Women's group: Test vote on RH bill 'unnecessary'

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Thursday, March 8, 2012


A WOMEN’S group urged Wednesday the leadership in the House of Representatives to push for a "real vote" on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.

"A test vote on the RH bill is unnecessary. What women need is the real vote that the HOR leadership can actually immediately do," said Elizabeth Angsioco, national chairperson of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP).

The group was reacting to an earlier statement of House Majority Leader Neptali "Boyet" Gonzales II that the voting on the termination of RH debates will be the "test vote" for the controversial measure.

Some lawmakers plan to move for the termination of the debate before Congress goes on a Lenten break on March 21.

Angsioco said the public has seen how powerful the House leadership is.

"We know how fast the House can work on matters it deems important, just like on the ongoing impeachment cases. We have also seen how a single text message from the Office of the Speaker can magically make absent congressmen appear in plenary when they want to have a quorum," she said.

But an official of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) warned lawmakers against rushing the vote on the controversial bill.

"We appeal to lawmakers not to cut short the process for the sake of the country," CBCP–Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) executive secretary Fr. Melvin Castro said in Filipino.

The RH bill has been pending in the House plenary since early 2011 despite being one of the Aquino administration's priority measures.

CBCP president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma seconded the position of Castro, saying there should be strict following of the process instead of cutting it short.

"I also would not shortcut the process. I also believe in making people aware and in the value of more studies and sharing of insights and relating the pros and cons (of the bill)," said Palma in a separate interview Wednesday.

Asked why he thinks the lawmakers are looking to cut short the debates, the Cebu prelate said it could be because of fear the truth is slowly being revealed.

"I think, the longer the debate, the more people become aware of the truth in the Church’s teachings. I think that is their fear," said Palma.

But the principal author of the RH bill welcomed the move of some House leaders to terminate the plenary debates, noting that the measure has been pending in Congress for the past 12 years.

"After 12 years of debate inside and outside the Halls of Congress, all relevant and even irrelevant questions had been asked and answered about the RH bill. There is absolutely no fresh argument or novel misconception against the bill," Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said in a statement.

Lagman, a former House Minority Leader, called on all prospective interpellators to rise and question the sponsors during the remaining session days before the debates are terminated.

Gonzales earlier said that at least 20 congressmen are still lined up for debate. (Kathrina Alvarez/AMN/Sunnex)

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