A week from now, two controversial issues are expected to hug the headlines: one the impeachment trial of Merceditas Gutierrez and two, the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. These two issues are both political ones, and surely, these issues will, again, provide enough fodder to deflect popular gut issues that many people consider more important that see Gutierrez’s head chopped off.
Notice also that these two issues have enjoyed particular attention from the Aquino administration. President Noynoy Aquino has issued controversial statements on these two issues. Prior to the passage of a bill seeking the impeachment of Gutierrez, Aquino lambasted the Office of the Ombudsman and marshalled his Congressional allies to support the impeachment bid. Aquino’s intervention sparked a minor outrage, not big enough to cause irritation. What was seen as unethical by several legislators was the way Aquino maneuvered to cause the downfall of Gutierrez. Several people commented that Aquino behaved like an Arroyo when it comes to demolishing his political enemies.
Aquino also made a very controversial statement on the Reproductive Health bill. In his graduation address before the graduating class of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Aquino made his stance very clear on the issue. Although he did clarified later on that the RH bill is not included in the 40 or so priority bills he passed in Congress, Aquino nevertheless intimated his desire to pass the controversial measure.
This sparked not just a division in the House, but created a social rift. The rift affected civil society, which was united in issue during the previous administration. This issue apparently isolated the Catholic Church, a staunch pro-life advocate and a clear enemy of the RH bill. Challenged apparently by the State, the Catholic Church is now flexing its political muscles once more to grant Aquino his first major political defeat. Retired archbishop Oscar Cruz made it very clear–Aquino has made a challenge to a 4,000 year old institution. Who, then, will survive this remains very unclear.
What is clear is that the Catholic Church is also a force to reckon with. What Aquino operators did was marshall several non-Catholic forces to support the RH bill. The Iglesia Ni Kristo, a big denominational group, is supporting the RH bill, together with other Protestant and Bible-believing groups. This new aggrupation is being given enough publicity to counter the rising opposition from the Catholic church. The group is being positioned as a force to reckon with, even in an equal political standing like the Catholic Church.
What this administration does not realise is the fact that this group is just a minor social influencer. It is not as big as the Catholic church in membership nor in social influence.
Besides, the Catholic church has a history of remaking Philippine history. It already has experience mobilising people. Fact is, it is also an expert in demonising a political institution. The Catholic church has yet to unleash its arsenal against Aquino. The question is–is this administration prepared?
So, Aquino faces two major political forces come May–the force of the previous dispensation and the Catholic church. Who wins is anybody’s guess.