They may have lost the battle but not the war against the Reproductive Health (RH) Law that was upheld as constitutional on Tuesday by the Supreme Court (SC), leaders of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said on Wednesday.
Prayers, the CBCP leaders added, will be their main weapon in defeating the “anti-life” proponents of the RH Law but this time they will say them with the help of “pro-life” candidates in the 2016 national polls.
Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said they are praying for the elections two years from now to produce winners who will repeal the RH Law, or Republic Act (RA) 10354, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
Despite the SC declaring most of the provisions of RA 10354 constitutional, Castro said the Catholic Church has remained optimistic that the law will be junked later.
“[We pray] that come 2016, with the next Congress, [the "pro-life” lawmakers will]repeal it [R[RA 10354]We hope it will be repealed sometime in the future,” he added.
Church officials earlier admitted that their chances of having the High Court reverse its decision are slim.
They urged the Filipino faithful to show respect to the SC magistrates who made the decision based on existing laws of the land.
“We have to accept it since it is the highest court of the land [t[that upheld the RH Law as constitutional] Castro said.
Other priests seemed to disagree.
In Negros Occidental province, they again posted the controversial “Team Buhay” (Life
Team) and Team Patay” (Death Team) tarpaulins bearing the names of supporters and opponents of the RH Law who won in the 2013 elections.
The tarpaulins were displayed in the Diocese of Bacolod on San Sebastian Cathedral’s wall.
With the SC ruling, the RH Law should now be immediately implemented, according to the influential Makati Business Club (MBC).
“Moving forward, we hope that the law will be swiftly and properly implemented,” the MBC said in a statement also on Wednesday.
It maintained that the law “will not only impact our people’s health, but will also serve as a critical component of the overall strategy to reduce poverty and guarantee sustainable and inclusive growth.”
Commending the High Court for upholding the legality of RA 10354, the MBC noted that the law was a product of 14 years of debates and amendments in Congress.
“With this process, involving all major branches of government, as well as with widespread public participation, we believe that this decision truly reflects the people’s overwhelming sentiments on responsible parenthood and reproductive health,” the business group said.
Although the issue has been divisive, it added that “with the intense exchange of views, this is an illustration of the vibrancy of our democratic processes.”
“Let this decision be the spark that will unite all who stood on opposite sides of the fence to work together for a truly progressive Philippines,” the MBC said.
Authors of the RH Law agreed although they said the SC seemed to have tempered its decision.
“The law is sufficient and effective. The provisions removed by the [S[SC]ill not materially change the impact of the law. In fact, both sides are claiming victory so that’s okay. No more disputes,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who implemented an RH policy during his tenure as Quezon City mayor, said in a text message.
Rep. Walden Bello of Akbayan party-list said “core provisions of the law were affirmed, so I am not unhappy.”
So is Bishop Efraim Tendero, who heads the Philippine Council of Evangelical Services.
He said the High Court’s ruling “is answered prayer for us.”
“A law on responsible parenthood and healthy family life will help contribute to having [a[a better]ality of life [f[for]lipinos,” he added.
Contrary to the CBCP, Tendero said the RH Law is “pro-poor, pro-development and pro-life.”
It is not, according to Fr. Shenan Boque, president Human Life International (HLI).
“It breaks my heart that this [o[official endorsement of the RH Law] happening in such a strongly pro-life and Catholic country that has thus far been able to resist legalized abortion,” according to Boquet.
In statement, he said the “real losers” in the decision of the court are “the women and children and the basic institution of the family” in the Philippines.
HLI is said to be the world’s largest international pro-life and pro-family organization, with affiliates and associates in over 80 countries in six continents, including the Philippines.
Boquet said the supporters of and the legislators who batted for the law had just deceived Filipinos into “[p[pushing]rough a massive population control agenda that will one day lead to legalized abortion-on-demand in the Philippines.”