Lagman demands vote on RH bill nowBy Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – One of the authors of the reproductive health bill demanded Saturday that the controversial version be put to a vote now, regardless of whether opponents were satisfied or not with its latest permutation.
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman made the statement as he lamented the hardline stance that some of those against the measure, including lawmakers and Catholic clergymen, continued to take despite offers of a compromise by the bill’s proponents.
“The intransigence of those opposed to the RH bill has torpedoed the forging of a viable and reasonable compromise on the measure,” Lagman said in a statement.
“The House of Representatives has been left with no option but to proceed considering the proposed amendments in order to pave the way for final voting,” he added.
According to him, voting on the bill has been stalled long enough, and this has come at the expense of the poor and the marginalized who need the services the proposed legislation would provide.
“The process of legislation must come to an end in a final voting so that Filipinos will find out whether their representatives in Congress are guardians of the people’s will or centurions of Church orthodoxy,” he added.
House leaders said they wanted to pursue talks between supporters and opponents of the reproductive health bill, including officials of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, in order to hammer out an acceptable version of the measure.
The talks are supposed to be held after the House has finished passing the 2013 budget this month, but hardliners are not expected to participate.
Proponents of the bill, as part of a compromise, said they were willing to limit the provision of contraceptives to the poorest of the poor households, with the items to be provided only on an as-needed basis. This is to ensure that these households would have access to the things they need to be able to space their children.
The suggestion was made in response to opposition to the bill on the basis of widespread distribution of contraceptives using government funds, as well as the position of some oppositors that they respect the rights of couples to determine the number and spacing of their children.
The reproductive health bill seeks to provide contraceptives and family planning service to Filipinos in order to reduce maternal and infant deaths and allow couples to determine the number and spacing of their children. It also provides for mobile health clinics, barangay health workers, and emergency obstetric care.
But Lagman said even without compromises, the bill was already acceptable to the majority of Filipinos.
“The RH bill in its pristine form has been acceptable to the overwhelming majority of Filipinos as documented consistently by periodic surveys, with 71 percent of Catholics endorsing the enactment of the bill,” he said.
The bill is going through the period of amendment in the Senate and in the House, although in the House, not one amendment has been introduced on the floor because of delays caused by privilege speeches by opponents of the measure.