MANILA, Philippines — He may not have certified the Reproductive Health Bill as urgent but President Benigno Aquino III on Monday made it clear to some 170 lawmakers that he wants the controversial measure voted on before Congress goes on Christmas break.
Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said that the President urged legislators to “vote on the measure rather than postpone a decision on an issue that has divided the country.”
“Though he did not tell people how to vote, he implied it when he said if the bill loses, it will again be filed by somebody in the 16th Congress, thus prolonging divisiveness,” he said.
The RH bill has long been a contentious issue within Congress. This divisiveness was not only apparent between pro and anti-RH lawmakers but also within political parties whose members also differ in their stand on the proposed measure.
The substitute version of the RH Bill has earlier been described as “watered-down” but this was denied by its main proponent Albay Representative Edcel Lagman. This version prioritizes couples from the poor sector and will only promote contraceptives that will not prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum.
Bello said that the President told them that if he were to vote “he would vote for the bill because that would be the only way he could face his constituents with the feeling he was doing something good for them rather than feeling he only wanted to remain in office.”
Aquino also told members of the House of Representatives not to be influenced by threats from “lobby groups.”
Lagman had earlier assured pro-RH bill legislators not to fear the backlash of the Catholic clergy come election day, citing surveys which showed that many Catholics were in support of the measure.