MANILA, Philippines - The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) hosted lunch yesterday for legislators who fought against the passage of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) law, but clarified this was not an endorsement for the coming midterm polls.
It was an opportune time to meet for lunch at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center on United Nations Avenue since most of the bishops were in Manila to attend the CBCP’s 106th Plenary Assembly.
CBCP president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said that they extended an invitation to the senators and congressmen who opposed the passage of the RH bill last year “as appreciation for what they have done.”
“We thought of holding a thanksgiving for their efforts and for trying to promote life and the values that we have been upholding through the years (because) this is not something we have to take for granted. It is done for their great love for the country and what the values mean to them – the values of marriage, life and respect for one another. The many other Christian values that are in the heart of the pro-life stance,” Palma said.
However, the archbishop clarified that they were not favoring any candidate.
Also present at the occasion were CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) chairman Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, and retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.
Some of the lawmakers who attended the gathering were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Gregorio Honasan, and Vicente Sotto III.
Members of the House of Representatives present included Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado, Ilocos Rep. Imelda Marcos, and Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez.
With some of the DEATHS bills (Divorce, Euthanasia, Abortion, Total Reproductive Health, Homosexuality or gay marriages, and Sex Education) still pending in Congress, Palma admitted that they faced an uphill battle and would need more allies in the legislative branch.
“It is very true we already – even a long time ago – predicted that the moment the RH bill becomes a law the other related issues would come like divorce, euthanasia, and same sex marriage. If you say uphill battle, yes it is an uphill battle. Still it is our deep conviction the teaching of the church has been consistent through the years, (and) we would certainly uphold the same teachings and propagate the same teachings no matter what,” he said.
He said they need more legislators who would espouse the causes of the Catholic Church.
Battle for RH goes to SC
In a related development, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, one of the 12 senatorial bets of the ruling Liberal Party of President Aquino, led several mothers in asking the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss six petitions questioning the constitutionality of the RH law.
In a 32-page motion, Hontiveros sought intervention and defended the law that she said would help the government address maternal deaths and other misconceptions about reproductive health.
Hontiveros ran but lost in the 2010 senatorial polls and is ranked 18th in the latest Social Weather Stations survey.
She was joined by 13 other intervenors: Sylvia Claudio, Clarita Eneria, Merry Jane Arroyo, Geraldin Navarra, Almira Dizon, Evelyn Ornopia, Amor Esperela, Ma. Yolanda Parocha, Felisa Avila, Leticia Lubong, Corsinnie Barbecho, Emily Ragub and Rubelyn Tonido.
The group questioned the legal standing of the six petitioners who asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the government from implementing the law.
The petitioners – James and Lovely-Ann Imbong, non-profit group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (ALFI), Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City, Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc., lawyer Expedito Bugarin and Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines – “have failed to allege facts showing that they possess the requisite standing to challenge the constitutionality of RA 10354.”
“Nowhere in their petitions do the petitioners allege facts that they would be directly and adversely affected by RA 10354,” read the motion.
Hontiveros and company also argued that contrary to the fears expressed by various sectors, the RH law does not legalize abortion in the country.
As to the argument of anti-RH law petitioners that intra-uterine devices and hormonal contraceptives have an abortifacient nature, the intervenors pointed out that this issue would be better addressed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Last week, the SC opted not to rule on the prayer for TRO yet and first required the Office of the Solicitor General to answer the petitions. – With Edu Punay