By: Elizabeth Angsioco
Published in Manila Standard Today
Dated April 2, 2011
Damaso lives. He mingles with us exacting obedience even on personal matters, women’s ovaries included.
Damaso epitomizes the Spanish friars’ powers and abuses in Jose Rizal’s famous novel, “Noli Me Tangere.” Father Damaso’s powers went beyond the spiritual realm. He also dominated politics. Thus, Damaso controlled heaven and earth, the body and soul of Filipinos.
Centuries later, Damaso’s significance was made current by Carlos Celdran’s protest. His call for the Catholic Church to stop meddling in politics reverberated in the halls of the Manila Cathedral. If Rizal were alive today, he would have surely written about this as well.
Controversies surrounding the reproductive health bill are significantly because of present-day Damasos who vigorously oppose its passage. This despite the clamor of those who are primarily affected—the women whose ovaries they want to control.
Recent developments like the anti-RH ordinances approved by Barangay Ayala Alabang and the seven barangays in Balanga, Bataan, the ongoing black propaganda against the RH bill particularly using the pulpit, all these show us how modern-day Damasos and their allies work.
I received copies of minutes of meetings of the BAA Council and we gathered information from women’s groups in Bataan about the ordinances. I was also sent a flyer distributed in Our Lady of Consolation Parish in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. These places are far from each other BUT events there are clearly related. I highly suspect that Damasos are behind these.
The BAA documents are explosive. Thanks to the meticulous documentation of the Barangay Council, we see a clear picture of what could have transpired in its approval of the “no prescription, no condom” ordinance.
For instance, item 9.3 of the 13 December Notice of Meeting was “Ordinance on RH bill.” Moreover, item 8.6 of the minutes of the same meeting says, “In connection with the RH bill, Chairman AX Burgos instructed the Kagawads to start conferring with the BEC District Coordinators and get their approval/comments. This will serve as our basis in passing the ordinance prepared by Sen. Pimentel.” (itals and emphasis mine)
Note that the Council used “RH bill” and not the ordinance title in reference to it. Moreover, was former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel the author of the ordinance? Note that the former Senator defended it during the subsequent public hearing called after the ordinance became controversial.
The minutes of the 23 December Public Hearing on the ordinance are equally revealing. The document tells us how the minds of some of our rich citizens work. For instance, lawyer Luis Sison (who defended the ordinance in media) is quoted as saying, “…I am honored to be here today because it has been said… that, ‘Where Ayala Alabang goes, so does the country.’ So, today, I hope this Committee… will also uphold that tradition. We are embarking on a very historic bill or ordinance that will hopefully transpire across the country and be a strong warning against the RH Bill.” Remember that lawyer Luis Sison was the same man who said that the BAA ordinance was inspired by their parish priest.
The minutes also indicate that when the need for the City Council’s approval of the ordinance was discussed, the Chair of Committee on Women’s Rights Ma. Soledad Tugade (who was chairing the hearing) reportedly said, “…with all the people around here, members of the church will pray for it, and I am sure Mr. Chairman, it will be approved. Malalakas sila.”
Clearly, the BAA Council passed the ordinance as a reaction to the RH bill. Also, it appears like some of them thought themselves to be so powerful that they can make the city council, and the whole country, follow their dictates!
The minutes also show that council knew the ordinance would be questioned. Worth noting too is the fact that many of those present in said public hearing were either Catholic-allied groups or anti-RH personalities, including former Representative Edmund Reyes, Atty. Luis Sison’s son-in-law.
Very recently, we heard reports that seven barangays in Balanga, Bataan (Puerto Rivas-Itaas; Puerto Rivas-Ibaba; Lote; Tortugas; Cupang Proper; Cupang West; and Tanato) likewise approved ordinances similar to BAA. My organization’s chapters in the province were instructed to gather as much information as they can on the matter. Our discussions indicated that:
On March 25, the City Mayor Jose Enrique Garcia III (known anti-RH personality) asked barangay officials to attend a seminar on the RH bill. Seven barangays were present. The speaker was former Representative Edmund Reyes who was also active in the passage of the BAA ordinance. Note that Reyes was in the HOR with the mayor’s father (also known anti-RH) now governor. According to the participants to the seminar, the speaker told them repeatedly that the RH bill is abortion.
Except for said seminar, no public hearing was called to discuss the ordinance. All of the kagawads our leaders spoke with said that they were just asked to sign the ordinance.
The most alarming information however, is the plan to have all the 25 barangays in Balanga pass the same ordinance. This allegedly, is what the Mayor wants.
Lote Bgy. Chair Richard Sioson told our leaders that on 29 March, officials of barangays that passed the ordinance were sent to Manila. They went to the office of former Sen. Pimentel to consult him about the ordinance. After meeting with the former senator, they also allegedly visited BAA and spoke with Chairman Alfred Xerez-Burgos who informed them that the BAA ordinance is on hold.
Our women leaders, in the course of their talks with barangay officials, requested for copies of the ordinance. However, despite repeated promises that these would be released and their daily visits to the different barangays, no copy was given them. Instead, they were told that the copies were collected by the city government.
Is this not most interesting? We see the same people moving in different places so anti-RH barangay ordinances are passed. The plot thickens. There will be more next week.