Santiago calls for vote on RH bill anewBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines — Senators have already argued all issues surrounding the reproductive health (RH) bill to the bone, so it’s time to put it to a vote, said Sen. Miriam Santiago, co-sponsor of the contentious bill.
Santiago said the Senate leadership was simply delaying its approval.
“It (has) become very transparent that other people just want to delay the bill for the sake of delay,” she said in a radio interview, on Sunday.
Santiago was apparently referring to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and majority leader Tito Sotto—the most visible and staunchest anti-RH advocates in the chamber.
‘We have answered all information questions about this bill. If we go into the opinion questions, wala nang katapusan talaga ‘yun,(there will really be no end)” she added.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier said that the RH bill already got 14 “yes” votes in the Senate.
Senate President Pro tempore Jinggoy Estrada, however, said the actual score was 10 “yes” votes, 10 “no” and two undecided.
Santiago warned that the RH bill could go the way of other urgent measures left pending upon the expiration of the current Congress.
The bill is also pending at the House of Representatives.
The Catholic Church has campaigned ferociously against the passage of the bill, threatening to use its pulpits to campaign against any lawmaker who votes for it. But President Benigno Aquino III said he was in favor of the bill, which would promote both artificial and natural birth control methods, and mandate sex education in schools.
Santiago, a Catholic and scholar of constitutional law, expressed optimism about the chances of the bill being passed by Congress in February, before the start of campaigning for the May polls.
“We’re going to strive very hard (beginning) January…(Otherwise), “magpapatiwakal na kami ni (RH principal sponsor) Sen. Pia Cayetano (Sen. Cayetano and I will commit suicide),” she joked.
The RH bill has been stuck in a weird cycle of debate-amendment-debate since it was put in the plenary on the second half of 2011, a detail that Santiago said has been “very unusual for any bill in the Senate.”
At one point, the Senate had Enrile and Sotto asking each other questions about the RH bill when neither was a sponsor as required by the rules, Cayetano noted.
“We have given them enough leeway. It’s about time they stopped it,” Santiago said in Filipino.
Putting the RH bill to a vote should finally determine whether the Senate supports it.
“If we lose, we can take it (but) as much as possible, we will exhaust all means for its approval. Hindi lang kami aabot sa suntukan, talagang ginagawa na namin lahat (we are doing everything to pass the bill save challenging opposing senators to a fistfight) I still hope it reaches a point when we would vote on it,” the senator said.
Santiago reminded colleagues that 11 mothers die of childbirth complications everyday in the country due to lack of awareness on reproductive health.