By Raïssa Robles
However, on the issue of passing a landmark Reproductive Health Law, Lagman told me in no uncertain terms that he will continue to fight for this even if he were to end up on the same side as President Benigno Aquino III – and on the opposite side of the fence as Mrs Arroyo.
Lagman is the House minority floor leader – the head of the remnants of the once powerful majority party that was led by Mrs Arroyo when she was the Philippine president.
I posed Lagman the following question – Some on the social networking site Twitter have expressed apprehension that you might change your stance on the RH Bill because President Aquino, who is also pro-RH like you, has just arrested one of your close political allies, Mrs Arroyo. Could you comment on this?
Why should I (change my stance)? This controversy (on Arroyo’s arrest) is irrelevant to my advocacy for the RH.
Please emphasize. This present raging controversy (over Arroyo’s arrest) is irrelevant to my advocacy. It does not concern reproductive health. I will continue my advocacy irrespective of what happens to this controversy (concerning Arroyo).
And Lagman added,
I’m happy you’re going to use this (comment on RH and Arroyo) in the interview.
Lagman has consistently been pro-RH. During Arroyo’s nine-year term, however, it was her stance against the passage of an RH Law that prevailed on the House to table the measure.
A 2006 US Embassy cable leaked by the whistle-blower Wikileaks tied Arroyo’s stance against RH to the need to keep the Catholic clergy on her side amid a restive military and mounting pressure for her to resign. This was following revelations that she had phoned an election official to ensure she had a one million vote margin over presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 presidential elections.
Then Ambassador Kristie Kenney had written what Arroyo’s political adviser Gabriel Claudio told US diplomat Joseph Novak:
¶5. (C) Claudio added that President Arroyo had also taken care not to cross the Church on two key issues: mining and population policy.
¶6. (C) With respect to population policy, Claudio said there was “little chance” that Malacanang would ever endorse HB 3773, a proposed bill in the House that its proponents say would set a comprehensive national policy on responsible parenthood and population management (ref A). Claudio noted that the president had not taken any position on the bill’s merits per se. That said, she knew that the bill was “controversial” and had “upset many in the Catholic Church whom the President did not want to offend.” She had no plans to block the bill, however, which already had a sizable number of co-signors in the House.
You can read more about this in my earlier story by clicking the following link – RH bill was killed by Pres. Gloria Arroyo in exchange for Church political support
Arroyo was not personally against contraceptives. In fact when she was President, she once said in a forum that she had for a time used birth control pills.
As a sitting congressman, though, she has kept mum on the issue. Her two congressman-sons, Diosdado Jr. and Juan Miguel, have been quoted as saying they are against an RH Law.
As for Arroyo’s ally Lagman, he is now on his third and final term as congressman and is likely to want to cap his nine-year stay there with the passage of such a a historic measure.
I did not ask Lagman what post he was likely to run for in the 2013 elections – senator maybe? Or Quezon City mayor? He cannot run for Congress since the Constitution requires him to sit out one three-year term before he can do that.
Those for and against the RH law have roughly 15 months to ensure or block its passage before Congress goes on recess for the 2013 elections.
Expect anything to happen.
If senators succeed in approving their own version of the RH Law, it will be harder for Congress to pass the measure because the two approved versions will still have to be reconciled by a “Conference Committee” consisting of both pro and anti-RH lawmakers from the two congressional chambers. Many congressional measures have died in this manner.
In the Conference Committee – which some call the third chamber of Congress – the measure might be further watered down just to obtain a consensus.
Even a watered down version is vehemently opposed to by the Catholic Church because its mere passage signals a decline in its power to influence Philippine politics.