MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president has signed a law that will promote contraception, sexual education and family planning programs vigorously opposed by the country's Roman Catholic Church.
President Benigno Aquino III signed the law on Dec. 21 and his administration announced it only Saturday because of the "sensitivity" of the issue, said deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte.
Valte said the passage of the law "closes a highly divisive chapter of our history" and "opens the possibility of cooperation and reconciliation" among those who oppose and support the "Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012."
One of the most outspoken opponents of the legislation while it was still being debated in Congress, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, said Aquino is dividing the country while adopting a "first world country value system." He warned that the law will be followed by the passage of a divorce bill and same-sex marriage, both strongly opposed by the Church.
Cruz, a former president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, criticized the secret signing of the law despite the presidential certification that it was an urgent measure.
"What is that? He is either ashamed of it or he is afraid of the repercussion of that bill," Cruz said.
"My first objection there is why don't you call a spade a spade? Why do you have to call it 'reproductive health?' Come on. That is population-control legislation," he said. "From the onset there is already deception."
He said responsible parenthood as taught by the church entails using only natural family planning methods. Providing artificial contraceptives will "separate pleasure from the hardship" of bringing up a family.
"This government has now entered the bedroom bringing with it the condom and the pill.... That is very irresponsible," Cruz said.