[Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. SENATE POOL PHOTO]

MANILA, DECEMBER 3, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Norman Bordadora, Philip C. Tubeza - Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) official on Saturday appealed to the faithful to pray for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in the wake of reports he may be ousted from his post for opposing the reproductive health (RH) bill.

Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, urged Catholics to pray for Enrile to keep his job so the RH bill would not pass in the Senate.

He noted that President Aquino would be meeting with the lawmakers on Monday on the RH bill, which the Catholic Church vehemently opposes since it promotes the use of artificial contraception.

“The President once again (is) calling the congressmen and women to a luncheon meeting. He will push for a vote on the RH bill,” Castro said.

“We have also received a report of moves to oust Senator Enrile as Senate President because of (his) opposition to the RH bill,” he added.

“We beg you to pray (to) Our Lord through Our Lady to thwart all their plans. O Mary, save our country from danger. We are yours. Help us in this hour of need,” he said.

Earlier, Enrile said RH bill proponents in the Senate could not force a vote on the measure since some senators were still proposing amendments to the bill.

The Senate President mentioned Sen. Pia Cayetano, in particular, saying she could not force a vote unless the majority of senators sided with her.

But senators close to Enrile downplayed reports of a Senate coup in the making supposedly as a result of Enrile’s perceived moves to block the RH bill.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, himself staunchly anti-RH, said there were RH bill advocates in the Senate, who nonetheless remained supportive of Enrile’s leadership.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan also expressed doubt there would be a Senate coup at this time, saying the senators were too preoccupied with priority bills on the Aquino administration’s legislative agenda.

Both, however, acknowledged they would probably be among the last to know if a coup was indeed in the offing because of their closeness to Enrile.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a member of Liberal Party (LP) headed by President Aquino, denied the existence of a plot to oust Enrile.

“No such thing as far as I’m concerned,” Pangilinan said in a text message to the Inquirer.

Enrile and Honasan are stalwarts of the United Nationalist Alliance that is fielding candidates against the LP-led coalition in 2013.

Sotto ran as an independent in 2010.

Bishops, lawmakers meet on RH bill By Gil C. Cabacungan, Jocelyn Uy Philippine Daily Inquirer

[PHOTO -Speaker Feliciano Belmonte confirmed that he and other lawmakers met with some bishops in September. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO]

Lawmakers are optimistic that Congress will finally end the gridlock on the divisive reproductive health (RH) bill after some leaders of the Catholic Church have given their inputs to the substitute measure introduced by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

A member of the House majority, who declined to be named because he was not authorized by the House to speak on the matter, said at least four bishops—Antonio Ledesma, Gabriel Reyes, Deogracias Iñiguez and Teodoro Bacani—who have been vocal in opposing the bill had given their inputs to the substitute measure.

The source said this explained why the substitute bill had been “toned down” from the original bill, which the Church had vigorously opposed for its provisions on mandatory population control measures. “With their endorsement, we expect the RH bill to be passed soon,” the source said.

Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco said some bishops had met with some lawmakers to discuss the substitute RH bill. “This is true. They met with Speaker (Feliciano) Belmonte. RH bill proponents have already bent over backward to accommodate the antis and yet to no avail. The substitute bill is a good bill,” she said.

In a text message, Belmonte confirmed that he and other lawmakers met with some bishops in September. Belmonte, however, did not identify the bishops and did not say if the Catholic leaders would support the substitute bill as a compromise.

Cojuangco said that this week’s voting would be critical. “We will know more this week. If they (bishops) are supporting it (the substitute bill), of course, I am contented. In the language that bishops understand, ‘whatever you do for the least of my brothers that you do unto me.’ We all know who said those words and is what the RH bill is all about,” she said.

Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Church hierarchy’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, meanwhile, said Bishop Reyes, chairman of the commission, was not part of those who had written the substitute bill.

Castro said he mentioned to Reyes reports that identified the bishop as among those who had a hand in drawing up the substitute bill.

The bishop denied any involvement, Castro told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a text message.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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