The Diocese of Bacolod has made good on its threat to use negative campaigning against those who supported the passage of what is now the Reproductive Health Law.
After more than a decade of languishing in various stages of the legislative mill, the controversial bill, which would make available to Filipinos various natural and artificial options of planning their families, finally hurdled both Houses of Congress. It was signed into law by the President last December.
The Catholic Church however has not relented on its criticism of the law, branding it unconstitutional and immoral. To date, several petitions seeking to strike down the law for being against the Constitution are pending before the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, the diocese led by Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra has consigned some candidates to membership in either Team Patay (Death) or Team Buhay (Life).
Those in Team Patay include senatorial candidates Juan Edgardo Angara, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casiño and Jack Enrile. Party-list groups Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Akbayan and Anak Pawis are also on the list of the damned.
Belonging to Team Buhay are candidates Joseph Victor Ejercito-Estrada, Antonio Trillanes, Gregorio Honasan, Mitos Magsaysay, Koko Pimentel and Cynthia Villar.
For maximum effect, Navarra had a Team Patay-Team Buhay tarpaulin put up at the front of the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod—a move which the Commission on Elections has assailed. In fact, the Comelec has ordered the tarpaulin’s removal even as Navarra has asked a court for a restraining order on the Comelec.
According to Navarra’s lawyer, the government cannot interfere with Church affairs because of the principle of separation of Church and State. That the Church should invoke the separation principle sounds like a bad joke. It has been the Catholic Church that has been shamelessly meddling in State affairs for the longest time.
The diocese also said that the Comelec order infringes on the Church’s freedom of expression. Again, this is a bizarre call given that the church has always denied families—women, particularly—the freedom to determine for themselves when they should bring other human beings into this world, depending on how well they could care for them.
The diocese’s move is most insulting to the faithful of Bacolod, or of any other place where the list is presented to the churchgoing public. Sure, the list is a suggestion. But in oversimplifying the issues and reducing the debate to whether one voted for or against a single law, it undermines Filipino Catholics’ capacity to think for themselves.
So who’s blurring the line between Church and State now?