Monday’s “make or break” meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and members of the House of Representatives should determine the fate of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill in the 15th Congress.
“On Monday, we will know the fate of the RH bill one way or the other,” Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Saturday.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, however, warned colleagues against “railroading” House Bill No. 4244, or its “watered down” substitute, through the lower chamber.
Rodriguez noted that the bill was still in the period of amendments, which gives members an opportunity to further scrutinize it and introduce changes.
“They cannot just close the period of amendments just because there was a meeting with the President. It would be very, very arbitrary and oppressive. If they do that, we will go to court to stop the proceedings,” Rodriguez said.
Gonzales said that all 287 House members received invitations to a luncheon with Mr. Aquino in Malacañang on Monday. But he said the meeting was not for the purpose of ordering the congressmen to finally pass the RH bill.
Put it to a vote
“It’s not in his character to force a vote,” said Gonzales of the President. “Perhaps he will just ask if we could put the matter to a vote already regardless of which side would win. What’s important is that we don’t run away from the problem, that we don’t avoid having to vote.”
Gonzales said the Monday meeting would indicate whether or not the RH bill enjoyed the support of majority of House members.
For his part, Rodriguez was confident “more than 100” congressmen were against the measure.
Asked about the possibility of the RH bill being put to a vote tomorrow, Gonzales said: “It’s possible, yes.”
But for Rodriguez, the President should not “order the voting (on the RH bill) on the same day.”
“The President should not preempt Congress from introducing amendments,” he said. “There are still many amendments that need to be introduced. Just because there is a substitute bill does not mean it is already acceptable.”
Rodriguez said he had informed Speaker Feliciano Belmonte he would not be attending the Palace lunch. But other anti-RH congressmen were free to show up, he said.
“No one is prevented from attending. It’s an individual decision. But if the President is saying that the RH bill should be a conscience vote, we have to finish the period of amendments first,” he said.