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Authorities tell Catholics to toe the line

Civil disobedience over birth control bill will attract legal sanctions

Authorities tell Catholics to toe the line
President Benigno Aquino III presides over a meeting with senators this week. (Photo courtesy of Malacanang Photo Bureau) reporters and staff, Manila

May 12, 2011

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Catholics will be charged if they do not to pay taxes in protest against the reproductive health bill if it is passed, the Philippine government says. Authorities also urged groups opposed to the controversial bill to dissociate themselves from 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. 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, head the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) public affairs commission. Another Catholic Church official, meanwhile, called for an “all-out war” against the measure after the CBCP pulled out from talks with government officials 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. He also warned that a move to amend the Constitution in Congress could lead to the abolition of its "pro-life provisions." Rep. Loreto Ocampos of Misamis Occidental earlier said the House of Representatives is reviving the public debate on Charter change. “We will sell Charter change. We will go around the country and listen to the people first, then we'll give the positive points of Charter change,” Ocampos said. Meanwhile, two Catholic bishops asked the Senate to investigate the alleged misuse of government funds for family planning by the previous administration. Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran and Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon urged senators to call for an inquiry into the exposé of Sen. Vicente Sotto about corruption in the family planning program of the Department of Health (DOH). Bishop Bastes praised Sotto, who admitted yesterday that his exposé on the alleged corruption of family planning funds was a “veiled” attack on the RH bill, which he opposes. Health Secretary Enrique Ona has denied Sotto’s allegations that there were anomalies in the release of the funds for the family health programs of local government units. PM14206
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