Expect long RH debate in Senate—EnrileBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Proponents of the reproductive health (RH) bill in the Senate should brace themselves for a lengthy debate on every amendment that some opposing senators may want to introduce into the controversial measure.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile gave the warning Sunday, and followers of the debate took it as a hint that the Senate would finally be moving forward and open the bill up to amendments once Majority Leader Vicente Sotto is through with his series of speeches against the proposal.
In a radio interview, Enrile said the period of amendments “would last depending on the number of amendments that senators want to introduce on the floor.”
Enrile himself is readying an amendment that would delete a provision that classifies contraceptives as “essential medicine.”
He has argued consistently that artificial methods of pregnancy prevention such as condoms and IUDs do not deal with any life-threatening diseases and should not be listed as essential medicine in the government formulary.
Sotto has said that the current form of the RH bill, to be approved, must withstand changes in provisions relating to abortion, the definition of population control, and government involvement in the distribution of contraceptives.
“If we cannot agree on a single amendment, we will put to a vote the move whether to accept it or not,” Enrile said. “The length of debate would [depend] on the number of amendments. If an amendment is debatable, expect [a debate].”
“We have to prepare for this reality. [It’s really like that] since this is the most [sensitive] bill that has entered the life of this nation,” Enrile said in Filipino.
He said the debate could stretch until after next year’s election. Under Congress’ schedule, the current session will end in February to give way to the 2013 campaign period that would culminate in the elections in May.
Enrile said Congress would return in June.
“When we come back in June, we will try [to finish this],” he added.
“We are not going to delay but we also have the right to present our amendments unless they want to, if they can, vote us out and cut short the period [of amendments] and go to voting immediately,” Enrile said.
The RH bill appears to be the most divisive measure among senators in the 15th Congress. Disagreements center on whether the government should officially support artificial methods of contraception.
The Catholic Church, which espouses conservative values and endorses natural methods of avoiding pregnancy, is leading the opposition to the bill.