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Scripted Pacquiao not ready to rumble over RH bill


(Updated 9:40 p.m.) "I'm ready to rumble!" said the gray-haired, rotund challenger to Manny Pacquiao on the House floor on Wednesday. But the boxing icon and Sarangani rep was apparently the one not ready. Instead of debating with Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on the RH bill the latter sponsored, Pacquiao - the new face of the anti-RH camp - read awkwardly from a prepared set of questions and had little to say after Lagman's lengthy responses. Malacañang, meanwhile, announced on Wednesday that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has formally informed President Benigno Aquino III it is withdrawing from the dialogues on the controversial House Bill 4244, or the Reproductive Health bill. In a letter to the President, dated May 17, CBCP president Nereo Odchimar said the action was taken as the “prevailing circumstances where a healthy atmosphere for dialogue on the matter was wanting." Fresh from a meeting Tuesday with the bishops, Pacquiao seemed willing to project their point of view in Congress where the the second day of plenary debate resumed Wednesday. House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman broke the ice by telling Pacquiao, "I'm ready to rumble. I will not run away like Mosley." Laughter echoed throughout the hall. Lagman was referring to the world champion's most recent opponent Shane Mosley, who lost miserably in a lackluster fight.
For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV Earlier in the day, it was announced that Pacquiao would open interpellations on the floor once the debates resume. The boxer was supposed to interpellate a day earlier but opted to move it to Wednesday because he needed "more time to prepare," heightening the anticipation. Pacquiao opened the round of questions by saying it would be better for the government to focus on making laws that would solve poverty. Lagman answered, "Isa sa solusyon sa kahirapan ay ang RH Bill. Pero hindi ito exclusive sa iba pang solusyon na pwedeng gawin ng gobyerno. Kung marami tayong solusyon at pagsama-samahin ay maaaring sagot ito sa poverty alleviation." He followed the first question by asking Lagman about the technicalities of the bill. If it was about poverty alleviation, why was it forwarded to the Committee on Population? Lagman answered, "That is moot and academic." He added: "Kung nakinig tayo sa sponsorship ng chairman ng population, [makikita mo na] halos lahat ng bill ay ni-refer sa population and family relations." 'Scare tactics' Several times during the interpellation, the Sarangani congressman found himself repeating questions which had already been answered the day before, when the plenary session on the controversial RH bill started. At one point, Pacquiao asked about exemptions to the mandatory health education classes. "Hindi kaya magkagulo n’yan dahil ‘yung right nila ay masasagasaan?" asked Pacquiao when Lagman said that parents and children had the right to abstain from sexuality and reproductive health classes. "Sa sinabi mong chaotic situation ay hindi mangyayari ito," said Lagman. "Let's stop these scare tactics." Absent from his legislative duties for months while he trained for the Mosley fight, Pacquiao in unscripted moments has cited mostly religious arguments, leading to taunts from Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago. "I would like to say if this is going to be a debate of biblical quotes, then I will counter with a quote: 'The devil can cite Scripture for its purposes,'" Santiago said. — YA/TJD/VS/HS, GMA News
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