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Passage of contraceptives law in Philippines shows times have changed for Catholic church

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    An anti-abortion sign flashes on an electric signboard outside the Roman Catholic Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in downtown Manila, Philippines on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III last month signed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. The law that provides state funding for contraceptives for the poor pitted the dominant Roman Catholic Church in an epic battle against the popular Aquino and his followers. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila) (The Associated Press)

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    A picture of Pope Benedict XVI is shown on an electric signboard outside the Roman Catholic Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in downtown Manila, Philippines on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III last month signed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. The law that provides state funding for contraceptives for the poor pitted the dominant Roman Catholic Church in an epic battle against the popular Aquino and his followers. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila) (The Associated Press)

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    A "Pro-Life" sign flashes on an electric signboard outside the Roman Catholic Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in downtown Manila, Philippines on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III last month signed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. The law that provides state funding for contraceptives for the poor pitted the dominant Roman Catholic Church in an epic battle against the popular Aquino and his followers. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila) (The Associated Press)

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    A "No to Abortion" sign flashes on an electric signboard outside the Roman Catholic Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in downtown Manila, Philippines on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III last month signed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. The law that provides state funding for contraceptives for the poor pitted the dominant Roman Catholic Church in an epic battle against the popular Aquino and his followers. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila) (The Associated Press)

Twenty-six years after Roman Catholic leaders helped his mother marshal millions of Filipinos in an uprising that ousted a dictator, President Benigno Aquino III has picked a fight with the church over contraceptives and won a victory that bared the bishops' worst nightmare: They no longer sway the masses.

Aquino last month signed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 quietly to avoid controversy.

The outcome has chipped away at the clout the church has held over Filipinos, and marked the passing of an era in which it was taboo to defy the church.

Catholic leaders consider the law an attack on the church's core values. Aquino and his allies say it addresses how the poor manage the number of children they have and provide for them.