Palace: 'Catholic vote' threat unfair

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2012 03:57 PM | Updated as of Nov 27 2012 02:19 AM

MANILA - Malacañang said it is not fair for any group, including the Catholic Church, to threaten candidates with “dire political consequences” if they vote for or against the reproductive health (RH) bill. 
Budget Secretary Butch Abad, who is also a senior political adviser to President Aquino, said that lawmakers should follow their conscience in casting their votes. 
“If the position taken by any politician, any candidate is based on his own appreciation of his conscience, I think that has to be respected by anybody, including the Church,” Abad said.
“Every politician or every legislator should examine his conscience and if the end of the day, if his conscience points him to this or that vote, I think we have to respect that and not to threaten that particular candidate with dire political consequences.”
Abad said opposing ideas should be respected, especially in Congress.  
“Congress is a legislative assembly. Congress succeeds when there is an interplay or competition of ideas. And if you try to suppress contrary ideas then you will not get the best policy out of deliberative assembly like Congress. So I think that’s fair to do. Because in a democracy, it’s the competition in a marketplace of ideas that brings out the best,” he said.
Abad made a pitch for the responsible parenthood bill (RH bill), submitted as a priority bill of the administration. 
“Every policymaker should examine his conscience, not threats, not rewards, but ultimately, I think, what is best for those, for which this policy has been introduced—to address the very poor that have no means, information, as well as resources, to be able to plan in a responsible way the size and number of his family,” he said.
The Palace urged lawmakers to finally end the debate and vote on the measure.
“It’s the obligation of the legislators, regardless of whether they are pro- or anti-RH to put a closure to this issue because it has become divisive. I think this is something that will have to be discussed with Speaker Belmonte. But I agree with him that this must come to a closure, whether we vote for or against the RH because I don’t think it’s a mark of good leadership for every member of Congress not to finally put an end to this debate and state what the policy ought to be insofar as this Congress is concerned,” Abad said when asked if the Palace sees the need to speak with the House leadership given the problem of mustering a quorum to deliberate on the measure.