Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II’ presidential ambition in 2016 could be affected by his active role in pushing for the reproductive health (RH) bill, a Catholic bishop said Tuesday.
Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said Roxas was one of the administration officials who went to the House of Representatives to ensure that the RH bill was passed.
“The Church is not after political power but it has much influence. We use that influence for the growth of the country (but) Malcañang really fought the Church,” Reyes said at a Church forum in Intramuros, Manila.
“As for Mar, I think it will affect (his presidential ambition) … The Church has much moral influence on our people. Many still believe in the Church. In surveys, the Church has the highest credibility [than] the executive, legislature and judiciary,” Reyes added.
However, the bishop was quick to point out that Catholics should not be “single-issue” voters and should consider a candidate’s competence and incorruptibility.
“One could be anti-RH but he could also be a thief. It will be up to the voters to weigh a candidate’s track record and decide,” Reyes said.
Monsignor Joselito Asis, CBCP secretary general, said the Church was “not after political power” and was just trying to present a spiritual and moral case against the RH bill.
“We just want what is good for the common good. The Church has no pork barrel and no government projects. We can just use persuasion, appeals and so on,” Asis said.
“We are a democratic country. The power really lies with the people in selecting leaders. In this case, it was the legislators who decided,” he added.
What was expected to be a close vote on third reading turned out to be a landslide on Monday for Malacañang and House members pushing for House Bill No. 4244.
From a close vote of 113-104-3 on second reading, the result was an emphatic victory for the pro-RH bloc (133-79-7) on third and final reading.
That means that instead of gathering more votes, the anti-RH group lost a total of 25, mainly because many supporters did not show up.
Roxas, along with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Secretary Ricky Carandang, were back at the South Lounge on Monday night as House members were casting their votes on the RH bill.
“Our domain, which was the South Lounge, was again invaded,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “We did our best in pushing for amendments, but our best arguments could not marshal enough forces to frustrate the wishes of Malacañang.”
Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay pointed out that Roxas and Abad were “in charge of releasing the pork barrel,” which is formally known as the priority development assistance fund.
“The Catholic Church has no pork barrel to dangle,” she said.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte defended the presence of Roxas and company, saying that as former House members, “they have the right to be there.”
Belmonte noted that former Sen. Francisco Tatad, a known opponent of the RH bill, also showed up at the Batasan.
“He was also there and we also welcomed him. What he ate was also free, the same as everybody else,” he said.