House junks ‘killer amendment’ to RH bill

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012


MANILA -- With a nominal vote of 74-100, the House of Representatives rejected Tuesday a supposed “killer amendment” proposed by Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia, a senior lawmaker known to be against the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.

Session was resumed at 4 p.m. although deliberations on the RH bill only started at 6:30 p.m.

Garcia, who represents the second district of Cebu, wants to insert the paragraph: “The State shall refrain from taking any measure that will tempt or tend to make any woman or couple violate a tenet or teaching of their religion” in the Declaration of Policy of the proposed RH law.

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Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, the main proponent of the RH bill, rejected the amendment proposed by Garcia because it seeks to prevent the government from promoting the use of RH services.

“The cat is out of the bag. The purpose of this killer amendment is to prohibit the state in providing reproductive health care services and commodities which are legal, effective, affordable, and safe,” Lagman said.

Garcia’s amendment was rejected through a viva voce vote. He then pushed for a nominal voting, a tactic perceived to deliberately delay discussions on the RH bill.

Lagman said the anti-RH camp was abusing the procedure of nominal voting.

“The rules were made for orderly procedure and should not be used as a shield or sanctuary for inordinately delaying tactics just to derail legislation which is the patent objective of the oppositors of the RH bill,” he said in a press statement.

In explaining her no vote to Garcia’s proposed amendment, Bukidnon Representative Jose Zubiri III argued: “The state is neutral and for all. We have to right to choose our faith. If the faithful has been less than faithful, that is the problem of the leaders of their faith. We do not choose their morality.”

Batangas Representative Hermilando Mandanas, an anti-RH lawmaker, voted in favor of Garcia’s amendment, saying it was a mere clarification of the paragraph in the original version of the bill.

Past 9 p.m., the roll of members was again called after Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez sought a nominal vote on his proposed amendment to include when human life begins in the declaration of policy.

His proposed amendment would read that the state will guarantee public access to relevant information on RH services and supplies “which do not prevent the implementation of a fertilized ovum in the uterus and equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception when human life begins.”

The second roll call showed that 146 members were present on the floor, enough to constitute a quorum.

The nominal voting proceeded and with a vote of 57-81, the amendment of Rodriguez was rejected.

Iloilo Representative Janette Garin said lawmakers should not decide on the definition of when life begins because “only God knows” when.

“Life is very difficult to define. No medical expert was able to do that,” she added.

The House of Representatives also junked Davao City Representative Karlo Nograles’ proposal to delete the words “reproductive” in Section 2 of the RH bill.

Session was suspended around 10:30 p.m. despite the insistence of Rodriguez to adjourn session so that they can get copies of the journal.

Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II earlier doubted that the RH bill will be put to a vote by this week despite the instruction of President Benigno Aquino III.

Gonzales said Aquino should certify the RH bill as urgent to expedite the proceedings.

Congress has only seven session days left before it goes on a Christmas break on December 22. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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