Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
Bigotry, according to the dictionary, means intolerance, prejudice, bias or narrow-mindedness. Thus, a bigot or bigoted person is one who holds fast to an opinion or belief, and does not tolerate other views.
I see no problem in people adhering to their beliefs or opinions, religious or otherwise. Intolerance, however, is another thing. I will defend people’s right to believe and cling to any opinion or faith they want even if I myself do not subscribe to such. However, tolerance of others’ views must also be practiced. Intolerance brings forth imposition on others’ beliefs and even coercion of people into doing things they do not necessarily want to do.
Because of intolerance, freedoms are constrained and rights disregarded. This is where the problem lies.
Developments on the reproductive health bill and the controversial Kulo art exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines may be separate and distinct from each other, but both are affected by —and both expose —the bigotry existing in our society.
Let me explain.
The fact that the RH bill has been pending in Congress for the past 16 years because of the opposition of essentially only one group, the Roman Catholic hierarchy and its allies, says a lot.
The intolerant Church hierarchy led by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines wants to impose its dogma on all Filipinos, Catholic and otherwise. Because the Catholic Church —whose leaders are all men prohibited from experiencing sex, marriage and parenthood—does not approve of modern family planning methods, it wants to coerce people into doing only what it wants.
The men in robes know that an RH law means providing all medically safe family planning options to people. They do not want us to have a choice. As far as the bishops are concerned, we should not be allowed to make decisions even on matters that they are in the first place do not have first-hand knowledge of. For these men, the only choice should be their choice.
Bishops won’t listen to what people, even Catholics, want. As proven by all surveys of the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia, the Filipino people overwhelmingly want a government-run family planning program. The latest is the June 2011 SWS survey showing that 82 percent of Filipinos believe that deciding on a family planning method is a personal choice, and no one should interfere.
This means that people want to decide for themselves and bishops are not welcome to intrude.
The CBCP frowns upon RH education for the youth. Bishops say this will make them sexually promiscuous. Thus, our young people should not be allowed to learn anything beyond what the bishops want them to know.
The men in robes know that with an RH education in place, young people will have information that may run counter to what they believe. The youth will be empowered to think critically and learn things that can help them acquire life skills including standing for their rights and making informed and responsible decisions. No, the bishops have already made choices for the youth, and these should prevail.
Bishops blocking RH education for the youth contradict the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to education. Art. XIV, Section 1 and 2 (1) of the 1987 Constitution states:
Sec.1. The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.
Sec.2. (1). The State shall establish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society.’
Undoubtedly, included here is the right to RH education that is provided for in the RH bill.
Because of bigotry, people’s rights to make informed choice, health, and education are trampled upon. Because of bigotry of the Catholic hierarchy and its allies, legislators included, the RH bill languishes in Congress.
The same intolerance and narrow-mindedness caused the uproar against and closure of the CCP art exhibit “Kulo.” The exhibit is part of CCP’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of Jose Rizal.
The title itself is provocative. “Kulo” means “boil” and Jose Rizal, through his mighty pen and eventual death, brought the Filipino masses’ blood to the boiling point that sparked the revolution against Spain and its ruling friars. From this alone, one should expect strong, even rebellious artwork in the exhibit.
The work of Mideo Cruz entitled “Politeismo” caught the ire of the same group of bigots opposing the RH bill. They called it blasphemous, meaning, the artwork disrespects religion. And perhaps it did. But isn’t this in the spirit of Rizal and our heroes’ war against the abuses of those who promised to save Filipino souls through Catholicism?
Really, did people expect artwork that sing praises to the Roman Catholic Church, the same Church that caused Rizal’s and our heroes deaths? Lest we forget, this same Church abused our people, our country for hundreds of years.
I am no expert in art but I understand enough to say that censorship of art is no art at all. I understand that art is an expression of the artist and I can respect that. Mideo’s art is not my cup of tea. I reserve the right to criticize it but I do not and cannot expect artists to conform with what I want. That is tantamount to censorship and a violation of the artist’s freedom of expression as enshrined in our Constitution. We may rage against it but we cannot and should not demand its closure.
Mideo said that he wanted people to be provoked into thinking, and he actually succeeded despite and in spite of the bigots.
I for one interpret the penis he superimposed on a religious icon as a statement on the Catholic Church’ patriarchal attitude imposed on our people, especially women. A concrete example of this is the Church hierarchy’s outright disregard for women’s rights and women’s lives given paramount importance by the RH bill that it opposes.
Philippines, we have a problem. Its name is BIGOTRY.