MANILA, Philippines - While supporters of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill celebrated outside the Batasan Pambansa minutes after legislators passed the bill on final reading, those against it solemnly sang songs of praise and prayed the rosary.
Father Melvin Castro, Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) executive director for Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, expressed dismay over the bill's approval.
"Malungkot sapagkat Paskong Pasko, pinagdiriwang ang kaarawan Panginoong Hesukristo bilang sanggol, ang mawawalan ng karapatan dito ay mga sanggol," he told ABS-CBN news.
In a mass that followed, Castro asked people what action is best during the elections. "Huwag iboto!" was their reply.
"Hindi rin makabubuti na nandiyan sila. Eh magkakasala sila lalo eh. So huwag nalang sila ibalik diyan," he said during the mass.
Castro stressed, however, that the call not to vote for legislators in favor of the bill will not come from the Catholic Church leaders but from the voters themselves.
He said that the church respects everyone's right to vote. He also alleged that the Liberal Party coerced legislators to vote for the RH Bill.
"Ang Liberal Party nag-utos kahapon at kanina. Ang hindi raw boboto sa RH bill, paparusahan nila. Tama ba iyon?" he asked.
Despite the bill inching its way towards becoming a law, Castro said that the church will continue to pray and that the passage on the third reading will only encourage Catholics to reject the bill.
"Patuloy ang aming adbokasiya anuman ang kaparaanan, lalong lalo na maturuan ang kabataan na mahalin ang buhay at ang pamilya," he said.