Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Only the religious are free

Yet another bone-headed. white, liberal,sexist report from the know-it-alls in the US State Department.

The 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom, released in Washington, DC, in late October, said the Philippine government generally respected religious freedom in practice and that there was no change in the status of this respect during the period of the study, from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009.

The report lauds the fact that there are no forced religious conversions and no religious prisoners.

In the Philippines, we are free to believe--NOT!

The Philippines remains one of only two countries which does not allow divorce. The Philippines is also a country where abortion is illegal under all conditions . A reproductive health bill that merely protects accepted international standards of health cannot be passed despite nine years of advocacy because politicians who are Catholic insist on obeying the prescriptions of the Church and other Church-mandated bodies.1 What is pertinent here is that those against the bill state their religious beliefs as the basis for their objection without any attempt to reconcile their actions with provisions in the Philippine Constitution on secularism, non-establishment of religions and non-discrimination.

Last January 21, 2008 a case was filed in the Philippine Court of Appeals to invalidate Executive Order No. 003, a policy banning "artificial contraceptives" in all of Manila's public health facilities. This order was promulgated in February 2000 by then-mayor Jose "Lito" Atienza, Jr. The case was filed by 20 women directly affected by the Executive Order. Atienza repeatedly justifies this action as a way of advancing “morals” and as a result of his being “pro-life” and a member of the organization Couple's for Christ.

Because of the contraception ban, public health centers in Manila City are prohibited from providing condoms, birth control pills, or other forms of "artificial" contraceptives and related information. The dire effects have been profound. Despite Atienza's having been voted out of office in 2007, the Executive Order remains.

The case has followed a difficult course in the Philippine courts and as finally dismissed by the Supreme Court on a technicality causing the Center for Reproductive Policy to comment, “the Philippine Supreme Court rules in favor of ideology”. At the moment there is a petition for urgent action on the matter to the CEDAW Committee.

About a week ago our Commission on Elections has refused to accredit a political party representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The petition for accreditation was denied on the grounds of religion. The decision of the Commissioners quotes the interpreters of the Koran and the Bible wit regards to homosexuality.

These violations of sexual and reproductive rights of Philippine women en masse is a result of an religious/ideological hegemony. This hegemony is established not so much by extremist politics but by the willing acquiescence of allegedly grown men and women for someone else, often the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, determine their morality for them.

The fault here is not in the inability to express faith. These definitions of religious freedom may be coming from populations unlike the Philippines, where religion and colonial subservience have had a long and incestuous relationship. The Spanish friars who governed and abused the Philippines during the centuries of colonial occupation kept their power over Filipinos because they did not allow the native population to engage in a direct appreciation of the Bible. Philippine Catholicism is burdened by this colonial legacy. Up to the present spirituality is mediated for the masses by powerful and power-hungry men who have valorized obedience to their teachings as part of Catholic morality.

Maybe they should do a study to see whether we are also free not to believe. In the meantime, we can test the waters by not believing in the BS indicators of yet another BS report from the US State Department.

1 comment:

cj said...

Since randomised controlled trials are such de riguer these days especially in the medical community, why don't the doctors start making these trials to see the acceptability of modern family planning methods among Filipino Catholics verses Filipino non-Catholics. This can be done. Pero bakit di nangyayari? Kasi superficial lang ang pag treat the mga professional organizations like PMA and POGS sa mga social issues. They pay lip service to these issues during their conventions pero di naman binibigyan ng konkretong pagtalakay lalo na sa mga medical students at resident trainees.