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Bishops urge delays on RH bill vote

Say 'ample time' required to deliberate controversial legislation reporter, Manila

December 4, 2012

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Catholic bishops in Manila archdiocese appealed to legislators yesterday not to rush deliberation of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill now pending in the Philippine Congress.

"We are appealing to the honorable representatives to give ample time to the deliberations and discernment and not to unduly rush them," read the statement signed by 14 bishops.

"We also appeal to them to conduct the deliberation and decision with transparency through nominal voting and respect for the diversity of views,” it added.

The bishops headed by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, issued the statement after a meeting at the Arzobispado de Manila yesterday.

Congressional leaders, however, called on President Benigno Aquino to certify the proposed measure as urgent.

Certifying the bill as urgent would allow the House of Representatives to vote on the measure before Congress takes a break on December 21.

"I believe in my heart [that] to really give it a boost, it has to be certified," said House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales.

Aquino has told legislators that he wants to put the RH bill to a vote this week, but Gonzales said he doubts if Congress can deliver on the president's request.

Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the bishops' conference, meanwhile, appealed to legislators who are against the bill to attend congressional sessions and vote against the measure.

When asked how many legislators are on the bishops' side, Bishop Reyes said it's something that he does not know. 

"There were many congressmen against the RH bill who were not present, so we will never know," the prelate said. "We are praying that we will have more anti-RH congressmen than those in favor,” he added.

Meanwhile, Representative Edcel Lagman, a main proponent of the bill, said Aquino has already made a clear pitch for legislators to vote for the passage of the measure immediately.

"This presidential endorsement was loud and clear," Lagman said, referring to Aquino’s statement that "if he could cast a vote, he would vote personally for the controversial measure."

House Deputy Minority Leader Mitos Magsaysay urged fellow legislators to vote according to their conscience, adding that the bill is a "very sensitive piece of legislation."

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