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Birth control rift 'could hurt country'

Political analyst says everyone will lose in any war between Church and state

Catholics carry banners against the government's proposed birth control program (photo by Noli Yamsuan) Catholics carry banners against the government's proposed birth control program (photo by Noli Yamsuan)
  • Abe Cerojano, Manila
  • Philippines
  • July 21, 2011
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Tension between the Catholic Church and the government over birth control and other issues may lead to "serious repercussions" that will hurt the country, a leading political analyst has warned.

"Nobody will win," Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said yesterday.

Church influence is considerable, Casiple said, pointing to its role in bringing down former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the late 1980s, when the Church withdrew its support for the regime.

While the government can take away tax-exemption privileges from the Church, the Church can retaliate from the pulpit, he added.

But he  said it is difficult to determine whether the Church could succeed if it opts for all out opposition against President Benigno Aquino right now.

He said Aquino still has the backing of the people.

Aquino has indicated he will press for the enactment of the Reproductive Health Bill, which is being opposed by the Catholic Church.

In May, the bishops demonstrated their disapproval of the bill and their disenchantment with the government by walking out of talks initiated by the presidential palace.

Church, government relations are so strained that some bishops have even called Aquino "a bad Catholic" and government officials supporting the bill "terrorists."

"The Church and the government must make their positions clear. I believe that if they conduct fresh dialogue they can establish a modus vivendi," Casiple said.

Casiple said a true test of the Church’s power could come tomorrow when the bishops' conference will lead a protest rally to demand the distribution of land on a disputed estate owned by Aquino’s family.

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