Philippines' anti-reproductive health MPs not backing down

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Philippines' lawmakers opposing the reproductive health (RH) bill in the House of Representatives are not backing down despite President Benigno Aquino III certifying the bill as urgent.

With Catholic bishops making a last-minute appeal to the congressmen to vote with their "conscience" and reject the measure, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez urged all of his colleagues to show up on Monday for third-reading vote on House Bill No. 4244, the RH bill.

Rodriguez said he and other opponents of the bill in the House remained upbeat despite the prospect of defeat as a result of the President's certification.

"We can still pull this off," he told the Inquirer by phone. "We will not block the voting. We want it to proceed because we are confident of our numbers."

Rodriguez acknowledged the possibility that delaying the vote on third reading would expose lawmakers to more intense lobbying. He was particularly concerned about Malacanang - the Philippine Palace, which had sent four top emissaries to the House to lobby for the passage of the bill on second reading last week.

Shortly after pro-RH House members clinched the vote Thursday morning, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II told reporters: "It is up to the President if he wants to move (the bill) farther."

But he said the President should first thank House members for working to pass HB 4244.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles described as a "gamble" the final outcome of the RH bill in the House.

"Victory for them (RH bill supporters) is not necessarily victory for the Filipino people. It could also spell doom. Who knows?" he said in a text message.

All I know is that in such a divisive issue as this, representatives are called upon to exercise their best judgement and vote according to their beliefs and experience; then we tally the votes and hope that the decision of the majority is the best one for our country. It's a gamble really. Our collective decision will affect generations of Filipinos. Whether it'll be good or bad, only time will tell."

Rodriguez warned that passing an RH law would "rearrange" the Filipinos' values and the result would be "irreversible."

"An RH law will open a Pandora's box," he said. "After RH, expect abortion to follow. Then divorce. Then same-sex marriage. That's the progression. All they need is a crack to open and change our values system," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is banking on the supposed commitment of more than 40 House members to reject HB 4244. They were among 62 congressmen who were absent when the bill was approved on second reading.

They include two senior House leaders and known RH bill opponents, Representatives Raul Daza and Sergio Apostol.

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