(PHOTO - President Aquino receives a training jacket signed by boxing idol and Rep. Manny Pacquiao during a courtesy call at Malacañang yesterday. WILLY PEREZ)

MANILA, MAY 21, 2011 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla - 

Manila, Philippines - They may be on the opposite sides on the issue of the Reproductive Health bill, but pro-RH bill President Aquino and Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao - who has taken the critical stand of the Catholic Church - managed their discussions well.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte revealed yesterday that the exchange turned out fine during the courtesy call of the billionaire Sarangani congressman, who put out an equally assertive stand before the Chief Executive regarding his views on family planning.

“It was clear from the discussion that congressman Pacquiao understands the five-point plan of the President. President Aquino reiterated that we do not favor one method over the other, and there will be no arm-twisting on the Responsible Parenthood,” she said.

Pacquiao, who recently won his match against American Shane Mosley, raised the same concerns when he tried to interpellate House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman - the main author of the RH bill - during Wednesday’s plenary debate at the House of Representatives.

“He raised again his concerns in Congress and President Aquino explained his five-point stance on Responsible Parenthood,” Valte explained, citing the 16-year-old jobless girl in Tondo who had to raise two kids.

Both shared the same concern against abortion, however. “Of course, they were in agreement that there should be no abortion. It is very clear that the President and congressman Pacquiao are both against abortion.”

Other concerns the boxing champion raised during his courtesy call to the President were the total number of beneficiaries of PhilHealth in his district, as well as a follow up on the Pantawid Pamilya Program, popularly known as conditional cash transfers.

Pacquiao, who was accompanied by his close friend Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis Singson and former Manila councilor Miles Andrew Roces, gave Aquino yellow gloves, a yellow T-Shirt and gray sweatshirt (with hood) bearing the boxing champion’s signature.

Differences in opinion over the reproductive health bill will definitely not be a hindrance to honoring another victory of Pacquiao, according to presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

Lacierda told Palace reporters that the government respects the stand of the Sarangani congressman, who is supporting the stand of the Catholic Church against the RH bill, which the President is supporting.

“There is no reason why he (President Aquino) should not welcome Manny Pacquiao if he wants to pay a courtesy call,” he said.

The Cabinet member pointed out that as a democratic country, it is everyone’s right to choose a position on any matter he or she believed in.

“This shows a democratic state. This shows the President respects the decision or choice of each individual. There is no reason for us to worry if Cong. Pacquiao is anti-RH Bill,” Lacierda clarified.

“This is just the existence of a democratic state. We want to emphasize that everybody has their own opinion and can make a decision on this matter,” he said. “That is what we are after: that the individual must make a decision based on information that is given.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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