Philippine president accused of 'bribing' Congress

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Did the president make an offer lawmakers could not refuse?

A Catholic bishop yesterday practically accused Philippine President Benigno Aquino III of "bribing" members of the House of Representatives to vote in favour of the reproductive health (RH) bill.

Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes said he personally knew of five lawmakers who consistently voted against the bill but changed their position after the Palace threatened to withhold their pork barrel.

Background: Senate, House approve Reproductive Health bill on third and final reading

"P-Noy (Pres. Aquino) says if there's no poor, there will be no corrupt (but) if you force a congressman to change his principle, his conscience for pork barrel, government projects, political favours, it's like you are already bribing the congressmen," Reyes said at a Church forum in Intramuros, Manila.

"Isn't that corruption?" said Reyes, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.

He said he was "convinced" that the bill would have lost on second reading if not for the Palace's intervention.

"The heavy-hitters were there-DILG, and DBM, so it really wasn't a conscience vote,' he said, referring to the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Budget and Management.

Related story: Philippine birth control fight not over: bishops

Reyes said one of the five lawmakers, whom he refused to name, even asked for forgiveness because of the difficult situation he was in.

"I know of five who always voted 'no' but they were called by their party and they voted 'yes.' They would have lost their pork barrel and government projects," the bishop said.

"One of them said, 'Bishop, sorry but if I don't follow our party, I will lose the projects for my province. And he was not alone. There were others," he added.

Also read: Aquino wants five kids if he gets married

Reyes said the CBCP would support moves by Catholic lawyers to challenge the bill in the Supreme Court once it was signed into law.

"I know of a group of lawyers who plan to appeal this to the Supreme Court because it is against the Constitution. It is against religious freedom. One provision of the Constitution says the government should protect the family and, I think, also to protect marriage," he said.

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