The Reproductive Health bill still has to hurdle a third and final reading in the House then go to the Senate.
“We don’t admit that we lost,” said Dr. Rene Josef Bullecer, Human Life International director, after Thursday’s voting.
“More than 60 congressmen were absent. Most of them were anti-RH. The final tally showed that we lost by just a few votes,” he said.
A margin of only nine votes stood in the way of neutralizing the bill.
Of the 217 lawmakers who attended Wednesday’s session, 113 voted in favor of the RH bill while 104 were against it.
At the Senate, Bullecer said they need 12 to 13 senators so the RH bill won’t be passed. At present, pro-life activists count only 11 allies among the 23 senators.
Bullecer was dismayed with the absence of three Cebu congressmen who were counted on to vote against the RH bill – Rep. Luigi Quisumbing of the 6th district, Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano IV of the 4th district, and Rep. Arturo Radaza of the lone district of Lapu-Lapu City.
“Where were these people? Why were they not there during that very memorable day? It seems that they were pressured (by Malacanang),” Bullecer said.
He said the three have to explain their absence.
“Let’s take this one at a time. We’ll have to wait and see. It’s not the end of the world,” said Msgr. Achilles Dakay, media liaison officer of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
He said he wasn’t surprised by the outcome of the voting.
“They’re teaching what is legal. But the Church is teaching what is moral. Contraceptives are legal in the Philipines but we have been telling people that it is immoral. If cigarettes are dangerous to ones health, contraceptives are dangerous for your soul,” Dakay said.
Rep. Tomas Osmena of Cebu City’s south district was also absent during the voting but he announced earlier he would abstain out of deference to former congressman Raul del Mar, a close ally he said was like “family” to him.
Of 11 congressmen from Cebu, only one voted for the passage of the bill, Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.
“We should not lose hope. No retreat, no surrender. There is still a third reading at the House of Representatives. There is still the Senate. And if they make it, we will go to the Supreme Court,” Bullecer said.
“It’s a very long, long battle. We expect divine intervention in between,” he said.
Dr. Ligaya Acosta, HLI executive director, said it was an “empty victory for those in favor of the bill.
Despite the presure from Malacanang, the margin of votes between the pro and anti RH was only nine, she told Cebu Daily News.
Congressmen Gullas said he will continue to oppose the RH bill.
“My voting record for 23 years as member of the House of Representatives has always been pro-life. It’s too late in the day to change,” Gullas told Cebu Daily News.
Gullas, whose family owns the University of the Visayas, was a recipient of a Papal Award Cross of Honor from Pope Benedict XVI.
He urged the bishops and clergy to focus on the fight in the Senate.
“The constituency of the senators is nationwide. If the Church will blacklist them, they may not win in the election. The Church should make sure that the anti-RH will win in the Senate,” Gullas said. /Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter