White or purple, RH vote matters for UNA

Ayee Macaraig

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The candidates' stand on the RH law is giving birth to endorsements or rejection

GRAND RALLY. UNA holds its Iloilo proclamation rally during its Western Visayas sortie. Photo by Rappler/Franz Lopez

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Which endorsement will count come May: white or purple?  

Senatorial candidates of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) acknowledged that their stand on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) law is giving birth to political endorsements or for some bets, rejection.

Staunch RH critic Zambales Rep Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay said her opposition to the law is a boost to her candidacy. Over the weekend, Magsaysay got the endorsement of the White Vote Movement led by the charismatic group El Shaddai.

“It’s not the fault of the anti-RH side. The pro-RH challenged them to the point that they no longer respect the Church. They’re the ones who really pushed them to come up with this One Catholic Vote. There’s also the White Vote Movement,” she said.

But whose endorsement counts? 

“The pro-RH also has the Purple Vote. So we will see how the elections go.” Besides Magsaysay, the White Vote Movement also endorsed other candidates who voted against the RH law: Sen Gregorio Honasan II and San Juan Rep JV Ejercito of UNA, and Sen Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Sen Antonio Trillanes IV, and former Las Piñas Rep Cynthia Villar of Team PNoy. (Read: Move over Team Patay, here’s purple vote)

These are the same candidates the Diocese of Bacolod endorsed as “Team Buhay” last February, in what has since become the subject of a Supreme Court case.

Congress passed the landmark law in December 2012 despite staunch opposition from the Catholic Church. It compels government to provide Filipinos access to contraceptives and educate women and families on reproductive health. The first RH bill was filed in Congress about 14 years ago – spanning at least 3 presidents. (Read: RH Law, the long and rough road)

Courting other groups

All UNA candidates are against the RH law except for Cagayan Rep Juan Ponce “Jack” Enrile Jr who voted for the measure. The Diocese of Bacolod included him in its list of “Team Patay” or pro-RH candidates.

Whether pro or anti, Enrile said candidates’ stand on the issue matters not just because of political or religious endorsements.

“It’s important [voters] see the candidate stands by his own convictions, stands by the issues he believes in and supports and sticks with them regardless of the numbers.”

“I saw firsthand the impact a large family has on any couple that basically cannot feed themselves, less so their own children. With the RH law, and the budgetary support it’s supposed to get, if that will contribute to the alleviation of even a small portion of that poverty incidence, it was an exercise well spent,” Enrile said.

He added, “Whatever the fallout may be in terms of votes, support, or non-support then I as a candidate am willing to accept it.”

Enrile though said he has made efforts to court the vote of other religious blocs like the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) and the group of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy. Of all religious groups, it is the INC that is known to deliver solid votes for candidates it endorses.

“It is part of the strategy of every candidate to approach, support every group they can. We have made our representations with them, established contacts with them,” Enrile said.

Other UNA senatorial bets admitted as much. Nancy Binay and Audrey Zubiri, wife of resigned Sen Juan Miguel Zubiri, said they have made similar efforts. Erwin Maceda, son of former Senate President Ernesto Maceda, said his father is also vote-courting.

“We approached them all but have not gotten any response. There were elections the INC endorsed my dad, there were elections it did not. But we tried,” Maceda’s son said.

Over the weekend, some UNA bets reiterated their objection to the RH law as they campaigned in Western Visayas.

In Antique, former Tarlac Gov Tingting Cojuangco told local leaders that she was against the RH law because it is redundant with the Magna Carta for Women. If elected senator, she said she will work to ensure that lapses like these are avoided.

Like Magsaysay and Cojuangco, Nancy Binay is also against the RH law. In a previous interview, she explained why. “I have an issue with the budgetary requirements of the bill, the budget to buy contraceptives. A 4-year-old child died of meningococcemia which is preventable through immunization. Why can’t we allot a bigger budget for immunization, day care centers?” – 

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