Sotto promise: Sponsors will hardly recognize RH billBy Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
When the smoke clears in the Senate after a looming showdown, proponents of the reproductive health (RH) bill will hardly recognize the original measure they had introduced in the chamber.
That’s a promise by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto, who has started a series of four speeches opposing on the floor the measure sponsored by Senator Pia Cayetano. He is through with two speeches.
Sotto said he would finish his last two speeches and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile would complete his interpellation next week.
The Senate will then move to the period of amendments that the House of Representatives embarked on Tuesday but was having difficulty getting off and running because of delaying tactics by the bill’s opponents.
“I do not know if we can still recognize the bill after all that,” Sotto told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.
The showdown on the RH bill would center on whether to include in the final copy “essential” but contentious features that might already be edited in the House version, Sotto said, adding that the Senate bill would agree with the position in the lower house excluding contraceptives in the list of “essential medicines.”
“The amendments would include the deletion of any reference to abortion,” Sotto said.
In particular, he mentioned a part of Section 3 Letter I of the bill: “The government shall ensure that all women needing care for postabortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, nonjudgmental and compassionate manner.”
He said the provision could be seen as a tacit invitation to women to have an abortion since they would be guaranteed government support in case the operation is botched.
Sotto said that in the end, those critical of the RH bill would ensure that the final version “will look after family health and maternal care.”
“That’s the only way for the measure to pass,” he said.
Cayetano said in a text message that she was prepared for the amendments but stressed that alterations “should not remove the essential features of the bill.”
Blogger cries plagiarism
In his past two speeches this week, Sotto bewailed the loss of his child after his wife Helen took contraceptives and slammed foreign supporters led by the United States, United Nations and World Bank for orchestrating population control in developing countries like the Philippines.
A local blogger, Alfredo Melgar of the group Filipino Freethinkers, accused Sotto of plagiarism.
Melgar said that Sotto’s speech on the death of his infant son was copied nearly word for word from the blog of “Sarah, the healthy home economist.” Melgar’s accusation went viral yesterday.
Sotto denied the allegation. He said he had always quoted the sources of his information in his speeches. “Don’t I always come out with a blanket disclosure whenever I quote somebody?”
‘So, sue me’
The senator wondered why he should be scored just because he and “Sarah” happened to quote from the work of author Natasha Campbell McBride on the adverse effects of the pill.
“Unlike my critics, I don’t pretend that I know it all. I always cite my sources whether news columns, books or statements from the experts. So, sue me,” Sotto said.
“I would rather that those who support the RH bill answer the issues I am raising instead of diverting the issue by criticizing me,” he said.
The senator earlier complained that his stand against the RH bill had earned him enemies who use the Internet to attack him.