MANILA, Philippines--Lawmakers Wednesday urged the Catholic Church to stick to issues in the debate on the reproductive health bill rather than attack President Benigno Aquino III, who says he favors a responsible parenthood law.
Some lawmakers criticized retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who reportedly called Mr. Aquino ?anti-Christian? for his remarks on the controversial issue.
?With all due respect to the Archbishop, the issues are about RH bill and responsible parenthood bill, thus the discussions should focus on these matters alone and no one should engage in personal attacks against any person who does not share the same view with the clergy,? said Rep. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales of the party-list group Citizens Battle Against Corruption.
Gonzales said Cruz?s statements, such as that it would be better for the 51-year-old President, at his age, to stay single and not get married, were untimely considering that Catholics were observing the Lenten season.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus said critics of the RH bill had unfairly reduced the debate to the issue of artificial and natural birth control methods.
?I just hope the public will not reduce the issue of the RH bill into simply about condoms, but further study the whole bill. Condoms are not the end-all issue in the RH bill,? said De Jesus.
Dialogue with Church
Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello said more lawmakers had taken the side of the President.
?He is a man of principle. I admire him for this. When he says something, he lives up to it. This is so much unlike other presidents and politicians who jettisoned their support for RH once the Church threatened to rally voters against them,? said Bello.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo ?Sonny? Angara said he was confident the Church would be open to dialogue on the bill.
?I think many congressmen have not closed the doors to a dialogue with the Church in the hope of hammering a mutually acceptable bill,? said Angara.
Mr. Aquino said earlier this week that he was certain his administration would eventually come up with a responsible parenthood law and he firmly believed that a program of responsible parenthood would be enacted into law.
?I am aware of those who are opposed to it but it?s my obligation as a leader to reach out to all sectors and talk and explain to them calmly this?even if some are saying I should be excommunicated,? Mr. Aquino said in a speech on Sunday at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.
?In the end, I have to decide. I have to follow my conscience and I need to do what is right,? Mr. Aquino said.
Good public policy
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño said the President and lawmakers were not out to pick a fight with the Church on the RH bill.
?We?re just pursuing good public policy, in this case better maternal and child healthcare and providing couples with both natural and artificial options for managing family size,? said Casiño.? I don?t think we will be excommunicated for this.?