Palace: No war with bishops over reproductive health bill

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Malacañang on Thursday ruled out any “war” between the government and the Catholic bishops following President Aquino’s fresh pitch for the reproductive health (RH) bill in Monday’s State of the Nation Address (Sona).

Secretary Edwin Lacierda wondered why President Benigno Aquino’s endorsement of the bill should be seen as a declaration of war against the bishops.

Lacierda was reacting to Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles’ statement calling the President’s fresh push for the approval of the controversial legislation a declaration of an open war against the Church.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes also called it a “bad omen” for the Church, while Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros said the President was in effect imposing his position on the Filipino people.

Mr. Aquino urged Congress to pass the consolidated version of the population management bills in Monday’s Sona.

Lacierda said that the Catholic bishops had been consulted and appraised of the developments in the bill every step of the way.

“Just to give you an example, there was a bill from the House which says that [responsible parenthood] should be limited to a family of two children. The Church objected to this. So we took that out. And then the sex education part was [from students] Grades 5 to 6. The President said let’s make it higher… We acceded to that,” he said.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, a major proponent of the RH bill, called the Catholic bishops’ warning of an open war “off tangent and myopic.”

Lagman said surveys that involve Catholic respondents consistently show that Filipinos want the prompt passage of the reproductive health bill and support the use of government funds for family planning, including the purchase of nonabortive contraceptives.

“Poverty will remain a nightmare to teeming millions of Filipinos if parents and couples are not empowered to fully and freely determine the number and spacing of their children,” he said.

The House of Representatives is planning to end debates on the contentious reproductive health bill on Aug. 7 “to give both sides time to marshal their people,” Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II told reporters Thursday.

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