MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday called on the Catholic Church to review its stand on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill and take into consideration a survey that showed a majority of Filipinos support the measure.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said a survey by Social Weather Stations showed that around 70 percent of 95 million Filipinos want Congress to pass the RH bill.
“We would hope that they (Catholic bishops) would consider the views of the people. They should take note of the survey (on) why there is a need for a Responsible Parenthood bill,” Lacierda told a news briefing.
Lacierda said President Aquino had supported proposals to provide couples a choice on the methods to use in planning their family since he was a senator.
“When you see a mother who is only 16 and has already five or six kids and who was not given proper information on family planning, you would see the urgent need for a Responsible Parenthood bill,” he said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the RH bill in the House of Representatives, also cited recent surveys in urging the Catholic bishops to change their stand against the bill.
“Bishops will cease to be intermediaries to God if they go against the well-intentioned clamor of the people, which is the voice of God,” Lagman said.
He said surveys have shown that most Filipinos not only want the immediate enactment of the RH bill, but also want the government to use public funds for family planning, including the purchase and distribution of non-abortive contraceptives.
“RH is not about sex and religion. It is about health, human rights and sustainable human development,” he stressed.
Opposition members withdraw support
Meanwhile, several members of the opposition bloc withdrew yesterday their support for the RH bill.
House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said he and six of his colleagues deleted their names as co-authors of the measure.
The six congressmen are Reps. Orland Fua (Siquijor), Reena Concepcion Obillo (Una ang Pamilya party-list), Nasser Pangandaman (AA-Kasosyo party-list), Hussein Pangandaman (Lanao del Norte), Elmer Panotes (Camarines Norte), and Pastor Alcover (ANAD party-list).
The withdrawal of support was formalized in a letter to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Twenty out of 28 opposition lawmakers, including former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, are now against the RH bill.
The other anti-RH advocates within the minority are Reps. Juan Miguel Arroyo (Ang Galing Pinoy party-list), Diosdado Arroyo (Camarines Sur), Jose Aquino II (Agusan del Norte), Erico Aumentado (Bohol), Catalina Bagasina (ALE party-list), Fatima Aliah Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte), Carmelo Lazatin (Pampanga), Ma. Milagros Magsaysay (Zambales), Lani Revilla-Mercado (Cavite), Ferdinand Romualdez (Leyte), Amelita Villarosa (Mindoro Occidental), and Arthur Yap (Bohol).
The eight opposition lawmakers backing the measure are Reps. Rodolfo Albano Jr. (Isabela), Marc Douglas Cagas (Davao del Sur), Simeon Datumanong (Maguindanao), Imelda Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte), Carlos Padilla ( Nueva Ecija), Philip Pichay (Surigao del Sur), Arturo Radaza (Lapu-Lapu City), and Augusto Syjuco Jr. (Iloilo).
Suarez said there is no need to pass a new bill because reproductive health services are being provided for in existing government programs.
He also expressed concern that the bill could be used as a tool for population control and result in negative growth and aging population like in Singapore.
However, Lagman expressed confidence the measure would get enough support during the voting on whether to terminate plenary debates on the measure on Aug. 7.
– With Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Rhodina Villanueva, Evelyn Macairan