Braving persistent rain, Catholic Church leaders, religious groups and their supporters gathered at the EDSA Shrine in Mandaluyong City yesterday in a show of force against the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.
A crowd of about 2,500, most of them wearing red T-shirts, listened to speakers denounce the controversial measure, whose approval in Congress has been snagged.
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives will vote on whether to continue debates on the bill or whether to shelve it.
As the throng stood in the rain at the EDSA Shrine, Malacañang expressed confidence it has the numbers in Congress to pass the RH bill.
Manuel Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), said the Palace is unfazed by the opposition of some senators to the bill.
"This is already a very popular measure as far as our people are concerned," Mamba said.
He warned the public against being misinformed that the bill includes provisions that would allow abortion.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the public should read the Responsible Parenthood Bill to determine its context.
"It would be difficult if their position would be based on misinformation," Valte said.
"There are some who say that the President is for abortion. That is incorrect and that is misinformation," she said.
Mamba said that if the bill is passed in the House, the Senate has no choice but to follow suit.
"I think we still have the majority support of the senators supporting the bill," he said.
The Palace officials appealed to the public not to give the bill political color. Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had earlier gained the support of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) after expressing her opposition to the measure.
"We don't want to politicize. We just talk of the merits," Mamba said.
The rallyists occupied both lanes of EDSA, the flyover and a portion of Ortigas Avenue.
The rally was preceded by a procession of rallyists carrying images of the Blessed Mother.
Fr. Melvin Castro, executive director of the CBCP-ECFL, acknowledged the power of prayer, which he said can dissuade the country's leaders and the people from supporting the RH bill.
"This rally is not about a show of force but rather a way to pray for them. It is the prayer that can change their minds," Castro said.
Mass was celebrated during the prayer rally.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle exhorted the gathering to oppose the provisions of RH bill, which he said violated God's commandments and the Church's teachings on marriage and life.
"We are here to express why we believe the Reproductive Health Bill is not the solution to alleviate poverty and other problems in the country," he said in an inspirational message.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, one of the principal movers of the rally, was not able to attend, but a speech he wrote was read to the crowd.
"We are fighting error because you might be misled. We are battling against contraception because we know it can harm you soul," Villegas said.
Among the politicians who showed up at the rally were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Vicente Sotto III and Gregorio Honasan.
Other prominent pro-life advocates were Palawan District 2 Representative Dennis Socrates, and former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza.
The rallyists came from the provinces of Tarlac, Sorsogon and Laguna and the cities in Metro Manila and Antipolo.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has maintained that the RH bill is in reality a family planning measure meant to curb population growth.
The influential group believes that the bill will pave the way for legalized abortion, which the Church condemns as a grievous sin.
Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter S. Cayetano said yesterday that the approval by the Senate of the RH bill would ultimately depend on its final form.
"I do believe that a woman should have available medical options, not abortion, available to her. Its passage really depends on the final form of the bill," Cayetano said.
While many senators recognize the need for the measure, "the question lies in whether or not they find some provisions objectionable," he said.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, a political ally of President Benigno S. Aquno III who openly espouses responsible parenthood, said it is time the Senate passed the RH bill. (Additional reports from Rio Rose Ribaya and Mario Casayuran)