Pro-RH lawmakers win in crucial vote-A A +A
Monday, August 6, 2012
MANILA (2nd Update 7:03 p.m.) -- After 17 months of debates, the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill hurdled the period of interpellation at the House of Representatives Monday afternoon.
Through a viva voce vote (voice voting), pro-RH legislators won the crucial vote on the highly divisive bill. The roll call showed 231 members attended the session.
House Bill (HB) 4244 or the RH bill principally authored by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman has been debated upon in the 15th Congress since March 2011.
Several anti-RH lawmakers tried to block the termination of debate, pointing out that the House leadership has announced the voting to take place Tuesday.
The vote to terminate the interpellation on the RH bill was previously set on Tuesday, August 7, but President Benigno Aquino III appealed to House members to make a decision in Monday's plenary session.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the idea to reschedule the voting was proposed by Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez during a caucus at the Malacañang. Golez is opposed to the RH measure.
Around 180 congressmen attended the multi-party caucus with Aquino.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez opposed the motion to terminate the interpellations, saying several House members were "caught unaware" of the change in schedule.
"HB 4244 is anti-life. Anybody who says that this is pro-life is telling a lie. This is an assault to faith," Rodriguez said.
Gonzales explained that the House leadership was merely avoiding a commotion among the anti-RH and pro-RH groups who will attend the supposed August 7 voting.
The vote came two days after the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) held a prayer rally to show its dissent over the RH bill. The rally was attended by some 10,000 Filipinos.
The CBCP, meanwhile, scored the government for "railroading" the RH measure's immediate passage into law.
Fr. Melvin Castro, CBCP–Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) executive secretary, said it is lamentable how the government is the one bending the laws if only to have the bill passed as soon as possible.
"If it is forced in enacting this into law, it loses its moral credibility beyond repair. They are breaking their own rules. It's railroading. They're destroying the very essence of democracy," said Castro in a phone interview.
In particular, the priest lamented how the lawmakers willingly changed its decision to hold the voting Tuesday to Monday.
"Wala silang palabra de honor (They have no word of honor)," Castro said.
Given the surprising scenario at the lower House, the CBCP official assured that they will make the RH bill an election issue.
He said the bishops will not hesitate in including the RH bill issue as among the guidelines on how the Catholic faithful should choose their leaders in the 2013 polls.
"We will not take this simply. 2013 is just around the corner. The bishops will not think twice. They cannot blame us if we vote according to how they vote (for the RH bill)," said the official. "Don't push the Church against the wall. We are faithful and voters too," Castro said.
But the group Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc. (PLCPD) hailed President Aquino for taking the matters into his own hands despite the "divine" opposition from the Catholic Church.
The group said there should be no more doubts on the political will of Aquino in terms of making important decisions for the country, especially mothers.
The President endorsed "responsible parenthood" in his third State of the Nation Address.
In the Senate, Senator Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor Santiago's version of the proposed RH law is now in the period of amendments.
The period of interpellation for Senate Bill 2865 was terminated in June. Nine senators had then taken the floor to interpellate the sponsors. (Kathrina Alvarez/HDT/Sunnex)