House moves on to individual amendments to RH bill

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Monday, December 3, 2012


MANILA (Updated) -- The House of Representatives started Monday night discussions on proposed individual amendments to the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill but not without delay.

Deputy Speaker and Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia sought to limit the distribution of RH services to married persons only.

Although his proposed amendment was already junked through a viva voce vote (ayes and nays), Garcia insisted on a nominal vote. Through a nominal vote of 91 against 75, Garcia’s amendment was junked.

The chamber only managed to discuss amendments until the first paragraph in page two of the 27-page substitute bill earlier adopted in the plenary.

Session was suspended around 10 p.m. and will resume at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, December 4.

Before RH main proponent Albay Representative Edcel Lagman was recognized in the floor, members of the chamber took more than an hour on voting on the appeal of Palawan Representative Dennis Socrates to let him speak for 10 minutes.

After several pending bills were approved on third and final reading, Socrates requested that he be allowed to deliver a 10-minute speech regarding “due process” in the House of Representatives.

Socrates repeatedly appealed to the presiding speaker, saying he was denied the opportunity to discuss his position on November 26 when the substitute bill to the RH bill was adopted in the plenary.

Presiding speaker Lorenzo Tanada III denied his request but due to Socrates’ insistence, he was allowed to speak for five minutes.

Through a viva voce vote, the nays won, disallowing Socrates to continue his speech. Rodriguez, however, sought for nominal voting.

With at least 20 percent of the present members around 7 p.m. in favor of a nominal voting, members were directed to register a yes or no vote on Socrates’ appeal. Each member can avail of the three minutes to allow them to discuss their vote.

Some pro-RH lawmakers said they voted no to Socrates’ appeal because the RH bill has been delayed enough already.

“I vote no because the House has been so kind to the antis. I want to vote on the RH bill already,” Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco said.

“This issue has been debated to death. They have had ample time to talk about it…Any attempt to delay or even deny a vote on this issue is an attack on the democratic principle that this House stands on,” Bukidnon Representative Jose Zubiri III added.

The nominal vote resulted in 99-91-1, disallowing the appeal of Socrates.

Deputy Speaker and Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia, also an anti-RH congressman, then said that the amendment by substitution already approved on November 26 was a violation of the rules.

“Shall we violate again our rules to accommodate the wishes of the proponents?” Garcia said.

Tanada denied Garcia’s appeal.

Before voting on Socrates’ motion, the privilege hour was opened. Nueva Ecija’s third district Representative Czarina Umali lambasted first district Representative Josefina Joson for the latter’s accusations involving a death of a broadcaster.

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez also delivered a lengthy privilege speech on China’s directive to its border patrol police to expel foreign ships entering disputed territories, including areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Rodriguez is a known anti-RH lawmaker. The anti-RH camp has previously used the privilege hour to delay discussions on the RH bill.

After around 30 minutes, Rodriguez ended his speech and was interpellated by Deputy Speaker and Cavite Representative Boying Remulla.

Batangas Representative Hermilando Mandanas, who is also against the proposed RH law, sought for the extension of the privilege hour to interpellate Rodriguez but the presiding speaker denied his request.

Those in favor and against the RH bill arrived early before the 4 p.m. plenary session. Those in favor were clad in purple while those against wore red.

Bishop Gabriel Reyes and Fr. Melvin Castro of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines–Episcopal Commission on Family and Life were also present in the House gallery.

Meeting with Aquino

Before the House plenary session, congressmen met with President Benigno Aquino III in a luncheon in Malacanang.

Lawmakers who attended the meeting said Aquino instructed them to vote on the RH bill this week because the Senate will only act on their own version of the controversial measure after the House takes a vote.

“He said we can’t delay it. We can’t be undecided. We can’t vote no because we’re scared of this or that,” Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. said.

“At the end of the day, can we, with our conscience say to a 16-year-old child who is pregnant with her second child that we didn't do anything to prevent this and provide a better life for our constituents?” Baguilat added.

In a text message to reporters, Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello said there were about 170 House members who attended the meeting with Aquino.

“He (Aquino) said if he were voting, he would vote for the bill because that would be the only way he could face his constituents with the feeling he was doing something good for them rather than feeling he only wanted to remain in office,” Bello said.

Congress has only eight session days before it adjourns for a Christmas break. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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