MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang has closed the doors on any possibility for a dialogue between President Benigno S. Aquino III and Roman Catholic bishops to settle their conflicting stands on the controversial responsible parenthood bill.
There will be no more dialogue as the President has already made up his mind in supporting the responsible parenthood bill despite the strong opposition by the prelates, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
"At this point, the President has made his position known. The President's five-point position was already put in the draft proposed to LEDAC (Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council)," Valte said in a Palace press briefing.
President Aquino recently declared that he is a "pro-life" advocate as he endorsed the responsible parenthood bill that seeks to improve the plight of the Filipino people. Aquino likewise urged Congress to make a decision on the responsible parenthood bill "once and for all" following months of deliberations.
The Palace previously held a series of dialogues with some Catholic bishops to listen to their opposition to the reproductive health measure, mainly its provision on artificial contraception. Some of the concerns of the bishops were reportedly taken into consideration in the Palace version of the RH bill.
On the eve of the planned major rally by the Catholic Church against the reproductive health bill, Valte maintained that the administration is "pro-life" just like everyone else.
"I think we would go out on a limb as to say that everybody is for responsible parenthood. As the President said earlier, we are all pro-life," she said. She also made clear that the President opposes abortion, a policy included in his five-point policy on responsible parenthood.
She said she was uncertain if the President will monitor Saturday's rally against reproductive health bill since he is busy checking the condition of the people in flooded areas in the country. But Valte assured that the police will ensure peace and order during the massive protest action initiated by the Catholic Church this weekend.
The anti-reproductive health prayer rally will be held at the EDSA Shrine in Mandaluyong ahead of the scheduled plenary session on the bill next week at the House of Representatives.
Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (CBCP-ECFL), said people should wear red today as a sign of their opposition to the RH bill.
"We appeal to the people to wear red today, and on Tuesday, even if they won't be in Edsa for the prayer rally," he said in an interview.
The color red for the Catholic Church, Castro said symbolizes not only the blood of Jesus Christ but also the martyrs who died for their faith.
"This will also symbolize the blood of the innocent babies killed in the womb of their mothers, and the blood of mothers who died of childbirth," he said.
The CBCP official, meantime, warned that today's gathering at EDSA Shrine is just the beginning as they are holding different protest activities until August 7, the day when lawmakers vote on whether to continue or not the period of debates on the RH Bill.
"This is just the beginning. Let us keep watch of the voting that will transpire on August 7," Castro said.
Asked who among the country's lawmakers that they expect to attend the event, he said they are not expecting any since they did not issue a formal invitation.
"We didn't issue a formal invitation to the political personalities. It's an open invitation to all anti-RH congressmen and senators. If they would come we would acknowledge them, but they won't be allowed to deliver speeches," said Castro.
"We would keep this prayer power rally as prayerful as possible," he added.
Set to join the Edsa Shrine activity which will start at 1 p.m. are delegations from the Archdioceses of Manila, Lipa (Batangas) and San Fernando (Pampanga), Dioceses of Antipolo, Parañaque, Cubao, Novaliches, Kalookan, Pasig, Tarlac, Malolos (Bulacan), Sorsogon, and Balanga (Bataan).
Simultaneous prayer rallies will also be held in the Archdiocese of Cebu, Jaro, (Iloilo), Davao, Legaspi City, Lucena, Tacloban, Roxas City, Borongan (Samar), Cagayan de Oro, Baguio City and Dagupan City.
In Cebu, Archbishop and CBCP President Jose Palma called on his flock in the province to join a parallel "Solidarity March and Mass for Life against RH Bill" that will be held at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral at 5:30 p.m. today (Saturday).
The Cebu activities coincide with the Prayer Power Rally against the RH Bill that will be held at the EDSA Shrine at around the same time.
"Prayer March with candles will start 5:30 p.m. at Fuente Osmeña and highlight with Mass at 7 p.m. at the Metropolitan Cebu Cathedral. I will be with you in this show of faith," he said.
Archbishop Palma said they will use the rally to defend the sanctity of life and family. -with reports from Leslie Ann G. Aquino and Mars W. Mosqueda Jr.