MANILA, Philippines - A Catholic archbishop is under fire for allegedly comparing President Aquino’s support for the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill to the recent massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut.
Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles was quoted as saying that while a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 children in the US, President Aquino would be killing millions of children with a stroke of a pen if he signs the RH bill into law.
“Our President intends to kill 20 million children with a fountain pen…to sign the RH bill into law,” he said in a Philippine Star report.
He said that if this happens, the womb of the mother would no longer be the safest place.
“The RH bill is against life (and) so much young blood (would be) shed. May our leaders not give the Divine Child the same Herodian gift of 2,000 years ago: death of the innocents,” said the Batangas prelate.
In response, former Akbayan party-list representative Risa Hontiveros said comparing President Aquino to the Newtown murderer “is already excessively irrational and unfair, a total abandonment of reason.”
“With due respect to the Archbishop, he should apologize to President Aquino, who has always maintained civility despite the poisonous rhetoric that surrounded the RH bill," she said.
The former congresswoman, an author of the RH bill when she was in Congress, said the comparison is meant “to incite hatred against a President who is not only expressing his conscience, but who, more importantly, is fulfilling the ultimate duty of a leader - to put first the interest of the people, not of the few.”
Hontiveros maintained that Aquino will be known as a "Pro-life President" if he signs the bill into law. She said the bill will reduce cases of abortion in the country.
Philippine legislators were Monday poised to pass landmark birth control laws paving the way for increased sex education and free contraceptives, despite lobbying by the Catholic church, the bill's author said.
The Senate is due to vote on the Reproductive Health Bill during its crucial second reading, while the House of Representatives will vote for the third and final time late Monday, said Congressman Edcel Lagman.
Lagman sees RH bill passage
Lagman said he was confident the bill would be approved by both the House and the Senate, which each need to pass it in three readings -- the third of which is largely seen as a formality.
"We are sure it will pass (in the Senate.) We expect the margin of victory to be wider in the House," he told AFP, despite angry campaigning from the Catholic church in the nation of 100 million, where 70 percent of the population are followers.
Bishops across the country have argued that laws allowing increased sex education and the handing out of contraception will encourage pre-marital sex and lead to the legalization of abortion.
The bill will be signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III if both houses of Congress agree on a common version.
Lagman, who has been pushing family planning legislation for more than a decade, said he was confident the two chambers would reach agreement.
He shrugged off intense lobbying by the Catholic church, including warnings that bishops would campaign against advocates of the bill in next year's elections.
"It's more of a threat than a reality. The experience in other Catholic countries is once a law is passed on reproductive health, even the Catholic church became silent and supports the law," he said.
The bill is seen as a way of moderating the country's population growth, reducing poverty and bringing down the high maternal mortality rate.
"The key provision is the prioritization of the poor and marginalized sectors who really need information and services of reproductive health," Lagman said.
Bishops campaigned against the proposals at the weekend, reading a pastoral letter to congregations across the country during Mass, saying: "The wide and free accessibility of contraceptives, even to the youth, will result in the destruction of family life and in greater violence against women." With Agence France-Presse