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Lawmakers play blame game on RH bill delay


04:40 PM August 29th, 2012

By: Christian V. Esguerra, August 29th, 2012 04:40 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The blame game over who’s delaying deliberations on the reproductive health bill at the House of Representatives took another turn Wednesday.

In a statement, the minority bloc accused the majority of “delaying omnibus referrals of outstanding bills by the rules committee unless and until the discussions of the RH bill are reopened.”

“It is unacceptable to us that important legislation will be held hostage to any single bill, no matter how important it might be to the administration,” said Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, who read the statement.

Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II denied that there was such an effort.

“Not true.  We were not able to take up even referrals of bills or purely administrative matters the other week because the anti-RH (congressmen) didn’t want to take up anything unless there was a roll call,” he said in a text message.

“Anyway, [on Tuesday] we were able to refer all (matters) to the respective committees. Perhaps, Danny didn’t know because he was not on the floor [Tuesday],” he added.

Another member of the majority, Cagayan Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, said around 30 bills were referred to different committees last Tuesday. Like Suarez, Rodriguez is opposed to the RH bill, which is also known as House Bill No. 4244.

“It’s not true that there will be no referral of the matters and the bills to the different committees until or unless there’s already the resumption of the amendment aspect,” he told the Inquirer.

The majority leader heads the powerful committee on rules, which farms out bills and resolutions to concerned committees for proper action. Gonzales earlier announced that HB 4244 would not be discussed this week to allow the chamber to tackle other measures on the floor.

Asked where he got the information that the majority was blocking RH deliberations, Suarez said “some members aired their concern” about the referral of their respective bills during the plenary session.

They were purportedly told: “Saka na muna yan, tapusin na muna natin yung RH (Worry about that later, let’s finish first the RH bill).”

Siquijor Rep. Orlando Fua, a member of the minority and is also against HB 4244, pointed out that the measure had become “bi-partisan,” after gathering supporters and opponents from both sides of the political fence.

The chamber failed to start the period of interpellation two weeks ago, partly because it accommodated privilege speeches and also because many pro-RH congressmen were not present on the floor.

Fua noted that it was members of the majority who were fighting it out with each other during the period of amendments.

“There is no intention on the part of the minority to delay the passage of the bill,” he said in the press conference with Suarez.

“If there is any delay, it is (because of) the majority. If you look at the session in plenary, most of those who ask questions are from the majority. Seldom do we see a member of the minority interpellate the sponsors of the bill.

Rodriguez said anti-RH congressmen were concerned about the quorum because such an important piece of legislation should not be decided on by a small group of House members.

“The majority is unable to bring the warm bodies here to support their cause, while we in the anti-RH (group) are always vigilant,” he said.

“We’re always ready, but we assure them that once they take up the RH bill, we are going to stand up (and ask) that there should be warm bodies.”

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