CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — This predominantly Catholic province with the Virgen de los Remedios as its patroness was in the thick of the fight against the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill from the time it was proposed several years ago until it gained momentum that divided the nation and started lengthy and endless debates on its pros and cons.
Leading the fight against the RH bill in this province was San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto who enjoined the Catholic faithful to reject the bill because it is contrary to the teachings of the Church.
Just before dawn yesterday, in what could be described as a historic vote, legislators finally passed the RH bill despite an overwhelming presence of leaders of the Catholic Church in the session hall led by Archbishop Ramon Agruelles, Bishops Teodoro Bacani Jr., Broderick Pabillo, Jesse Mercado, Honesto Ongtioco, Gabby Reyes and Monsignor Clemente Ignacio.
With 113 votes on affirmative, 104 negative and three abstention, the RH Bill was approved on second reading, the most critical voting period for a legislation.
This is how Pampanga congressmen voted on the RH bill:
First district Rep. Carmelo “Tarzan” Lazatin abstained. This was confirmed by his chief of staff Irish “Ic” Calaguas who said they did not participate in yesterday’s activities in Congress.
Ang Galing Pinoy partylist Rep. Mikey Arroyo voted “No.” His mother, 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abstained because of her condition.
Third district Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales voted “No.” Gonzales even went over the three-minute limit in explaining his vote.
Alliance of Laborers and Employees (ALE) partylist Rep. Catalina Bagasina voted “No.”
Fourth district Rep. Ana York Bondoc-Sagum voted “Yes.”
Butil partylist Rep. Pete Guanlao also voted “Yes.”
That’s two abstention, three NO votes and two Yes votes.
The RH bill empowers the government to make reproductive health services accessible to poor families through information and education and the provision of free contraceptives and condoms. It will have its own budget under the General Appropriations Act of about P2.5 billion to P3 billion.