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MANILA, Philippines – For advocates, it was a historic vote. For Catholic bishops, the approval of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill on third and final reading on Monday evening, December 17, was simply corruption.
Blame it on the Palace’s “apparent intervention,” said the chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes. His commission is at the forefront of the CBCP’s pro-life movement.
He said tides turned especially after the luncheon that President Benigno Aquino III organized on December 3, when he stepped in to break the impasse on the RH bill. For Reyes, that was when previously anti-RH solons began to support the measure.
“What’s sad is that the executive department itself became the corruptor of our congressmen by promising government projects, political favors… and that pork barrel funds will not be given if they don’t vote for the RH bill,” Reyes said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Reyes called this “bribery,” CBCP News reported.
He said those who voted “no” – 8 from the Senate, 79 from the House of Representatives – embodied “heroism and faithfulness.” “I really praise them. I admire them for standing by their principles. Despite (threats to withhold) pork barrel, promise of political favors, and government projects, they stood for what they think is right,” Reyes explained.
He said he hopes those who voted “yes,” on the other hand, will “change their minds and… realize that voting for the RH bill is something that is harmful for the country.”
Citing the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, among others, the CBCP has vehemently opposed the RH bill.
Its vice president, in fact, released a pastoral letter on Sunday, December 16 – the first night of the Philippines’ traditional midnight Masses for Christmas – to condemn proposed law. In his letter, CBCP Vice President Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said “contraception corrupts the soul.” (Watch more in the video below.)
“The moral fiber of our nation is at risk,” said Villegas. He echoed an earlier statement by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle warning against the “culture” to be created by an RH law.
The Catholic Church itself, however, is divided over the RH bill. Citing Church teachings, for instance, a group of Catholic school professors has stated that Catholics may support the RH bill in good conscience – a stance frowned upon by the CBCP. (Watch more in the video below.)
The Palace, for its part, said the historic vote shows that “people now have the government on their side.” By voting to approve the RH bill, the Senate and the House of Representatives moved the measure closer to becoming a law. – Rappler.com