House members accuse each other of delaying RH billBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Who’s delaying the deliberations on the reproductive health bill?
Lawmakers on opposite sides of the debate are trading barbs in the wake of the House of Representatives’ failure to open the crucial period of amendments on House Bill No. 4244 for two straight session days.
Given the coming long weekend and the chamber’s preoccupation with budget deliberations, the issue will have to wait until Aug. 28 when congressmen resume their plenary session.
Deputy Majority Leader Janette Garin on Wednesday complained on the floor about the move by her colleagues against HB 4244 to rise “on a question of personal and collective privilege.”
Garin, a proponent of the RH bill, described as “palusot” (lame excuse) the effort of Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez, who asked to be recognized to discuss the devastation caused by the heavy monsoon rains and what the chamber was doing about it.
But Golez later hit back, saying it was pro-RH congressmen who were delaying the proceedings, citing their absence at the start of the plenary session both last Tuesday and Wednesday.
“They are the proponents; they are the ones who would like to change the status quo so they should be here,” he told the Inquirer. “They are the ones delaying (the proceedings). They’re not here. Very few of them are here. They’re losing by default.”
During her turn on the floor, Garin blasted Golez and company, saying, “Let us be man enough to show our people what our vote is for the responsible parenthood bill.”
“Isn’t it that this (question of) personal and collective privilege—if I may quote Congressman (Rudy) Fariñas—is just an excuse not to talk about the responsible parenthood bill?” she said.
Last Tuesday when the period of amendments was supposed to start, there were more anti-RH congressmen spotted on the floor at the start of the plenary session. The following day, even fewer lawmakers showed up at the beginning of the session.
Among the early birds were Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Garin for the pro-RH group, and Golez, and Representatives Pablo Garcia, Florencio Noel, and Amado Bagatsing for the other side.
Garin admitted that “we are not sure about our numbers.”
“We might win or we might lose, but at the end of the day, we would like to show to our people that when they voted upon us, it is our obligation and our duty to put forward our vote on this very important issue,” she said.
Golez denied that his group was avoiding the period of amendments, noting that he was among those who voted to terminate the debates on HB 4244.
But before the session adjourned last Wednesday, Golez moved to suspend all further deliberations on HB 4244 to allow the chamber to address the problems caused by the recent monsoon rains and storms.
Golez presented pictures and a news video showing the extent of the damage and at one point asked: “Is RH more important than that? Are people blind to what happened?”
Golez’s motion was immediately seconded by Rodriguez despite an objection by Tarlac Rep. Susan Yap. When the session resumed, another lawmaker said to be from the pro-RH side took the floor, spoke briefly and moved for adjournment.
Golez smelled victory with the lawmaker’s move.
“I was waiting for (my motion) to be voted upon but they were afraid that they would lose if we came to that. They don’t have the numbers here,” he said. “That’s a hanging motion. It’s a live motion.”
The session last Tuesday was also unceremoniously adjourned after the chamber failed to settle the issue on whether Palawan Rep. Victorino Socrates should continue with his speech condemning the termination of RH debate.
Again, the anti-RH group claimed victory, saying a nominal vote on the matter would have supposedly showed that there more lawmakers in favor of allowing Socrates to go on.
Asked why the issue was never put to a vote, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said: “It’s better not to vote. It’s very divisive if you start doing that on an issue as that one. We have to try to maintain an atmosphere that is conducive to getting on. That’s what we’re going to do.”
“We’re already in the period of amendments but you cannot prevent anybody from rising on a question of personal and collective privilege. That is something that people are entitled to speak on,” he added.