MANILA, Philippines – Despite meeting with lawmakers on Monday, some members of the House of Representatives said it was unlikely that President Benigno Aquino III would certify the Reproductive Health Bill as urgent.
Iloilo Representative Janette Garin, co-author of House Bill 4244 or the RH Bill, told reporters in a text message that the measure “cannot be certified as urgent as it is not time bound. It has, however, been listed as a priority bill.”
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said that 182 of their members confirmed their attendance to the meeting with the President.
Aquino could be meeting with lawmakers to “simply urge Congress to vote. He won’t lobby for either a yes or no vote but he will press us to respect the parliamentary process, appeal to those engaged in procedural delays to desist, and get on with the vote,” said Akbayan Partylist Representative Walden Bello.
Cibac Partylist Representative Sherwin Tugna said the President’s move on the RH Bill could depend on their dialogue with him over lunch as well as the Catholic Church’s response to the substitute bill. “I believe that the President will urge the legislators to be present during the deliberations, so that at the very least the RH Bill will be deliberated and debated.”
The most recent development on HB 4244 was the acceptance of a substitute version for it last week and while many feel that the President could push for voting to take place within the day, Bello expressed uncertainty over finishing the period of amendments on Monday night.
“I think there will be resumption of the amendments process, though I’m not sure if we’ll be able to complete that this evening,” he said.
But the bill’s main proponent, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, said that he remains confident that they can breeze through the period of individual amendments and pass the measure before they go on Christmas break.
To do this, Garin said that it was important that lawmakers reach and maintain a quorum—something which has become rare since they resumed session last November 5.