Pacquiao ‘trying hard’ to spar with Lagman on RHBy Cynthia D. Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Manny Pacquiao sparred with Edcel Lagman on the House floor Wednesday.
The face-off was a yawner, lawmakers in attendance decided with their feet.
At the end of Pacquiao’s 30-minute interpellation of Lagman, there wasn’t much of a quorum to continue the second day of plenary debates, covered live on national television, on the explosive reproductive health (RH) bill.
There were snickers and gales of laughter as the boxing world’s pound-for-pound king, who represents Sarangani and opposes the RH measure, “sparred” with the House Minority leader from Albay and author of the RH bill.
“I am ready to rumble,” Lagman told the Pacman, saying he wasn’t going to run away like Shane Mosley did in the Filipino pride’s last bout in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao, in a smart suit and serious mein, read his notes and raised questions ranging from his worries that the RH bill was a population control measure and the impact of a two-child ideal that he said was causing labor problems in Singapore and elsewhere.
Echoing concerns by the Catholic Church, Pacquiao voiced his apprehension about the bill’s provision for the mandatory inclusion of sex education courses for Grades 5 and 6 students and the requirement for employers to provide RH services to employees.
“Why don’t we just craft a law that will provide the solution to the nation’s poverty. There’s a lot of us here who can find the answers to poverty, not like the RH bill that to my mind is too divisive. We have a saying, united we stand, divided we fall,” he said in English and Filipino as the gallery applauded.
Even before he took to the floor, Pacquiao has been hit left and right for agreeing to become the Catholic Church’s poster boy in the RH debate.
Jinkee uses pills
The leftist Partido ng Manggagawa, in a statement by its secretary general, Judy Ann Miranda, called the RH controversy as Pacquiao’s “fight of his life” and forecast that “he will not emerge a champ in this gruelling match.”
“Pacquiao may not have been knocked out by questions about the contradiction between his position and his wife Jinkee’s use of the pill, but he will not survive a decision by the Filipino people,” she said.
“Survey after survey showed a majority want access to reproductive health, among them birth control which Jinkee has the privilege of enjoying as a billionaire’s wife,” Miranda said.
She said if Pacquiao really cared for the poor, he should help combat poverty instead of giving expensive gifts.
“Why, Manny, will you and the Church shoulder the expenses and needs of the poor families if they follow this commandment? If you can afford to buy a P4 million-bag for [your mother] Dionisia, these poor Filipinos, many of whom are your province mates cannot even afford to eat three meals a day, buy clothes and send their children to school,” Miranda said.
“Know both sides of the issue,” former President Fidel V. Ramos, who is campaigning for family planning, urged Pacquiao.
“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 told reporters.
“There are many issues on both sides that need to be well explained, especially since he is the representative of the people in his district in Sarangani. He must be exposed to both sides of the issue.”
He also described as “fallacious or very weak” Pacquiao’s arguments that there is no longer any need to pass the RH bill since many people have already been using condoms or birth control pills.
Welcome to call
Ramos cited other strongly Catholic countries, like Italy, which, he claimed, progresses because it pays much attention to quality over quantity of life.
Despite his stand against the RH bill, Pacquiao is to pay his usual courtesy call on the President, who is supporting the measure, after his latest ring victory.
“There is no reason why (the President) should not welcome Manny Pacquiao if he wants to pay a courtesy call. In fact, there’s already a schedule for a courtesy call this week,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters on Wednesday.
“This shows the President respects the decision or choice of each individual. We don’t have to be concerned if Congressman Pacquiao is against the RH bill,” Lacierda said. With reports from Tina G. Santos and Norman Bordadora