Church rallies faithful to Edsa for ‘judgment day’ over RH billBy Kristine L. Alave, Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Catholic clergy has called for “judgment day” on the reproductive health (RH) bill on Saturday, as it urged opponents of the measure to join a mass protest at the Edsa Shrine three days before the actual House vote on it.
In a statement that he read over Church-run Radio Veritas, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Jose Palma called for a show of force at the Edsa shrine and in dioceses on August 4 “to show our sentiments about our advocacy for life.”
Fr. Melvin Castro, CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life executive director, said the Prayer Power Against the RH Bill at the Edsa Shrine will be said until 8 p.m. on August 4. A vigil will also be held at the House of Representatives on the eve of the House vote on the bill on August 7, he added.
Withdrawal of support
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said at least eight lawmakers from the minority are expected to announce their withdrawal of support for the RH bill on Wednesday. The decision of the eight, who were coauthors of the bill, was reached during a meeting Monday, he said.
Suarez did not identify the eight, but the members of the minority who coauthored the RH bill were Maguindanao Representative Simeon Datumanong, Siquijor Representative Orlando Fua, Davao del Sur Representative Marc Cagas, Davao del Sur Representative Mohammed Hussein Pangandaman, Kasosyo Representative Nasser Pangandaman, Surigao del Sur Representative Philip Pichay, Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano and Iloilo Representative Augusto Syjuco.
Sought for comment, one of the main authors of the RH bill, Representative Edcel Lagman, said that if the members of the minority who had backed the bill were withdrawing their support, there may have been “possible pressure” put on them.
Lagman, who used to be minority leader, said some members of the group backed the bill earlier not because of his influence over them, but because of the materials he provided that convinced them of the need for the measure.
The House resumed debates on the reproductive health bill Monday despite Malacañang’s suspension of work in government offices due to the inclement weather.
The debates are expected to continue until August 7 when a motion to terminate the interpellations would be put to a vote on the floor, after which the House would move on to the amendments and possible passage of the bill on second reading.
The RH bill seeks to give couples the freedom of choice to determine the number and spacing of their children, by making all methods of family planning available using government funds. It also seeks to make information on reproductive health available through sexuality education in school. According to its advocates, the bill does not support or allow abortion, nor does it promote promiscuity.
The bill, which has been languishing in Congress for the past 15 years, spurred a culture war between reproductive health proponents and the Catholic Church, which only allows the use of natural family planning methods.
Several Protestant churches have, however, expressed support for the RH bill, including the influential Iglesia ni Cristo. The INC is a member of the Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood (IPPRP), a group of Christian denominations that support the RH Bill.
In a statement issued last year, the IPPRP urged legislators to pass the RH bill, describing it as “truly prolife, propoor and pronational development.”