Thousands show dissent over RH bill passage-A A +A
Sunday, August 5, 2012
MANILA (Updated) – A river of people clad in red shirts flowed through the historic Edsa Shrine in Quezon City on Saturday for the prayer rally against the administration-backed Reproductive Health (RH) bill.
The police said crowd estimates in Edsa were at 10,000. Aside from the Edsa Shrine activity, simultaneous pro-life rallies were held Saturday in Cebu, Jaro (Iloilo), Davao, Legaspi City, Lucena City, Tacloban City, Roxas City, Borongan (Samar), Cagayan de Oro City, Baguio City, Dagupan CIty and Zamboanga.
The massive protest actions took place three days before the House of Representatives takes a crucial vote on the highly divisive measure. The protest was organized by the influential Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and other pro-life groups.
On August 7, the House is set to vote on whether or not to terminate debate on House Bill (HB) 4244 or "An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development, and for Other Purposes."
The House version of the bill is pending for second reading approval.
"We hope our congressmen will vote according to their conscience," said Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines at the sidelines of the "Prayer Power Rally Against the RH Bill."
Reyes used the crucifixion of Christ as an example on how the "voice of the people" is not always the right choice.
"During the time of Jesus Christ, the 'voice of the people' was for Christ to be crucified, but that was wrong. It is not always the case that the more people who agree on a position are always right," he stressed.
The Catholic Church, a staunch critic of the RH bill, has launched protest action outside the Edsa Shrine Saturday afternoon against the proposed measure to show Congress that most Filipinos were against the bill pending in the legislature for years.
MANILA. Highlights of Saturday's massive prayer rally at the Edsa Shrine in Quezon City. (Photos by Glaiza Jarloc/Sunnex)
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP vice president, questioned the administration for pushing for the bill it touts as the solution to poverty.
"Birth control, they say, means more food, more classrooms, more houses and better health for mothers. If more babies are the cause of poverty, are we now saying 'Kung Walang Anak, Walang Mahirap (If there's no child, there's poverty)?'" said Villegas with obvious reference to Aquino's slogan.
He said President Benigno Aquino III has already gained his support, much like many others, when he pushed for anti-corruption programs, but he said he could not understand the latter in pushing for the RH bill.
"It does not rhyme because it's not correct. We can have more classrooms, more food, and more jobs if we would be less corrupt. Send out the corrupt official and not the baby," said Villegas.
It can be recalled that Aquino, in his 2010 presidential campaign, pushed for the elimination of corruption in government, saying it is the source of poverty of Filipinos.
In his most recent State of the Nation Address last month, Aquino said responsible parenthood will help solve the problems of poverty.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle appealed to the Chief Executive to re-think his position on the RH bill.
He said that pushing for the said law might create a larger problem that could alter Filipino culture since he believes that laws are also there not just to regulate, ban or push for a certain subject but also help shape the culture.
David Miguel, an 11-year-old boy, giving promotional materials during the prayer rally, said he himself is against the proposed law.
"We are against the RH bill because those in favor of it want to get rid of the babies created by God," he said.
Meantime, Villegas said contraception, which is being promoted in the measure "harms your soul."
"Contraception is corruption. What is it curing? If it is a medicine that is supposed to cure, why do women get cancer by taking contraceptive pills?" Villegas said in a statement read by former Ambassador to Vatican City Henrietta de Villa during the prayer rally.
But the main proponent of the controversial bill, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, refuted Villegas's statement.
"Medical studies has documented and confirmed that contraceptives do not cause any serious harm to users," he said in a phone interview.
Lagman said that while the Constitution mandates the right to free speech, the Catholic Church must use this right to properly inform the public.
The senior lawmaker doubted the Church's claim that at least 140 out of the 285-member House will vote against the RH bill.
"We are going to win," Lagman said.
As this developed, Malacañang said that there was misinformation going on against the administration-backed up measure.
In an interview over state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that it is important for the people to read HB 4244 in order to be fully enlightened on the matter.
She indicated that there were those people whose position against RH bill was founded on misinformation.
"As what we have said, all of us are pro-life because abortion is against the law. There were those who have been accusing the President of pushing for abortion, that's wrong, that's misinformation. Let us read and then discuss the issue," she said.
Valte said that the President's stance on RH or the responsible parenthood bill was not just plucked in thin air.
To note, pro- and anti- RH bill forces have both claimed in their respective surveys that the majority of Filipinos are pro and against the measure, respectively.
Both have also used their respective surveys to convince lawmakers to join their cause on how to handle the bill.
Bishop Reyes said this is the main reason why the CBCP has organized the "Prayer power" rally and not to show force just as claimed by the groups pushing for the RH bill's passage.
The Antipolo prelate said the CBCP is praying that lawmakers will see the light of its position against the RH bill.
"The RH bill, primarily, is against the laws of God. Whatever is against the laws of God, that is not good for the people because it is God who made Man and he knows what is good and bad for us," said Reyes. (HDT/Kathrina Alvarez/SDR/Sunnex)