Aquino defends presence of aides in House voting on RH bill
MANILA, Philippines–President Aquino finds nothing wrong with the presence of his two top political lieutenants–Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad–and presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda at the Lower House during the crucial voting on the Reproductive Health Bill before dawn Thursday.
“We have partymates (House members) talking about pressures coming from different sectors, and if members of our Cabinet (have lent) moral support (to the bill), is anything wrong with that?” Mr. Aquino said in an ambush interview Thursday at the SMX Convention Center.
He noted that the Catholic bishops, prelates and Church-affiliated organizations have openly lobbied against the passage of the bill that was, however, passed on second reading.
“You (the media) yourselves are the ones reporting that our bishops, our prelate and other (anti-RH) organizations have been there everyday,” said the President, referring to the arduous plenary debates and amendments leading to the historic vote.
The President said that members of the Cabinet were Filipino citizens, too, and thus could be expected to openly witness the “historic voting” on the bill, which aims to provide Filipino couples with universal access to modern methods of contraception.
He then asked if the “one-day presence” of Cabinet members in the House could be interpreted as “intense lobbying” already.
“They, too, have the right to let the lawmakers feel their presence,” said Mr. Aquino, adding that both Roxas and Abad, as officers of the ruling Liberal Party, had the right to be there.
Mr. Aquino also took time to respond to the oft-repeated allegation of the leadership of the Catholic Church that the administration was using the pork barrel system to pressure the lawmakers to vote for RH.
“Well, I would invite you, and I will invite them to look at all of the (government) websites and see when all of the releases had been done, and my understanding is everybody’s PDAF had been released long before the vote. And please observe also those who voted against it if they have not been given their PDAF,” said Mr. Aquino, referring to Priority Development Assistance Fund.
The President last met with the top leaders of the Catholic Church during the Thanksgiving Mass for the elevation of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to the College of Cardinals on Dec. 1 at the San Fernando de Dilao Parish Church in Paco, Manila.
“When ever we say something, we make it a point to ensure that what we’re saying is verified and correct. So may we ask anybody to do likewise, and give us the courtesy, before accusing (us), (to) just check on the available data,” he added.
Asked whether he was confident that the bill would be passed on third reading next week, he said: “Let’s just await the result of what they will do by Monday.”
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