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.
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.
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.