President Benigno Aquino III has said he is dedicated to the passage of a “responsible parenthood” bill despite opposition from Catholic groups.
“My conviction is firm to have the responsible parenthood bill passed,” he said in a speech to graduating students at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, the Manila Standard Today reports.
“I am aware there are sectors opposed to this, but I have an obligation as a leader to dialog with all sectors and to calmly explain our position to them, even if some have been calling for my excommunication,”said Aquino, who is Catholic.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the leading Philippines bishop on social action and justice and peace issues, said the fear of excommunication was baseless, according to the Philippine Star.
“We have to listen to all people even if a lot have observed that their minds are already closed,” the president added. “But in the end, I have to decide. I have to follow my own conscience and I have to do what is right.”
The responsible parenthood bill is seen as a watered-down version of the reproductive health bill which is presently being debated in the Philippines’ House of Representatives. That bill failed to pass in March.
Last month the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines resumed its dialogue with President Aquino’s administration over the reproductive health bill, which in its original form would attempt to control population growth through widespread distribution of contraceptives and compulsory sex education in schools.
The reproductive health bill’s authors have agreed to amend several provisions and to make sex education in schools optional.