Malacañang on Friday rebuked a Catholic bishop for claiming that tragedies seemed to occur every time the Aquino administration was strongly pushing for the passage of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.
“I would like to invite Bishop Pabillo to join hands with us to pray for a successful search for those who are still missing and to pray for the people who perished in the tragedy,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a text message.
“Now is the time for the good bishop to show God’s compassion and not to speak of the wrath of God,” said Lacierda.
Interviewed recently by Catholic-run Radio Veritas, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said that he had observed that tragedy seemed to happen whenever the controversial bill was being tackled in Congress.
“I don’t know if it’s just coincidence, or God is sending a message that everytime (RH bill) is being discussed seriously … a lot of sufferings happen to us,” Pabillo noted.
The prelate may have been referring to the renewed push by the Aquino administration to have the controversial bill, which gives Filipino couples universal access to modern family planning methods, get the nod of both chambers of Congress.
Pabillo noted that the underlying message of these natural disasters should be clear especially since “we don’t want this bill to be railroaded and secretly lobbied for its approval.”
Quoting former US President Abraham Lincoln, Lacierda called on the leadership of the Catholic Church not to exploit the high death toll and devastation wrought by Typhoon “Pablo” to press for the rejection of the RH bill.
“‘With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, the President has called on all of us to ‘bind the nation’s wounds’ brought about by the ravages of Typhoon Pablo,” said Lacierda.
Pabillo issued the statement on the heels of President Aquino’s meeting with some 179 House members over lunch Monday during which he asked them to expedite plenary debates and amendments to House Bill No. 4244.
‘Divisive for too long’
Mr. Aquino urged lawmakers to put the measure to a vote, but did not explicitly ask them to vote for it. The President, however, said that if he were to vote, he would vote for the passage of the measure.
Mr. Aquino shared with lawmakers “the discernment that led to his taking this position” during the crucial caucus on the bill.
The President stressed that the House must act on the pending RH bill sooner rather than later, saying the issue had been “divisive for too long.”
Mr. Aquino suggested that a week should be adequate time to consider amendments. “There are material issues that we need to address—and we must address them in conscience,” the President said.
He further told lawmakers that “we are taught that our conscience is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong—and that at the end of the day, we will all be asked: What did you do to the least of your brethren?”
Catholic bishops, however, are determined to fight against the passage of the RH bill through prayers.
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles on Friday appealed to the Catholic faithful to pray the Holy Rosary to stop the RH bill.
Congress is set to vote on the controversial measure on Wednesday, coincidentally the Feast of the Our Lady of Guadalupe.
He urged the faithful to gather at the St. Peter Church along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on the said day to pray the rosary.
“Let us celebrate Mass at the St. Peter Church at 12 noon,” said Arguelles in a text message.
Arguelles said a procession of the images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Mediatrix of All Grace from St. Peter Church to Batasan would follow after the Mass.
“Please invite a multitude to the praying of the rosary! HR vs RH! Holy rosary vs RH bill,” Arguelles said. With a report from Tina G. Santos