Palace turns biblical on RH but bishop blasts Lacson

Published by rudy Date posted on May 17, 2011

While Malacañang suddenly turned biblical over the Reproductive Health (RH) bill debate saying that it will retaliate by giving bread to those who throw stones against it, some Catholic bishops lambasted Sen. Panfilo Lacson, an ally of President Aquino, for alleging that the Church uses the pulpit to cam-paign against the controversial bill.

“You have no right to dictate us what to do on RH bill issue… Priests use the pulpit particularly on issues involving life,” Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said in a radio interview.

For his part, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said it is the Church’s obligation to inform the public about the ill effects of the bill to health and morality.

“We are obliged to because that’s against the truth. He (Sen. Lacson) has no right to tell us what to do. We are the preachers of the God’s words,” Bastes said.

Earlier, Lacson had said it was better for Catholic Church leaders to hold a dialog on the features of the bill rather than pose objection to it in the pulpit during Mass.

Despite being vocal on their position against the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, Senate leaders said they

are committed to bring the bill to the chamber’s floor for debates. The RH bill or also known as reponsible parenthood bill, is not among the pronounced legislative agenda of the Senate.

“We will not censor any bill here. It must be open for debate but I’m just telling you my personal position. In terms of the population aspect of this, economic impact, I’m more concerned about the security aspect of this issue. I do not want gurkas to come here and defend us in case of war,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said.

Enrile said deliberations on the measure will depend upon the House of Representatives, whether their lower house counterparts be able to pass it any time soon.

“When it comes here, then it will go to a committee. If the committee will report out the bill then we can start discussing it,” he said.

“My position on this has been very clear. I’m not going to vote in favor. I have my own arguments, position. It involves my faith, my notion on how to develop the country in relation to the growth of population,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino advised his aides to throw bread instead of stones against the bishops who are critical of the bill including bishops who indicated a possible excommunication on Aquino.

“Let’s not throw stones. Let’s give them bread,” That’s the attitude the President has taken with respect to the bishops… We will turn the other cheek,” Lacierda told reporters during a post-briefing interview.

Lacierda was reacting to the fresh tension between Aquino and some prelates associated with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) shortly after the former said in a recent interview that pro-life groups may be charged with sedition if they make good with their threats to launch a civil disobedience campaign by not paying their tax liabilities.

Aquino was reported over the weekend as being compared by Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles to the late strongman, Ferdinand Marcos, who supposedly made the same announcement when his mother, late President Corazon Aquino, called for civil disobedience against the late dictator.

Arguelles further commented that proponents and supporters of the RH bill represent the views held by the vicious King Herod, a biblical character in the Bible, who ordered the killing of thousands of unborn children in order to prevent the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Lacierda claimed bishops who resort to such “melodramatics” and “name-calling” do not speak well of the institution they stand for and so they are expecting them to “behave accordingly” for the sake of keeping a principled discussion over RH bill and Aquino’s five-point responsible parenthood (RP) policy.

“Insofar as we’re concerned, we’ve just stated a matter of fact. We have not degraded ourselves. We have not demeaned ourselves by calling bishops names and we do not wish to start doing so. It’s all a matter of toning down the rhetoric,” Lacierda said during a press briefing.

“If you want to have a debate, let’s have a discussion based on the merits of the bill. You don’t have to call someone a mass murderer or a modern day Herod just to win a point from the public. It’s not healthy, it’s not an intellectual discourse…it’s not a gesture [coming from a] decent, mature individual,” he told the bishops further.

Lacierda, nonetheless, recognized the fact that these bishops who come out criticizing Aquino publicly were not the same representatives sent by the CBCP that engaged in previous dialogs with them which is why they are asking the Catholic Church to start policing its own ranks.

“Will the real representatives speak up? I mean, you know, we’ve been talking to them but apart from talking to them, there were those bishops who are out of the dialogue that are badmouthing us. So I guess they should organize themselves and tell us just who among them would really like to speak with us [because] we are really open to anyone of them,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda explained that they’re not exactly sick and tired of dealing with the critical bishops on this particular issue but they are downright saddened by how things are turning out between the Church and the State despite all the efforts Malacañang has taken to help resolve their differences.

“It’s just sad that people you respect; people who are men of faith, who are men of cloth will be issuing statements which are highly inflammatory. It’s not so much that we are sick and tired but it’s just that we do not expect these statements from bishops… I hope they would calm down, reflect on their statements,” Lacierda said.

“If they want to discuss the RH bill or the President’s position, they’re there. I mean, insofar as the Responsible Parenthood position, we are willing to discuss it with them but they’ve closed all avenues for that. So what can we do if we are prepared [to resume the dialog] and they are not?” he added.

Lacierda maintained that their communication lines are still open in the event the CBCP changes its mind and pursue negotiations with Malacañang after closing its doors on them.

He conveyed that Church leaders can no longer expect Aquino to initiate the reopening of the stalled dialogs as he did the last time.

“We’ve always maintained that there will be agreements and disagreements but let’s improve on the agreements. That’s what we’ve always said. Apparently, they’ve dismissed the whole idea of a dialogue as inutile. Now, how do you expect the Palace which has taken the extra mile to meet with them to react to such things? We can only hold our tongue and just move on and discuss and we’re still open to a dialogue,” Lacierda explained.

For the religious sector going against the bill, Enrile said it is their right to express their views but only to the “the extent that they do not go beyond the line.”

“We went through that during the time of President Marcos, there was also civil disobedience. If you go beyond the line. You know, there must be a rule of law in the country. It’s always the law that must govern the conduct of everyone from all of us in politics including the citizenry. If we do not respect the rule of law, then this will be a disorderly society. This will become what Hobbes says, ‘a society in anarchy or in a state of war unto itself’,” he said, referring to those who earlier announced plans of resorting to “tax revolt” against the administration.

“The Constitution defines the rights of the citizens, the limits of what they can do and cannot do. So, if they think they are acting within the law, then, so be it. Now, if the prosecutors think that they have gone beyond the law then they have to hail them to Court and provide the evidence,” he said.

But Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, one of the main proponents of RH bill in the Senate, is gearing up for tough deliberations on the floor with her colleagues, to defend its approval.

Santiago said she’s willing to debate on it on all fronts.

“As the author of the RH bill in the Senate, I am preparing my battle gear. After the SONA, we will be ready for a shootout. I am preparing my Navy Seals and my stealth bombers so that we can rescue the people who are suffering from fortress mentality. We are going to debate this from all fronts, not only the political front, but also economic, demographic, theological, medical—meaning to say scientific,” she said.

“I can debate all of them in any of these topics. They can all sit in one row, I can sit all alone by myself and I can defend the bill because the merits of the bill will ensure victory,” Santiago added.

“It is basically a case of people with a certain religious bent of mind angry because science has proved that the world is round. They are insisting that the world is flat. If going by the example of Galileo and Copernicus, they are going to pull out my nails, then, I am ready to be immolated on the altar of scientific conspiracy. You cannot close your eyes to people who die every day simply because of ignorance, so when did ignorance become a national policy?” she asked.

Santiago expressed confidence, although a number of their colleagues have come out in the open on their position against the bill, on the chances of the measure getting approved in the upper chamber.

“The chances are very high because politicians are creatures of the electoral constituency that elects them. So we always want to have the feel of the public pulse. The public pulse is definitely in favor of the RH bill.

“That is why the resistance is so strident against it because the critics or enemies of the RH bill know that according to the majority rule, which is a basic democratic tenet, they already have lost the debate. That is why the have to respond in that extremely inappropriate manner.

These are people who want to go to ‘heaven.’” In the first place we have to debate the concept of heaven, isn’t that so? We have to know if they are going to debate about heaven because it is the basis why these people are against the RH bill. They are hoping that if they stand against the crowd and if they resist the tidal wave of public opinion they will be deemed as martyrs by somebody up high and reward them by giving them heaven. So, if they are willing to do so, I want to debate the existence of heaven because we are being sent to hell.

“Apparently, those who are critical are going to heaven and all of us are going to hell, so I want to know first where these places are,” she said.

“We just have to appeal to reason. Besides, because the principle of church and state, while we respect the freedom of speech of people of every persuasion across religious boundaries, still we have to stand up for the principle in democratic governance that the church cannot dictate to the state. So the State must always argue in favor of free speech and free conscience, that is why I call this a freedom of conscience issue,” she added.  –Aytch S. de la Cruz, Daily Tribune

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