No more question on God and religion in RH debates – Lagman

Published by rudy Date posted on May 26, 2011

MANILA, Philippines –  Plenary debates over the Reproductive Health (RH) bill at the House of Representatives went out of control as these touched on other issues that included God and religion, House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman lamented yesterday.

Lagman said he would no longer entertain those questions, which is the reason why he gave up on the arguments of his colleagues questioning the RH bill.

“I have tolerated this line of questioning for some time but there has to be an end to questions which are not relevant to the issue at hand,” Lagman told a press conference.

Lagman, principal author of the RH bill, made the statement after being grilled for more than an hour on Tuesday night by Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia who contends the bill runs counter to beliefs of the predominantly Catholic Filipinos.

Lagman said Garcia’s “perorations” not only talked about God but also touched on “imperialism.”

Lagman, who still has to debate with more than 30 anti-RH bill lawmakers, said he was expecting questions on the constitutionality of the measure, on the issue of public funds, and the issue of abortion.

“These are the questions we should answer to educate the public as well as convince those who have reservations on the bill,” he said.

The debates on the measure continued last night with Lagman refusing to debate any further with Garcia.

An exasperated Lagman simply sat down and asked Alagad party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta to take his place.

Garcia, however, did not interpellate. He said he would still wait for Lagman to take the podium.

The debates on Wednesday became heated when Lagman decided he could no longer answer more questions.

“Is your honor saying you are allergic to God?” Garcia further grilled Lagman.

“I am not allergic to God. I am allergic to your uncalled for homily,” the Albay lawmaker retorted.

Garcia pressed Lagman whether the opening prayer in the House was a mere lip service or if God was absent in the chamber.

“I believe Mr. Speaker that the honorable congressman from Cebu would want me to say something against the Church that would force my excommunication,” Lagman said.

“If, by defending this bill, I would be excommunicated, then so be it. I am a Catholic, but I believe the state has the right to legislate laws that would benefit the people. This country is under God,” he said.

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the Catholic Church does not need to excommunicate Lagman.

According to Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, the Albay lawmaker has already separated himself from the Church.

“We do not have to excommunicate him. Christ will excommunicate him. He is excommunicating himself by doing that. That is automatic by himself. We don’t give him the honor to make him excommunicated. By doing that, he is already separating (himself) from the Church and of the teachings of Christ,” Bastes said.

Bastes said Lagman should not take it against the Catholic clergy if they use the pulpit to speak against the RH bill.

“All the priests, all the bishops in the Philippines are using the pulpit to preach the truth. It is our duty, whether he (Lagman) likes it or not. He is feeling sick already because he is allergic to the homilies of the priests,” Bastes said.

Lagman earlier told the press conference that the increasing unemployment in the country “clearly exposes the detrimental effects of a lack of a comprehensive policy on reproductive health and family planning on our people.”

“This development should spur Congress to finally enact into law the reproductive health bill because there are empirical data which document the links between high fertility and resulting population growth to persistent poverty and wage stagnation in developing countries like the Philippines,” he said.

Lagman explained that based on research conducted by respected economists Ernesto Pernia and Aniceto Orbeta, rapid population growth expands the labor supply and this will translate into either a decline in wages or an increase in unemployment if there is no commensurate increase in employment opportunities.

He also cited a World Bank study that showed rapid population growth is likely to depress wages at the bottom end of the pay scale in developing countries where there are disproportionately high levels of fertility among the lowest income groups.

“This means workers in the lowest economic quintile who are precisely the ones who are already the most impoverished would also be the ones most affected by falling wages,” Lagman said. –-Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) with Evelyn Macairan

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