Philippine President Benigno Aquino defeated a former world boxing champion and leaders of the Catholic Church yesterday as lawmakers chose to advance 14-year- old legislation to fund free family planning.
The House of Representatives voted to end debate on a bill that would provide free contraceptives to stem unwanted pregnancies in a country where population growth is twice the Asian average. Bishops and world welterweight boxing champion Manny Pacquiao led criticism of the proposal on religious grounds, testing the political clout of church leaders who helped Aquino’s late mother rise to power in 1986.
“This has been a longstanding battle for a Philippine church which has, for most of its history, been dominated by the more conservative faction among its clerics,” said Julius Bautista, a visiting fellow at the National University of Singapore. “The passage of this bill would be the latest setback in a larger political landscape in which the church is losing the ability to influence policy.”
Endorsement of the bill, which still requires a final House vote and Senate approval, would mark a victory for Aquino, whose approval rating among the Philippines’s 104 million people remains at about 70 percent after two years in office. The United Nations has said it will help reduce poverty among the 20 million people living in slum conditions as the country becomes wealthier with annual economic growth of more than 5 percent.
full report at Businessweek.