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MANILA, Dec. 1, 2012—Developments concerning the reproductive health (RH) bill have been hogging the headlines consistently the past week, but the way Church officials and lay organizations have been going about forming communities on Christian citizenship has apparently led the emergence of a “Catholic vote” to eclipse statements and claims being made by RH bill supporters.
In addition, based on comments regarding the goings-on at the House of Representatives and the manner in which such a controversial measure as the RH bill is being speedily handled by its proponents, a close link between the RH issue and the Catholic vote has apparently been established. With five months to go till Filipinos cast their ballots, the significance of the link is becoming more pronounced.
Does the stand of election candidates on the RH bill matter to voters? Should the pro-life/anti-life position of one running for public office count? What qualities do voters look for in government officials when deciding between candidates?
Being pro-life = non-negotiable requirement
“Being pro-life should be a non-negotiable,” said Rowena Mendoza-de Guzman.
“Another important trait that a politician must have is to respect the religious beliefs of other people – not mandating laws that totally disregard the beliefs of the majority, or trampling on their right to freedom of religion and conscience,” she added.
Being prolife is a minimum requirement, Rosie Luistro asserted, with other qualities that are vital as well: “a private and public life free from any scandal, graft and corruption, and a thorough knowledge of what the position requires.
She added that she also looks at the capability as well as the education needed in leading, injecting ideas, and in implementing reforms for the common good. An unwavering love for the poor is crucial, too, she said.
With all the emphasis on the emergence of the “Catholic vote,” some have expectedly scoffed at the notion of the faithful letting their religious beliefs guide their decision-making in the political process. Some, especially those who think of the population control measure as a step toward genuine progress for the country’s people, regard the idea of voting based on moral values as “narrow-minded” or a manifestation of blind faith.
“No, it’s not that way. Pro-lifers think that the highest priority is a candidate’s stand on life. No use putting someone who is smart or useful if his track record says he is pro-abortion or contraception,” explained Anthony James Perez.
“The other things I am looking for is integrity, ability to pinpoint and resolve problems, how he or she is able to serve as well as lead, and the love for God, country and fellowmen as supported by his actions.”
Catholic vote not equal to blind faith
Rogie Ylagan believes that adhering to Catholic teachings doesn’t indicate the absence of making up one’s mind when it’s intelligent obedience that is behind it.
“Catholicism is a gift I received, and staying in it – a choice I made. I believe in its holistic teachings in my life including emotional, spiritual, mental and physical,” he pointed out. “Therefore, the Catholic vote is not a “sunud-sunuran” thing but a choice I make. A person who adheres to the same actions and belief will surely get my vote.”
Andrew Teng doesn’t mind being labeled as “sunud-sunuran,” he said.
“Yes, sunud-sunuran ako – kay God. We must obey God, not man. Mabuti na susunod ako kay God kaysa naman sa mga ‘utak-condom’ na sunud-sunuran lang sa UN, kay Pnoy, [RH bill primary author Congressman Edcel] Lagman, at [House Speaker Feliciano] Belmonte,” Teng pointed out.
“If a politician has no respect for our God-given right to life, then he cannot be expected to respect any of our other God-given rights. Such a person is nothing more than a tyrant in training. And we need no such person,” he added.
Teng summed up what he looks for in candidates as being “staunch defenders of life, liberty, property, marriage, family and faith.”
As early as March of this year, youth groups have already indicated their support for lawmakers who firmly oppose the population control measure.
“To pro-life legislators, stand your ground. The youth are with you. The youth know that you have our best interests in mind in your opposition to the RH Bill… We remain ready to speak for and defend our position by its merits. And we will stand with and campaign for you by your merits as real representatives of the youth’s welfare,” said youth leader Kiboy Tabada, convenor of UP for Life, an organization of students, faculty and alumni of different chapters of the University of the Philippines.
Catholic vote different from bloc voting
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles has expressed his wholehearted support for lay initiatives in pushing a Catholic vote, but at the same time clarified that this does not equal “bloc voting” but simply a suggested choice for a better alternative.
“We are asking the people to vote for the preservation of Catholic teachings. ‘Yung mga maliwanag na kontra sa morality that we have as Christians, as people ‘yun ang lalabanan natin. Hindi namin sasabihin na iboto mo si Candidate A. Ang sasabihin namin ay si candidate na ito ay hindi nagdadala ng values,” he stated in a press conference earlier this week.
The House of Representatives accepted this week amendments to House Bill 4244 by way of substitution via viva voce, or voice voting, which apparently irked observers and concerned citizens, who have pointed out that nominal voting is necessary for such a controversial measure to be decided on – should the bill be put to a vote.
Expecting another railroading attempt on the measure on Monday afternoon due to a luncheon invitation extended to House members from President Benigno Aquino III for the same day, life advocates from different dioceses, archdioceses and lay organizations have prepared to support anti-RH solons with their presence at the Lower House on Monday. The passage of the bill will reportedly be voted on on that day. (CBCP for Life)