I’d never actually been to one of these things before. Carlo Ople of New Media Philippines was organizing this series of meetings between bloggers and political candidates and would-be political candidates for 2010, and in the evening of November 12, 2009 at Dulcinea was a dinner with Akbayan Party-List Rep. Risa Hontiveros. From what my friend the wonk told me, she was left-leaning and supported the Reproductive Health Bill. Which was weirdly disappointing because it looked like we would agree on everything, and then I would therefore have nothing interesting to ask.
Of course, the entire dinner turned out to be interesting and insightful. Rep. Hontiveros’ platform centered on Health, Education and Employment. A representative of the party list Akbayan, she is a staunch supporter of women and gay rights. She shared her experiences with the dialog with religious groups regarding the RH bill, some of them extremely encouraging. For instance, Muslim religious leaders say that when women have access to reproductive choices, they will be able to fulfill their duties as mothers better, which is very much in line with their beliefs. Then there was also the idea — which I’d not really thought of till then — of the Church being a church of people, and not just of priests, cardinals and the Pope. That the Church should listen to what its faithful want and need, and not just let the leaders decide among themselves. I think this will help not just the dialog on reproductive health, but in making the Church more relevant in the world. Applications for the priesthood have been fewer and fewer the past several years — a symptom, I think, of this organization’s problem. (Not that I’m pushing for a stronger, bigger Church — organized religion is not one of my favorite things, my fondness for Jesuits notwithstanding –but most of my friends and relatives are Catholic, and it pains me to see them part of such an oppressive institution.)
Ironically, that night, the Comelec disqualified Ang Ladlad from running as a party list in the 2010 elections, on “moral grounds”, citing passages from the Bible and the Koran.