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Sep 29th
Home Columns Op-Ed Page Catholic Church Threatens Civil Disobedience to Derail Reproductive-health Bill
Catholic Church Threatens Civil Disobedience to Derail Reproductive-health Bill PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Op-Ed Page
Written by Benjamin G. Maynigo   
Monday, 18 October 2010 22:10



By Benjamin G. Maynigo


Editor’s Note: To view accompanying photographs, please click on this link:

Civil Disobedience in Demanding Church and Political Reforms Revisited


In the battle against the Reproductive Health (RH) bill that President Noynoy Aquino supports, the Catholic Church threatens to use civil disobedience in derailing it.


In support of the RH bill and against the move of the Church in interfering what he perceives as purely a State or political affair, free thinker and Catholic tourist guide Carlos Celdran picketed the Archbishop’s Palace dressed as Dr. Jose Rizal prior to his execution carrying a big sign, “DAMASO”. But as rain started pouring, he was forced to go inside where bishops, priests and Catholic lay leaders were converging. While inside, and nobody minding him, he decided to go to the center with the “DAMASO” placard raised high, shouting that the Church should not interfere. Manila Mayor Lim was in the audience and he ordered Celdran’s arrest but not before photograph was taken of the incident. The latter spent at least one night in jail before he was bailed out. He said that he was willing to suffer the consequences for the sake of his cause.


The action of Celdran is a form of civil disobedience. A search would show that there are about 200 methods of civil disobedience. Among the notable ones are: 1) Economic Non Cooperation such as consumers’ boycott and rent withholding; 2) Political Non Cooperation such as withholding or withdrawal of allegiance and boycott of elections;  3) Non-violent protest and persuasion such as slogans, caricatures, and symbols, and picketing; and 4) Social Non Cooperation such as ostracism of persons including excommunication and student strike.


The World’s Top Exponents of Civil Disobedience


T he best practitioners and most-successful exponents of civil disobedience in history were Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.


Whichever method or form of civil disobedience that the Catholic Church would employ against the Philippine Government, the President or the Philippine Legislature in case the RH bill becomes law is still unclear. The threat of excommunication has been mentioned as one method but was later denied.


In the year 1968, a non-violent movement founded on the principles of Christian teachings was formed. It was called the Christian Social Movement (CSM). Some of its noted leaders were former Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul S. Manglapus, Jose Concepcion, Jr. who later became Secretary of Trade and Industry, Jose Feria, who later became Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, Vic Lim, former president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Edgar “Hadji” Kalaw, chairman and CEO of the Bank of Asia, Luis “Booty” Jose, chairman and president of Mark IV, Atty. Benny Tan, who later became BIR Commissioner, Johnny Tan, president of the Federation of Free Workers, and Teresa Nieva, leader of the Christian Family Movement.


The CSM vision was to create a “society based on human dignity, built on justice and dedicated to progress – where every man may develop and fulfill himself according to his ability and in the service of his fellowmen.”


With Ferdinand Marcos running a corrupt government, and presiding over an almost fascist regime, demand for political and social reforms was very strong. There was student unrest in the country echoing that of the United States, Europe and other countries due to opposition to the Vietnam War.


Launched at the University of the Philippines, CSM recruited youth and student leaders nationwide. I was one of the lucky ones who underwent seminars run by intellectual giants that included not only the leaders mentioned above but also Jesuit Frs. Horacio de la Costa, Francisco Araneta, Jose Blanco, Candelaria and Olaguer; Dean Jeremias Montemayor; prize-winning author Francisco Sionil Jose, and intelligence officer Colonel Boni Gillego.


Working with CSM Youth Coordinator Emmanuel (Manny) Cruz, we formed a youth arm of the movement and called it the Young Christian Socialists of the Philippines (YCSP). I became the first Chairman and Secretary-General of the organization.


Being dubbed as tools of the Jesuits and the Church and at times called “clerico fascists” by the communist left and Marcos’ extreme right, we decided to target our own church to start our demands for social reforms.


A religion that takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them is no religion. Every formula of every religion has in this age of reason, to submit to the acid test of reason and universal assent—Mohandas Gandhi



L ed by Manny Cruz and joined by young priests, seminarians and Catholic students, an organization called Laymen’s Association for Post Vatican II Reforms or LAPVIIR was formed a few months later. The goal was to push for church reforms within the Philippines consistent with the reforms already promulgated by the Second Vatican Council plus some additional demands which we sought on the Philippine local jurisdiction.


To catch the attention of the Catholic hierarchy and the nation, we started a form of civil disobedience – a 24-hour round the clock picket and lie-in at the Pro-Cathedral near Malacañang Palace. This lasted for at least two months and eventually transferred to the Archbishop’s Palace – the same place where Carlos Celdran initially started his picket.


In our research at the time, the Archdiocese of Manila was the fifth richest diocese in the world, and the fourth largest contributor to Rome (Vatican). It was in control of three banks and owned some of the most expensive real estate and many valuable stocks. Cardinal Rufino Santos also had a Rolls Royce.


Demands Submitted to the Vatican


I was honored to present LAPVIIR’s demands to the Secretariat of State at the Vatican in Rome on my way to attending in Montevideo, Uruguay, the World Conference of the International Union of Young Christian Democrats (IUYCD) to which YCSP was a member. 


Soon after, we saw holy masses being said in English or in local dialects instead of Latin, with the priest facing the public. We also saw the removal of the practice of classifying into 1st, 2nd and 3rd class of funeral, baptism, wedding and mass services.


“You cannot preach Christianity to an empty stomach,” was the cry at the time. This prompted the Archdiocese to put more money into the Philippine Charities which was funding anti-poverty programs.


After Church Reforms, we tackled government and constitutional reforms. We had a lie-down picket blocking the gates of Malacañang demanding reforms within the bureaucracy. We had to be carried to police vehicles and brought to prison. Working with Joe Concepcion’s National Citizens for Constitutional Reforms, Joe Feria’s Citizens for a Filipino Constitution, the National Union of Students of the Philippines led by Ed Jopson, SUCCOR, YCSP and other groups, we had the largest rally in front of Congress demanding a non-partisan Constitutional Convention.


We also worked with the Federation of Free Farmers and the Chi Rho Movement demanding a more effective and just land reform. We conducted a 24-hour vigil and picket in front of the Department of Agriculture offices which lasted for 89 days and ended with a march to Malacañang Palace. In fact, we ended up getting inside Malacañang by storming the gates. Yet, we stuck to being non-violent.


Noynoy Aquino Is Not Ferdinand Marcos


T he year 2010 is definitely not 1968. President Aquino is not President Marcos. The former got elected on the promise of instituting reforms in the government hoping that “walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”


As in 1968, the Philippines remains a poor nation. As of last count in 2006, the poor make up one of every three (33-percent). The Social Weather Stations (SWS) tells us it’s close to one out of two (43-percent) while Ibon Foundation says it’s two out of three (6- percent).


For the Catholic Church, therefore, the cry remains the same: “You cannot preach Christianity to an empty stomach.”


The State is declaring war against poverty. As head of the State, Noynoy Aquino is committed to reducing if not totally eliminating corruption as a means of reducing poverty. He is also resolved to targeting one of the proven causes of poverty by reducing the rate of growth of population. The Reproductive Health bill seeks to support Noynoy Aquino’s resolve. The bill is clearly against abortion but it does so many other things.


The Catholic Church has practically the same constituency as the Philippine Government. That is, the sovereign but mostly Catholic people. Both want the people to be healthy and to not suffer from hunger and poverty.


Editor’s Note: To read former BOI Gov. Ben Sanchez’s

take on the same controversy, please click on this hyperlink,

 Don’t Catholics Have the Right to Dissent from Authoritative, Non-infallible Church Teaching? 


T he Church supports the House Bill No. 13 sponsored by Cong. Roilo Golez. The definition as to when life begins as stated in this bill is acceptable to the Church. The RH bill and the Golez bill are anti-abortion. Are they reconcilable?


Perhaps the Holy Spirit would be able to enlighten our legislators. Or is there a new need for reforms in the Catholic Church as well?


As Mohandas Gandhi said, “A religion that takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them is no religion. Every formula of every religion has in this age of reason, to submit to the acid test of reason and universal assent.” # # #


Editor’s Note: The author is an International and Cyber Lawyer with an LL.B and LL.M; An Educator with an M.A. in Human Resource Development; An IT Chief Executive Officer with M.B.A.; Community and Trade Association Leader; Lecturer/Speaker/Writer; Political Strategist; Technology Pioneer. He is based in Washington, DC.

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