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Philippine church flexes poll clout
Publication Date : 28-04-2013
“Junk the RH law! Junk the RH law!” chanted the 6,000-strong crowd.
Rain failed to stop them from converging on the public plaza in the Philippine city of Bacolod on Saturday to demand the repeal of the reproductive health (RH) law.
The ralliers, all drenched, promised to support in next month’s elections candidates who voted against the RH bill in Congress and junk those who voted for it.
The Catholic Church count the candidates who opposed the RH bill as members of “Team Buhay” (Life) and those who voted for it members of “Team Patay” (Death).
Most of the ralliers wore red shirts, transforming Bacolod Public Plaza into a sea of red.
Senatorial candidates Gregorio Honasan and Mitos Magsaysay of the United Nationalist Alliance and John Carlos “JC” de los Reyes and Rizalito David of Ang Kapatiran party attended the rally.
Of the four, only Honasan and Magsaysay are on the Team Buhay list of the Diocese of Bacolod for opposing the RH law.
De los Reyes and David are newcomers to senatorial politics.
The others on the Team Buhay list are Joseph Victor Estrada, Antonio Trillanes, Aquilino Pimentel III and Cynthia Villar.
The candidates listed by the diocese as members of Team Patay are Juan Edgardo Angara, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casino and Jack Enrile.
Party-list groups Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Akbayan and Anak Pawis are also on the Team Patay list of the diocese.
The Team Patay, Team Buhay tarpaulin sign remains hanging on the facade of San Sebastian Cathedral here, as the Supreme Court has temporarily stopped the Commission on Elections from removing it.
Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, who led the rally, was happy with the turnout, saying it was “very inspiring.”
Navarra said the diocese would continue to call for the scrapping of the RH law, which, according to him, posed the threats of loss of faith and moral corruption on Catholics.
“It is an uphill battle, but let us encourage one another to continue the fight because we are doing what Christ would have done in obedience to His Father’s [will],” Navarra said.
The bishop promised that the Church would continue to support “prolife” candidates.
He said the crowd that marched to the plaza was initially estimated at 12,000, but the heavy downpour that came just before 1 pm had reduced the number of the marchers by half.
About 6,000 made it to the plaza, and the Church’s message was printed on the back of their red shirts: “Obey God rather than men.”
On the stage hung a huge tarpaulin sign that read, “Team Buhay forever, Team Patay never.”
But unlike the sign on the facade of the cathedral, the sign on the stage did not contain the names of the “politicians of life” and the “politicians of death.”
In an interview, Honasan said he was encouraging Catholics to continue the battle against the RH law because the right to life is stressed in the Constitution.
“It has to be a continuing advocacy to preserve and repair our damaged institutions beyond the 2013 elections for national survival,” he said.
Score for Church
Honasan noted that the Church has had victories in the Supreme Court, pointing out the temporary restraining order on the Team Patay, Team Buhay sign, and on the implementation of the RH law.
“The fight must continue,” he said.
Magsaysay said the RH law was not necessary because its provisions were already in the Magna Carta of Women.
She said that if elected to the Senate, she would fight for changes in the RH law to make it ethically acceptable.
But she did not say if she would work for the repeal of the law.
De los Reyes said the RH law must be repealed because it would destroy the family and the morals of the Filipino people.
David said he, too, wanted the law repealed. It must be repealed even after the Supreme Court strikes down some of its provisions, he said.
Lyndon Cana, Bacolod independent congressional candidate and chairman of the Citizens’ Alliance for the Protection of Human Life, said the followers of the Church would never retreat, never surrender in the battle for the protection of life and against the RH law.
“God will be with us,” he said.