MANILA, Philippines--Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago isn?t worried her advocacy of the reproductive health (RH) bill will torpedo the renewal of her marital vows in a Catholic church.
The feisty former judge and former Interior Undersecretary Narciso Santiago Jr. are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary on June 19 with a Mass at Manila Cathedral to be officiated by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales.
President Benigno Aquino III is the best man, while actress Heart Evangelista is the maid of honor.
?Cardinal Rosales on my appeal has already said he will not excommunicate me. Otherwise, I will risk embarrassment during my wedding anniversary when I attempt to receive communion. He?s not going to deny me. I guess he?ll turn a blind eye. Besides I?ll be so covered with make-up, I?ll be unrecognizable,? Santiago told reporters, chuckling.
As the word war between the Church and RH advocates escalates, Santiago issued this appeal to the Catholic bishops: Listen to reason.
?We just have to appeal to reason because of the principle of the separation of the Church and State,? said Santiago, who, according to her website, was a candidate for a master of arts degree in religious studies at the Maryhill School of Theology in Quezon City.
She said the debate over the RH bill all boiled down to the issue of ?freedom of conscience.?
?We are created in the image of God because we have freedom of conscience. So for me, seriously speaking, this is an issue of freedom of conscience. Are you free to act according to the dictates of your conscience?? she asked.
While respecting the people?s right of free speech ?across religious boundaries,? Santiago said she had to stand for the ?principle in the democratic governance that the Church cannot dictate to the State.?
?So the State, meaning to say the Congress in this instance, must always argue in favor of free speech and free conscience,? she said.
Santiago said she expected floor debates on the RH bill to begin after Mr. Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address in late July.
?As the author of the bill in the Senate, I am prepared. I?m preparing my battle gear,? she said.
?We?re going to debate this on all fronts not only political front, but also economic, democratic, theological, and medical, meaning to say scientific ? I can debate all of them on any of these topics. They can sit in one row and I can sit all alone by myself. And then defend the bill because the merits of the bill will ensure victory.?