Jose Rizal and the Reproductive Health bill

It has been 116 years since our national hero Jose Rizal was executed in Bagumbayan, but his ideas are now being dragged into the raging debate regarding the long-pending reproductive health (RH) bill. Last year, Rep. Arlene “Kaka” of Akbayan explained that the controversial bill mirror’s “Rizal’s legacy of advancing the importance of education, knowledge, and progress.”

The lady lawmaker further expounded: “By providing the people with the widest array of options, the RH bill essentially enlightens and broadens the people’s perspectives on how they combat sexually transmitted diseases as well as the planning and management of healthy Filipino families.” Not to be outdone, the local Catholic Church argued that since RH bill will lead to more abortions in the country (a claim that has been debunked as early as 2008 by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman), Rizal’s vision for the youth to be the “oag-asa ng bayan” (“hope of the future”) may be in danger.

Jose Rizal - reproductive health bill
Jose Rizal’s past writings indicate that he would have supported and not opposed the reproductive health bill (personal photo)

In his Philippine Daily Inquirer column, historian Ambeth Ocampo warned that forcing the national hero into the RH bill debate “is to put words in Rizal’s mouth.” He nevertheless speculated that if Rizal supported the bill, his mother Teodora Alonso “would probably have pulled rank, twisted his ear, and scolded him.” Dona Teodora after all is the mother of 11 children apart from being a devout Catholic.

In voicing out his support for the RH bill, Deputy Erin Tañada noted that the measure “promotes not only access to information, but (also) the freedom of informed choice among individuals and families.” He went on to recall that the Catholic Church during the 1950s vigorously opposed Section Two of Republic Act 1425 or the Rizal Law. This section says that Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo should be a required reading material for all schools – even those ran by religious orders.

In a pastoral statement, the local Catholic hierarchy defended their stance by saying that Rizal’s two novels contains passages that are “against Catholic dogma and morals” as well as portions which “repeatedly attacks” the Catholicism in general.

The prelates quoted Rizal as having said that although he only intended to attack the friars, the latter “used the ritual and superstitions of a religion as a shield.” Rizal further continued: “I had to get rid of that shield in order to wound the enemy that was hiding behind it.” Rizal must be turning in his grave knowing how the so-called pro-life camp mangled his words deliberately to fit in their agenda.

Rizal’s famous letter to the women of Malolos also gives us a glimpse on his views on the role of education as an individual seeks self-determination and women empowerment as a whole.  “You have discovered that it is not goodness to be too obedient to every desire and request of those who pose as little gods, but to obey what is reasonable and just, because blind obedience is the origin of crooked orders and in this case both parties sin,” Rizal wrote in his letter.

Toward the end, Rizal emphasized that “ignorance is bondage.” Rizal is pro-education and pro-women empowerment. He is also anti-Catholic dogmatism. Had Rizal been alive today, he will most likely be one of the stalwarts of the pro RH camp, no doubt.

MUST READ:

Senate RH bill saga reaches climax from Rappler.com

Rizal’s thoughts on education from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines

PS: Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales Jr., the House Majority Leader, has warned that Liberal Party solons who will not vote in favor of the RH bill may face “disciplinary actions.” While this blog supports the bill without any reservations, that kind of public arm-twisting is uncalled for. Lawmakers should be left to decide on the matter on their own.

Gonzales’ pronouncement gives the anti-RH bloc a strong narrative in case they lose e.g. the solons backed the RH merely out of fear of the President. Doing so will of course be hypocritical on their part since the Catholic Church has long announced that they will campaign against those who will support the measure during the 2013 elections.

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About Mark Madrona 1191 Articles
Mark Madrona is a prize-winning blogger, online journalist, and educator from the Philippines. Previously a book editor, he is now teaching communication subjects for two public universities in Manila. His blog The Filipino Scribe won 3rd place in a blog competition organized by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP). In 2015, it was one of the finalists in the 2015 Lasallian Scholarum Awards for Best Online Feature Article in Youth and Education. He also won the Best Blog Award during the 2011 Population and Development Media Awards, the youngest recipient of that recognition. Know more about him here: http://www.filipinoscribe.com/about/.

6 Comments on Jose Rizal and the Reproductive Health bill

  1. what i do not understand is that,why some of the lawmakers are tryng so hard to twist everything around?why can’t they just put thier minds all together to support and put that Rh bill into action for the benefit of all?they waste time and tax payers money by this unnecessary debate.it only shows to the world how slow and incompetitve the philippine government is.even morons can understand the benefit of the said rh bill.how can a lawmaker not?

    • Wonderfully said, Ms Novie. It’s good to know that the bill is now in the bicam level, which means that it can finally become a law by early 2013 at the earliest. Let’s remain vigilant as to how our lawmakers perform their jobs.

      • hi there mark…finally!!! wow that took years…at last it has come a reality and now we will see how it works into our society.we all know this will take sometime but we hope for the best

  2. David Shiela Mae D.
    Holy Angel University
    RIZAL F-332 CBA

    The issue about the RH Bill should not be thrown in the words of our late national heroes because they are no longer here and we are probably wrong of what we think they would say about these kinds of issues. But since it has been said already, if Dr. Jose Rizal is alive today and he is faced with this issue, I think he would go against the RH Bill, because for him the children are the hope of our country. If he values the children that much then I would think he wouldn’t agree with the RH Bill. The problem is people are trying to be so liberated when in fact they can’t even face the fruit of their mistake. If they don’t want a baby then don’t have sex. Especially if you are not even married. If Dr. Rizal is alive today, I bet he’d be very disappointed because the teenagers he considers as hope of our country became one of the main problem of it.

  3. I certainly disagree on the government proposal of RH Bill. Nowadays, Discipline is what the youth needs. If youths have enough awareness of what consequences will there be after sex, they might be avoid doing it. I agree that youths are the hope of our future because they are the one who taking the responsibility of our nation in the future.

    Cortez, Liezel P.
    Holy Angel University, CBA, Buss-management, BM-334

  4. Catajan, Nikka Camille S.
    Holy Angel University
    Rizal- BM334 CBA

    They made the RH bill to be able to control the population in the Philippines and avoid these types of diseases such as STD, HIV and AIDS ..
    free condoms and birth control pills at the health centers above 18 after tomorrow.
    If Dr. Jose Rizal were alive today and he was faced with this issue, I think he will go against the RH Bill, because for him the child is the hope of our country. today young people the hope of the people .

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