catholic bishops' conference of the philippines



Although she was the leader of a revolution and the first woman to serve as the President of the Phillipines , Corazon Aquino had never set out in life to become involved in politics. She viewed herself as a “plain housewife”, supporting the career of her husband Senator Benigno Aquino and raising her five children at home.

However, that all changed in 1983. Her husband had been a major critic of President Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law in 1972 and was imprisoned for eight years for speaking out against the corrupt government conditions. He was exiled to the United States for three years, and upon his return, he was assassinated at Manila International Airport.

Her husband’s death prompted her to become an active leader in protests and demonstrations against the Marcos regime. When it was announced in 1985 that he would hold an election to eliminate doubts of his legitimacy, Aquino initially had hesitations about running a campaign, until she was presented with one-million signatures urging her to run in the presidential race.

During her campaign, Aquino was the victim of sexist, arrogant remarks from Marcos. He dismissed her as “just a woman” whose place was in the bedroom, to which she replied “may the better woman win in this election” (a remark which cleverly referenced public sentiment that his wife, Imelda Marcos, was really calling the shots behind the scene). When he criticized her inexperience, Aquino agreed that she indeed had “no experience in cheating, lying to the public, stealing government money and killing political opponents.”

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A Woman's Letter to the Bishops by Risa Hontiveros

A Woman’s Letter to the Bishops: A Reply to the Pastoral Letter of the CBCP on the Reproductive Health Bill

13 February 2011

Dear Bishop Odchimar,


I will not respond  to all the points raised in the Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which you sent us, your Filipino brothers and sisters, last 30 January.  Most of them are old points that have been raised and clarified repeatedly in so many debates and too few dialogues in the past decade, though it drives me almost to tears that it seems the good Bishops have not been listening intently or understanding with empathy.

I would like to respond to just two points.

In the section, Moral Choices at the Crossroads – at EDSA I and Now, you wrote that “Twenty five years ago in 1986 we Catholic Bishops made a prophetic and moral judgement on political leadership….  Today we come to a new national crossroads and we now have to make a similar moral choice.”

As one of the young people then who went in our multitudes to EDSA when Minister Enrile and General Ramos admitted that Marcos had stolen the election from Cory Aquino and when Cardinal Sin rallied us to protect them from Marcos’s forces, I will always remember how our hearts were made even braver and our feet swifter by the CBCP’s Pastoral Letter.  Then, you were with us in pulling down the pillars of dictatorship, you were with us in advancing democracy.

But your Pastoral Letter of last month cannot be placed on the same plane because it is not of the same prophetic and moral fiber.  By misrepresenting the Reproductive Health bill as promotive of abortion and of adolescent promiscuity – with all due respect -  you have not only been intellectually dishonest and ignored the good faith of RH advocates, but also failed to proclaim the life-saving and values-formation character of this public health measure, which many of us in your own flock, in conscience, desire to be passed into law.   In 1986, you were advancing democracy; now, you are impeding democracy.

In the section, What We Specifically Object to in the RH Bill, you wrote that “Advocates also assert that the RH Bill empowers women with ownership of their own bodies… without the dictation of any religion.” 

We do not own our bodies, but our spirits inhabit them, therefore they are our kingdom, and just as we struggle for the self-determination of Inangbayan and the sustainability of Inang Kalikasan, by the same feminine principle, we freely, in an informed manner, responsibly and joyfully, decide about our bodies.  No one else can or should do that for us.

Whatever gave you the idea that we decide about our bodies or anything else in life without anchoring in our deepest inspirations, whether faith or humanism or the sheer sense of being a woman?  I kneel only to God, sometimes with the princes of my church, but always from the innermost voice of conscience which I strive humbly to discern in silence or in the marketplace.

As a Conference of men located outside women’s experience, good Bishop, could you not show a little more respect for us?

We choose life, we embrace its every cycle, from birth and girlhood to the childbearing years to menopause or climacterium and then death.  We want each and every sister to have a chance at that fullness of life.  It is a shame that we do not have the Bishops marching beside us this time around. But, without you or even against you, we will win this new revolution, too.

Respectfully yours,

Risa Hontiveros

Spokesperson, Akbayan