MANILA, Philippines—Know both sides of the issue.
This was the advice of former President Fidel V. Ramos to boxing champion and Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, who is now the Church’s poster boy against the controversial reproductive health bill.
“The decision of Congressman Pacquiao to side with the bishops in opposing the pending population management bill at the House of Representatives is his way of expressing his freedom of choice and freedom of expression,” Ramos said during a press briefing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 Dignitaries’ Lounge about an hour before his departure for the United States.
The former president is expected to meet and discuss investments and other business opportunities in the Philippines with Filipino-American communities and business leaders in the US.
Pacquiao on Tuesday lunched with officials of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to express his full support for the Church in countering the RH measure.
“I think it is but fair if Congressman Pacquiao would also discourse, meaning discuss intelligently, with those on the other side of the issue—those that champion the RH Bill,” Ramos said. “There many issues on both sides that need to be well explained, especially in his case that he is the representative of the people in his district in Saranggani. He must be exposed to both sides of the issue.”
Last week, Ramos called on President Aquino to certify the measure to Congress as urgent if he wants “to do the right thing.” He urged Mr. Aquino to mobilize support for the bill opposed by the Roman Catholic Church but largely hailed by civil society and women’s groups.
On Wednesday, Ramos expressed his support and pride in Mr. Aquino for supporting the measure.
“Whoever the proponents, and the President is one of them, should be praised and we should be proud of them,” he said.
Likewise, Ramos commended Minority Floor Leader Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors of House Bill 4244 or the consolidated RH bill for being able to explain to the laymen during Tuesday’s debate at the House of Representative “fully and clearly the issues concerned and the benefits that the common people, espcially the poor, stands to earn from the passage of the bill.”
“The issue here is not about the use of condoms or contraceptives. It’s not about religious dogma or abortion, which was denied, prohibited in the RH Bill and against the law. It’s more about ensuring a better quality of life for the poor and the younger generations of Filipinos that we should be talking about,” Ramos stressed.
“I think the philosophy of RH bill is that we must learn to produce quality people in this world instead of producing people who only end up as, say, beggars on the streets, scavengers, or sellers of cheap or prohibited items. This, I think, is the real valid argument in favor of the RH bill,” he added.
He also described as “fallacious or very weak” Pacquaio’s arguments that there is no longer need to pass the RH bill since many people have already been using condoms or birth pills. Ramos cited other strongly Catholic countries, like Italy, which, he claimed, progresses because it pays much attention to quality over quantity of life.