RH bill still has a long way to go—BelmonteBy Christian V. Esguerra, Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The amendment phase of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill could prove as protracted as the debates, which only ended last Monday after a massive push from President Benigno Aquino.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said Wednesday there was still a long way to go before the bill reaches the finish line.
The House is expected to tackle the amendments to be proposed to the bill next week, and opponents of the measure are aiming to introduce amendments to take out what they see as its unacceptable provisions on contraceptives and sex education.
The proposed amendments will have to go through discussions involving its supporters and opponents.
Belmonte said this period would be as contentious as the debates, but possibly shorter.
“I don’t think it will be more difficult, but it will be equally difficult,” he told reporters.
Belmonte said he hoped the discussions of the proposed amendments would not last as long as the debates during the interpellation phase. At least in the period of amendments, the discussions would focus on a specific topic, he said.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez and Ang Waray party-list member Florencio Noel, who are both opposed to the bill, said their group would scrutinize the measure “line by line.”
Majority of lawmakers voted to end the debate on the bill last Monday, a day ahead of schedule after House members met with the President who pitched for an end to the debates.
Noel, a close ally of Mr. Aquino, joined the Palace meeting. But he said he voted for the termination of the debates only to allow the process to “move forward” and to disclose who among the House members were for or against the measure.
Belmonte said he was amenable to a proposal from Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II to form a panel composed of supporters and opponents of the bill to iron out the less contentious and more acceptable amendment proposals.
This way, the more controversial amendments could be isolated, which could then be tackled in the plenary, he said.
Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez on Wednesday proposed the suspension of the amendments of the RH bill to allow the chamber, which is in the midst of scrutinizing the P2-trillion proposed 2013 budget, to focus on passing a supplemental calamity budget.
Golez proposes that discussions on the proposed amendments be moved to the end of the month and said he would stand on the floor and oppose any move to resume plenary deliberations on the RH bill or start the period of amendments.
Meanwhile, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said the bill would address the problems brought about by natural disasters and ecological destruction.
With the tragedies caused by natural calamities that the country has experienced, people must learn to accept that there is a direct link between a high population growth rate and climate change, he said.
“The negative impact of an uncontrolled huge population growth rate on the environment will continually make risk management nightmarish and perpetuate similar tragedies to happen,” he said.
Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon, who is in favor of the RH bill, said he was “disturbed” by suggestions coming from the anti RH-bill camp that the deluge last Tuesday may have been a “message” from God.
“I do not think God should be blamed for this event of nature that has caused the losses of lives and the sufferings of our people. I do not think this is the message of God. He wouldn’t want that those who are innocent will be the ones to suffer,” he said in a phone interview.