Even with the odds stacked against them, opponents of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill aren’t giving up hope that the measure will fall through in today’s Congress session.
Yesterday’s start of the nine-day Misa de Gallo gave Church leaders like Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal the venue to ventilate anew their appeal to lawmakers to reject the RH bill.
“You know, the tendency of man is to impose his own will to others. So, the consequence as we have learned from history — and the church has been living for more than 2,000 years — we have experienced that when God is absent in making laws, tapos na (everything ends),” Vidal said in an interview.
Vidal’s message also echoed a message by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to lawmakers urging them to “welcome Jesus with joy” and prepare a straight path for next generations by rejecting the RH bill.
Tagle’s message was also timed with the beginning of the nine-day novena and was read in yesterday’s Masses in Manila.
Today’s third and final reading of the RH bill is expected to be shorter.
Majority floor leader Neptali Gonzales said unlike the five-hour second reading vote, all lawmakers would first have to signify their vote before any of them would be allowed to explain the positions they have taken.
’Anything can happen’
He said this means the verdict would already be known by the time the lawmakers begin justifying their stance.
In last week’s nominal voting, many legislators opted to hold speeches explaining their position before voting.
The bill’s passage, on 113 yes votes, 104 no votes and three abstentions, was only known after more than five hours.
“We are praying but anything can happen (in today’s session),” Vidal said in an interview.
In a homily he delivered in a Mass held at the compound of the Cebu Catholic News Network (CCTN), Vidal cited the importance of seeing God’s will in the drafting of laws governing humans.
He explained that if a law didn’t respect God’s will, it might lead to dictatorship “because it is not God who will be with us, it’s only man.”
Dr. Ligaya Acosta, executive director of Human Life International (HLI), described the passage of the RH bill on second reading at the House of Representatives as an “empty victory for those in favor of the bill.”
“Despite (the presure from Malacañang), the margin of votes between the pro and anti RH was just nine,” she told Cebu Daily News.
Acosta admitted she was very disappointed with the RH bill vote outcome.
“I’m calling on everyone to continue to pray and hang on to the Lord and Mama Mary. We need God in these times. (Legislators should stop) selling their souls in exchange of 30 pieces of silver,” she said.
Judge Francisco Seville of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities also voiced opposition to the RH bill.
“I’m against it. The bill should not be enacted into law. It violates the sanctity of the family. If it will become a law, we would be force to obey it even if it goes against our morality,” Seville told Cebu Daily News.
A Regional Trial Court judge who requested anonymity said the RH bill will certainly not prosper if it will be brought before the attention of the Supreme Court. “That bill is unconstitutional,” he said.
The RH bill seeks to distribute contraceptives and make other family planning methods available for free, giving priority to the poor.
It bans contraceptives that prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum, as some consider this abortion.
It also provides for age-appropriate mandatory reproductive health and sexuality education in public schools, among other provisions.
Gonzales said President Aquino’s certification of the bill as urgent, will also work in its favor.
Other proponents of the measure, including main sponsor Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, are confident that they will retain their second-reading vote victory, citing the fact that all second reading votes have been sustained up to the end.
But opponents of the bill like Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro’s 2nd district said the attendance and voting of 62 previously absent lawmakers would ensure that the bill would be rejected in the end.
“The continuing resistance of a few Catholic bishops and their lay allies is inordinate intransigence even after a clear majority in the Lower House spoke out the overriding resolve of the Filipino people in favor of the RH bill,” Lagman said.
But Rodriguez said many absent lawmakers were known opponents of the bill and have committed to vote against it in the final reading.
He also said the third reading vote could very well be a “historic” moment since it could be the first time a second reading passage of a measure would be overturned.
“Have they not heard of divine guidance? There is divine providence and the power of prayer,” he said in a phone interview.
He said Catholic bishops would turn up in the gallery again to watch the third reading vote and to pray for the victory of bill’s opponents.
As to whether administration officials would troop to the House to watch the voting again, Gonzales could not say. /Carine M. Asutilla, Correspondent with reports from Correspondent Tweeny M. Malinao and Inquirer