Malacañang insists on RH bill provisions promoting and financing contraceptivesBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang is amenable to watering down the reproductive health bill in an effort to arrive at a compromise but not to the extent of scrapping provisions on the promotion and public funding of contraceptives, a Palace official said Saturday.
, chief of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) that acts as the go-between of the Executive Branch and Congress, admitted that administration lawmakers were bending over backward to accommodate amendments and save the bill.
“As much as possible they want to accommodate but only up to a point,” he said by phone, referring to President Benigno Aquino’s allies in the House of Representatives.
Mamba said there were “extreme proposals” from opponents of the population management measure to water it down to the point of scrapping provisions mandating the state to promote and finance contraceptives for the poor.
“I don’t think the Palace will agree to that. That’s practically passing nothing,” he said, indicating that the provision on the contraceptives was non-negotiable.
In a bid to compromise with Catholic bishops, House leaders broached the idea of tweaking the provision on contraceptives. Instead of promoting the use of contraceptives nationwide, the bill will make contraceptives available only to the “poorest of the poor.”
“That’s tantamount to class legislation,” Mamba said.
The legislation mandates government to promote contraceptives and educate Filipinos on planning their families.
Senator Pia Cayetano, principal author of the Senate version, introduced amendments deleting an entire subsection which Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said could be used to effectively legalize abortion in the country.
She proposed replacing the controversial subsection with a direct statement: “Abortion is a criminal act in accordance with existing laws.”
On the inclusion of certain birth control devices on the list of essential drugs, Cayetano proposed that the bill state that the Philippine National Drug Formulary System be observed in including or excluding birth control supplies on the essential drugs list “in accordance with existing practice.”
Both amendments were approved unanimously.
Mamba said he would not know how far Aquino would go to rally lawmakers to muster the votes necessary to approve it in plenary.
“I really don’t know how far the President intervenes. He has said his piece,” he said, referring to the meeting convened by Aquino and attended by House lawmakers in August before they overwhelmingly voted to end the period of interpellation and move to the period amendments.
With some allies opposed to the measure and given the proximity of the 2013 mid-term elections, support for the measure in the House was not as solid as before, Mamba said.
“Very slim,” he said when asked about the chances of House leaders mobilizing lawmakers to vote for the measure. “They won’t bring it to a vote unless they have the numbers. I don’t know where it will go. But it’s a priority measure. The President really wants it.”
Mamba said he believed the administration had the necessary numbers in the Senate to approve the measure, but has to deal with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sotto, both of whom are fiercely opposed to the measure.
“That’s the problem,” he said.