Aquino invites legislators to Palace lunch meetingBy Leila B. Salaverria |Philippine Daily Inquirer
President Aquino has asked House leaders and members to a luncheon meeting on Monday, which is expected to discuss pending legislative matters, including the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.
Other important matters expected to be discussed are the passage of proposed amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act and an antitrust measure, as well as the ratification of the sin tax bill and the 2013 budget.
The House, which has only nine remaining session days before the year ends, has lately been plagued by absenteeism, resulting in continued failure to form a quorum.
The last quarter of the year is considered crucial for getting urgent legislation approved as lawmakers would be expected to busy themselves with campaign preparations next year.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said the President will be asking the lawmakers to attend the sessions to ensure a quorum and enable the House to tackle crucial legislation.
Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said lawmakers received the invitation to the Palace meeting Thursday.
Several lawmakers confirmed receiving invitations, but not everyone said they would go. The invitation did not specify the agenda.
At least one lawmaker has begged off because he expects the meeting to focus on the RH bill.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, one of the most vocal opponents of the controversial measure, said it would be useless for him to join the gathering as he has already made up his mind about the bill and would not be influenced into changing it.
“My opposition to the RH bill is based on my conscience and religious conviction,” Rodriguez said.
Vote based on own belief
Rodriguez said he hoped the President would keep to his earlier stand that lawmakers should vote on the RH bill based on their own beliefs.
He wished that Aquino had not called legislators to a meeting and just let the House decide on the measure on its own.
The period of amendments for the RH bill began earlier this week after months of delay.
A substitute RH bill, which proponents said included new provisions that address the concerns of opponents, was last Monday adopted and made the new version of the bill. It will also become the basis for any other amendments to the measure.
Opponents of the RH bill have protested the substitution. They have vowed to propose numerous amendments, going line by line, if necessary.