MANILA, Philippines – For multi-awarded theater actress Lea Salonga, "because they said so" was not a valid reason to oppose controversial issues such as same-sex marriage and the reproductive health (RH) law.
In an interview on Rappler Talk on Monday, August 10, Salonga urged critics of the RH law and same-sex marriage to critically examine their reasons and not base their opposition on a religious standpoint or what others told them to follow.
The acclaimed Filipino singer has been vocal on social media about her support on the two issues, which continues to be a divisive topic in the predominantly Catholic Philippine society.
The RH law, which provides universal access to reproductive health services and information, was finally passed into law after nearly 14 years in Congress despite strong pushback from influential church leaders, who claimed that the law was pro-abortion and anti-life.
Speaking to Rappler, Salonga said that she decided to "do the right thing" by backing the law, which she believes would help poor women who often had no access to RH services.
Salonga recalled how she used to get tweets and social media posts from fans who would praise her work, but tell her that they were not in favor of her support for the RH law.
To them, Salonga posed this question: "Why? If it had nothing to do with religion, why [are you opposing this]? Are you just blindly following religion? Or did you actually stop, think about it, then make a stand?"
"If you're just blindly following, kasi sabi ng pari, 'wag ka sumunod, that is a reasoning I will not accept," she added.
She had the same sentiments for critics of same-sex marriage, who often cite the Bible to assert their argument that marriage must only be between a man and a woman.
In response, Salonga also quoted two commandments from the Bible.
"Jesus gave two commandments: 'Love God with all of your heart and all of your soul.' And the second one is, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' So did he say, 'Unless that person happens to be gay, or lesbian, or trans'? Last I checked, those words were not in the Bible. I'm not going to make an assumption that Jesus Christ, more than 2000 years ago, made those exceptions," she said.
The singer added, "For those of you who are against marriage equality, you have to ask yourselves why. I will not accept 'Because my priest said so.'"
While many Filipinos like her are vocal about marriage equality, Salonga believes that Philippine society is not yet ready to back same-sex marriage.
A Facebook trend showed that Filipino netizens support marriage equality, but a May 2015 poll conducted by Laylo Research Strategies showed that 7 out of 10 Filipinos oppose it.
"We may be too religious as a society. I'm not saying that as a slam against religion, it's just a state of our world, we're not ready. This country is not yet ready," Salonga said. – Rappler.com