The stunning manner lawmakers ended debates last week on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, which was denounced by Catholic bishops as a display by the Aquino administration of “naked power,” did not mean the Church campaign against the measure was doomed.
Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, on Wednesday insisted that the Church has the numbers in the House of Representatives to reject the bill when it comes to a final vote.
Reyes told reporters on Tuesday that not all of the lawmakers who voted on August 6 to end interpellation on the bill and bring it to the next stage, the period of amendments, meant they favored it.
He said he had received assurances from the congressmen even before the voting last week that they still sided with the Church.
“Those who voted to end the debates last week did not mean that they are already pro-RH,” Reyes said.
140 congressmen vs RH
He noted that the bishops’ count of 140 congressmen opposing the measure was also corroborated by a survey among lawmakers themselves. Prior to the meeting in Malacañang last week, a separate survey showed that 145 lawmakers were against the bill, he said.
“More or less, it coincided with our survey of 140… but that was before the meeting in Malacañang so the number might have changed,” the prelate said.
He also added that since the bill was already up for amendments, the Church would also push for the removal of “objectionable” provisions in the bill.
“We would want these provisions—first, the sex education without values and the need for employers to provide contraceptives to their employees—out of the RH bill,” Reyes said.
The provisions, especially the pills, were against “the faith” and “religious freedom,” he said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the bishops’ conference slammed the viva voce vote in the House on August 6 to terminate debates.
“We are dismayed by the display of naked power. We lament the unilateral disregard of prior agreement in the pursuit of selfish goals,” the bishops said, ostensibly referring to the lawmakers’ decision to move the vote a day ahead of schedule after a meeting with President Aquino. “We detest the unbridled resort to foul tactics.”