The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has rejected the “watered-down” version of the reproductive health (RH) bill being proposed by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, a bishop said Tuesday.
The amended version of House Bill No. 4244 should still be scrapped for promoting artificial contraception, said Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chairman of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.
“Despite some good amendments, this latest version remains harmful because of the bad provisions that are still there. I will cite only one example: The promotion of contraception or artificial methods of birth control is still very much a part of it,” Reyes told a press forum Tuesday.
“Despite some good amendments, this latest version of HB 4244 is not acceptable because of its bad provisions,” he said.
Reyes acknowledged as a “marked improvement” a provision in the latest RH bill version which prohibits “reproductive healthcare services, methods, devices and supplies” that prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum.
However, this still did not make the bill acceptable “because it is wrong to promote contraception and give free contraceptives whether to the rich or the poor,” he said.
“These methods, devices and supplies are abortifacient,” he said.
He stressed that the Church’s aim in opposing HB 4244 is to protect not only the good of Catholics but the good of all, Catholics and non-Catholics.”
“We remain steadfast in our position: The poor does not stand to gain anything from contraceptive use. Poverty cannot be solved—neither fully nor partially—by contraceptive use and its promotion,” Reyes said.
Meanwhile, two administration congressmen pushing for the passage of HB 4244 acknowledged that the passage of the bill would greatly speed up if the President certifies the measure as urgent, like he did the sin tax bill.
But Rep. Sherwin Tugna of the Cibac party-list admitted that HB 4244 could not be compared to the sin tax bill and the General Appropriations Bill, which both receive unequivocal support from the Palace.
“You cannot equate the RH bill and the sin tax bill and other measures, which have been supported by the administration, because this is something that crosses party lines and this is something that is truly divisive,” he told reporters.
“Each representative’s stand is mainly dictated by the stand of his particular constituents,” he said.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said having the RH bill certified as “urgent” by Mr. Aquino “changes the equation.”
“You can pass it on second and third reading on the same day. You can dispense with the requirements of the Constitution that three days must pass between the second and third reading,” he said.
But Angara is not pushing the panic button yet as he said “it’s still early in the game to give up hope.”
The House is stuck in the period of individual amendments, mainly because of the lack of a quorum. Opponents of the bill have called attention to their colleagues pushing for the measure for not showing up in plenary.
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Tuesday said his group would oppose any move to formally introduce a substitute bill containing “omnibus” amendments to HB 4244 on the floor. The House leadership distributed just such a measure before members went on break last month.
But an omnibus amendment cannot be done in the plenary, he said. “It has to go back to the committee and it will be called committee amendments,” he said.
Rodriguez admitted, however, that a move to block the substitute bill might be outvoted in the plenary. If that happens, he said he was prepared to “propose as many amendments as there are sections.”
Opponents of the RH bill argued that the proposed law would only duplicate existing laws that already address such issues as women’s health and maternal mortality. They also pointed to the alleged presence in the country of foreign lobby groups, some of which openly support abortion. With a report from Rima Granali