MANILA, Philippines–A high-ranking official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Friday condemned the decision of President Aquino to certify as “urgent” the controversial reproductive health bill.
“We hope he understands that his administration will be stained by the blood of the innocent unborn who will be deprived of the right to life because of contraceptive use,” said Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.
“We hope he realizes that this bill would lead so many into offending God by the mandatory sex education. In the end, the supporters of this bill would be held accountable by God and His people,” he added.
“To end divisiveness? We are more than resolute to oppose the spirit behind this bill until the very last breath that we have,” Castro said.
Human Life International-Philippines director Rene Bullecer said they will continue to pray so that the bill would not make it to the desk of the President for signing.
“We have to continue praying. Let’s wait for divine intervention. I know God will do something before Aquino signs the RH (bill) into law,” Bullecer told the Church-run Radio Veritas.
“We need to intensify more our prayer and information campaign so that along the way, people will come to understand more the evil implications of the RH bill,” Bullecer added.
At the House of Representatives, the bloc opposed to the RH bill is not raising the white flag despite the presidential certification.
The focus now is on the 62 House members who were absent when the chamber approved HB 4244 on second reading last Thursday.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said “more than 40” of these congressmen had earlier committed to vote against the measure.
“If they show up during the vote on third reading and stick to their commitment, we could overhaul the nine-vote lead of the pro-RH congressmen and win by a slim margin,” he said.
Nominal voting on the measure at the House lasted for five hours, ending at about 2 a.m., on Thursday, with 113 members voting in favor of HB 4244 and 104 voting against it. Three House members abstained, while 62 were absent.
Rodriguez said the anti-RH bloc earlier counted at least 136 congressmen rejecting the bill. He said the number went down to 123 on the eve of the vote, the same day the ruling Liberal Party ordered its 90-plus members in the House to support the bill.
“We hope that this pyrrhic victory will turn into a sound defeat despite the pressure exerted on congressmen,” Rodriguez said.
“We hope that during the vote on third reading, the Executive (branch) would give us a semblance of independence. The South Lounge is the domain of the House of Representatives, not the Executive,” he said.
Rodriguez was referring to the presence of Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, and Strategic Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang at the Batasan lounge to “lobby” for the bill.
A senior House member recalled: “Towards the end of the vote when it was close, I personally heard Mar say, ‘Is there anyone else that we can send home’?”
“Mar looked a little concerned, moving from his table to the table occupied by his staff where they had a tally,” the congressman added.
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles accused Roxas of “forcing” House members who voted “no” to the RH bill to change their votes.
“Let’s not name the person. I might not get further reports,” said Arguelles, declining to identify his source.
Manuel Quezon III, an undersecretary in Malacañang’s communications group, was giving a running tally of the nominal voting on his Twitter account.
Also seen lingering on the floor was Commission on Human Rights chairman Loreta Ann Rosales, a senior leader of the Akbayan party-list group. Akbayan is one of the groups lobbying for the RH bill.
Rodriguez scoffed at the criticism that Catholic bishops had also lobbied and watched the voting from the gallery.
“But they don’t give pork barrel. They have only the power of prayers,” he said.
Lawmakers usually go to the secretary of the Department of Budget and Management to follow up the release of their Priority Development Assistance Fund, commonly known as the pork barrel.