Flavier, once answered back to accusations by Sin that he promoted abortion with the quip, "It's a sin to tell a lie."

In one example of his humor, Cardinal Sin, who was one of the last of 15 children, told an interviewer that had his parents practiced birth control he never would have been born. On another occasion, the cardinal told a news conference that birth control pills cause premature aging. "I know of...a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes pills. So if you want to keep your clear complexion, do not take contraceptives." An editorial in a Manila newspaper responded to this remark by saying, "as the cardinal says, pop babies, not pills, if you want to keep the bridely glow on your cheeks.

Cardinal Sin on Marriage and Homosexuality

Cardinal Sin also accused family planning leaders of marshaling "global forces” to “destroy the family by first destroying our children" by "brainwashing" them to accept such "unnatural" practices such as "homosexuality, lesbianism, incest, sodomy, oral sex, contraception, sterilization and abortion."

When asked about his opinion on the ordination of woman as priests, he said "woman have another mission in the world" and "should not become priests." Besides, he added, Who would want to have confession with a woman? "A woman will not keep the secret."

On gay marriages, Cardinal Sin said, "Just imagine. It will mean two men or two women can get married and adopt, maybe a cat or a dog, and they call that a family." One of Cardinal Sin's favorite jokes goes something like this: If marriage to three women is called polygamy and marriage to two women is bigamy, what do you call marriage to one woman. Answer: monotony.

Filipino Priest Fights Corruption Despite Death Threats

In 2007, Jason Gutierrez of AFP wrote: “The crowd of supporters parted like the Red Sea as former Roman Catholic priest Ed Panlilio stepped out of his campaign headquarters in downtown San Fernando. The building had just received a phoned-in bomb threat. Marked for assassination by gambling barons as well as political enemies, the soft-spoken 53-year-old has so far proved to be an elusive target in a country where life is cheap and an assassin can be hired for a few hundred dollars. [Source: Jason Gutierrez, Agence France-Presse, July 3, 2007 \=\]

“The first priest ever to be elected governor in Philippines, he has changed the political landscape of this predominately Roman Catholic nation where the constitution clearly calls for the separation of church and state. Panlilio beat all the odds in May when he was elected governor of Pampanga, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's bailiwick and the illegal gambling capital of the Philippines. Thousands of impoverished people had come to listen to his speeches in the grueling grassroots campaign while the local media portrayed him as a crusading David challenging the two Goliaths of local politics -- Mark Lapid and Lilia Pineda -- and backed by Arroyo's vast political machinery. \=\

“While his victory may have alienated him from his superiors in the Church who stripped him of his priestly duties analysts say it underscored the public's frustration with so-called traditional politicians who have failed to lift the living standards of their constituents. Panlilio is embarking on a Herculean crusade to clean up the bloated and corrupt provincial bureaucracy and introduce transparency in Pampanga, an agricultural province some 80 kilometers (49 miles) north of Manila. \=\

“Panlilio is the epitome of simplicity, and is most comfortable wearing a plain white shirt, jeans and sandals. Despite the death threats Panlilio refuses to wear a bullet-proof vest, saying: "They are too heavy and too cumbersome." Rubbing the simple crucifix necklace between his fingers, he says: "This is all the protection I need." Even so everywhere he goes there are armed bodyguards provided by the provincial police -- just in case. "I am not afraid. When I ran for governor, I had already given myself up and was prepared for the consequences of my action," Panlilio told AFP. "Those who are threatening us are cowards who don't know how to stand on their own two feet. We cannot be cowed," he said. \=\

“The threats against him are real -- already, three local officials who were key to his campaign have been attacked by unidentified gunmen. One of them, Mario Nulud, was killed while tending his garden in what was seen by many of Panlilio's supporters as a warning to the priest to stop his crusade. The attacks have forced Panlilio to limit public appearances until after his July 1 inauguration. Nevertheless, the death threats continued, including one sent via text message threatening to bomb his headquarters. Panlilio would not publicly say who he suspects are behind the attacks but relatives of those who have been targeted believe the hired guns worked for the family of losing candidate Lilia Pineda, wife of Pampanga's alleged jueteng kingpin Rodolfo Pineda. "We are in constant communication with police about these threats. We are taking adequate measures for our safety," said Panlilio. \=\

Panilio “ says he does not crave power and would gladly return to his ministry once he has fulfilled his official duties. "I am doing this not because of a personal ambition or a craving for power. I have always loved my priestly ministry and I have always found fulfillment in it," he said "A priest running for public office is not an easy thing to accept," he said, stressing that his decision had caused him sleepless nights and entailed giving up his Church duties. He says he has already crossed party lines and remains willing to have political opponents help him in his mission, while making it clear that his office would run on full transparency. "I already miss my church. But I also believe that public office is another way of serving God," he said in a soft voice. "With God at your side, well, how can you fail?" \=\

See Corruption Under Government

Passage of the Reproductive-Health Law Shows Declining Influence of the Church

Hrvoje Hranjski of Associated Press wrote: “Twenty-six years after Roman Catholic leaders helped his mother marshal millions of Filipinos in an uprising that ousted a dictator, President Benigno Aquino III picked a fight with the church over contraceptives and won a victory that bared the bishops' worst nightmare: They no longer sway the masses. In December 2012, Aquino signed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 quietly and without customary handshakes and photographs to avoid controversy. The law that provides state funding for contraceptives for the poor pitted the dominant Catholic Church in an epic battle against the popular Aquino and his followers. [Source: Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press, January 3, 2013 <<<]

“Catholic leaders consider the law an attack on the church's core values — the sanctity of life — saying that contraceptives promote promiscuity and destroy life. Aquino and his allies see the legislation as a way to address how the poor — roughly a third of the country's 94 million people — manage the number of children they have and provide for them. Nearly half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unwanted, according to the U.N. Population Fund, and a third of those end up aborted in a country where abortion remains illegal. Rampant poverty, overcrowded slums, and rising homelessness and crime are main concerns that neither the church nor Aquino's predecessors have successfully tackled. <<<

"If the church can provide milk, diapers and rice, then go ahead, let's make more babies," said Giselle Labadan, a 30-year-old roadside vendor. "But there are just too many people now, too many homeless people, and the church doesn't help to feed them." Labadan said she grew up in a God-fearing family but has defied the church's position against contraceptives for more than a decade because her five children, ages 2 to 12, were already far too many for her meager income. Her husband, a former army soldier, is jobless. She said that even though she has used most types of contraceptives, she still considers herself among the faithful. "I still go to church and pray. It's a part of my life," Labadan said. "I have prayed before not to have another child, but the condom worked better," she said. <<<

“Over the decades, moral and political authority of the church in the Philippines is perceived to have waned with the passing of one its icons, Cardinal Jaime Sin in 2003. After Aquino stepped down in 1992, the country elected its first and only Protestant president, Fidel Ramos. He, too, opposed the church on contraceptives and released state funds for family planning methods. Catholic bishops pulled out all the stops in campaigning against Ramos' successor, popular movie actor Joseph Estrada, a hero of the impoverished masses who made little attempt to keep down his reputation for womanizing, drinking and gambling. But few heeded the church's advice. Estrada was elected with the largest victory margin in Philippine history. Halfway through his six-year presidency, in January 2001, he was confronted with another "people power" revolt, backed by political opponents and the military, and was forced to resign. <<<

“His successor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, styled herself as a devout Catholic and sought to placate the church by abolishing the death penalty and putting brakes on the contraceptives law, which languished in Congress during her nine years in power. It mattered little. Arroyo's mismanagement and corruption scandals set the stage for Aquino's election on a promise to rid the Philippines of graft, fix the economy and lift millions out of poverty. The scion of the country's democracy icon took power several years after Sin's death, but it was a different era in which the church was battered by scandals of sexual misconduct of priests and declining family values. <<<

The latest defeat of the church "can further weaken its moral authority at a time when this is most badly needed in many areas, including defense of a whole range of family values," said the Rev. John J. Carroll, founding chairman of the Jesuit-run John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues. He said he wondered how many Catholics have been "turned off" by incessant sermons and prayers led by the church against the contraceptives law, and how much it contributed to rising anticlericalism and the erosion of church authority. "People today are more practical," said Labadan, the street vendor. "In the old days, people feared that if you defy the church, it will be the end of the world." <<<

Catholic Church Defiance of Reproductive-Health Law in the Philippines

Tom Hundley wrote in the Washington Post, “Catholic bishops argue that any form of contraception other than Vatican-approved “natural” methods or abstinence is tantamount to abortion. They also warn that the RH bill, as it is called here, is the first step down a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to divorce and the legalization of abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, a vice chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that Aquino’s support for the RH bill was a declaration of “open war” on the church. [Source: Tom Hundley, Washington Post, June 17, 2013 /^\]

“It is not a war the bishops intend to lose. Long accustomed to a position of unquestioned power and privilege in the Philippines, the church hierarchy fears that its moral authority is eroding in the face of dynamic economic growth — the Philippines has just replaced China as the fastest-growing economy in the region — coupled with the deepening frustration of the many millions who remain mired in poverty.” /^\

“For the Catholic Church here and for the Vatican, this is a real struggle. This is a country they don’t want to lose. We are the last bastion of Catholicism in the Old World colonies,” said Sylvia Estrada-Claudio, director of the University of the Philippines Center for Women’s Studies and a longtime activist for reproductive health.” /^\

The key question before the court is whether the law violated a 1987 constitutional guarantee of protection for “the life of the unborn from conception.” “To rally support to its side, the bishops attempted to turn May 2013 midterm elections into a referendum on the law. Labeling the church and its supporters as “Team Life” and their opponents as “Team Death,” bishops and priests across the Philippines used their Sunday pulpits to call for the defeat of candidates who had voted in favor of the bill. The church was hoping for a crushing victory, but each side managed to get about half its candidates elected, a result that was widely interpreted as a setback for the bishops and “Team Life.” /^\

“The bishops’ conference openly lobbied some of the Supreme Court’s 15 justices, 11 of whom were appointed by Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a staunch supporter of the church’s position on contraception. “We could lose it. We’re hopeful that we won’t, but we are not sure,” said Estrada-Claudio, the reproductive-health activist. Elizabeth Pangalangan, a Harvard-trained lawyer and professor at the University of the Philippines Law Center who will be arguing in favor of the bill, said the biggest issue is whether the law violates the right-to-life protection in the constitution. “What is prevented by the constitution is abortion,” she said. “To win, we will have to stress the fact that we are against abortion.” /^\

Kenneth R. Weiss wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Priests denounce the reproductive health bill during Mass. Some churches post billboards with gruesome images of aborted fetuses and the message "NO to Reproductive Health Bill — YES to the Gospel of Life." Lawmakers say the church threatens to deny them Communion if they vote for the legislation. [Source: Kenneth R. Weiss, Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2012]

See Birth Control

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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