MALAYBALAY CITY (23 May) – If Congress succeeds in having the controversial Reproductive Health Bill passed, it would create lingering questions on the ability of the Catholic Church to influence the future course of Philippine politics and policymaking. This is the primal fear that lurks in the hearts of priests and bishops in their efforts to roll back mounting support for the bill in Congress as well as among Catholics and other sects.
From the local to the national level the Church is losing its grip in as far as the bill is concerned. Note that a number of local government units have passed ordinances that seek to promote reproductive health rights, to the dismay of priests and bishops. Not even public censure could deter officials from pursuing what they think should be enacted. For instance, Bukidnon congressmen Florencio Flores Jr. (2nd district) and Jose Zubiri III (3rd district) have not withdrawn as co-sponsors of the bill despite frequent criticisms aired over the Church-run dxDB against lawmakers who support it. In the not so distant past, such public criticisms would have made any politician shrink back in fear.
Pushed against the wall and gradually becoming isolated, the Church has resorted to ad hominem and recently, using boxing champ and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao. Unfortunately for the bishops, the Pacman proved to be a dud in actual floor debate in the House where Rep. Edcel Lagman prevailed against him hands down. It did not help that Ms Dionisia Pacquiao, Manny’s mother, entered the picture, only to be reproached by the country’s organized gays for her homophobic statements.
Yet again, the bishops missed the whole point of the argument – the RH bill is not simply about showcasing an exceptional Filipino who has succeeded in boxing his way out of poverty. For every Manny Pacquiao, there are tens of thousands of other Filipinos whose only break perhaps from the daily grind of poverty are those rare days that he would step inside the ring to win or defend a title and get fat pay checks. Worse, many of them may not even have the time to watch him fight as it would mean losing the chance to earn a few pesos more. And for every Ms Pacquiao who enjoys the luxury of going to ballrooms as often as she wants, there are tens of thousands of mothers who can barely feed, clothe and send their children to school.
Maybe it’s all right for the Pacmom to crave for a signature bag that costs a million pesos. But maybe, just maybe, the bishops could also tell her that she may find more satisfaction in donating the amount to children who could not buy school bags. After all, the bishops, in their homilies at least, have always professed aversion to materialism. In this case, they only have to look over their shoulder.
The bishops would do well in the raging controversy by loosening up a bit on outdated dogmas and by coming to the realization that they are courting a debacle if they stick to arrogance and self-righteous posturing. After staunchly defending the past administration despite its record of corruption and repression, the bishops can no longer insist that they speak the voice of political sanity. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])