‘House vote on RH bill can go either way’

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House of Representatives. RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III on Monday aired a fresh call to lawmakers during a crucial caucus on the reproductive health bill in Malacañang: Vote on it according to your conscience, but do it soon.

But as the lawmakers drove back to the House of Representatives to resume plenary deliberations on the population management bill, it became clear that even members of the President’s Liberal Party were divided on it.

The House must race against time to vote on the measure before the holiday season, otherwise it might be too late, and too close to the campaign season for the mid-term elections in May 2013, a Malacañang official earlier said.

“He has two messages: first, decide on the issue as soon as possible and second, vote according to your conscience,’’ House Deputy Speaker Raul Daza said in an interview outside the Malacañang gate after the caucus.

The President first met with LP party-members, led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and then with members of its coalition partners, Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People’s Coalition and National Unity Party (formerly Kampi) from 11 a.m. to around 1:30 p.m.

The President let the lawmakers spoke first before he did, officials said.

“Basically he feels that it should not be left hanging and that at some point in time, the bill should be put to a vote. That’s all he said. He left it to everyone’s conscience as to how to vote,’’ Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino said in an interview.

Aquino did not tell the lawmakers to vote for the controversial legislation, Daza and Antonino said.

“It’s now up to the leaders to schedule when will that (voting) be, and how to go about it,’’ Antonino said.

The President’s deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, confirmed the lawmakers’ statements.

“This is what the President said, `I’m pro-responsible parenthood. But if you vote for this, you should be following your conscience’,’’ she said in a briefing.

The President called the caucus basically to tell the lawmakers to produce a quorum and end discussions on the bill by voting for it, added Valte, who was present at the President’s caucus with LP members. “There just has to be an end to the discussion somewhere. We cannot leave it hanging.’’

For weeks, the bill has been stuck in the period of amendments in plenary due to a lack of quorum caused by absent lawmakers who were either campaigning or feared provoking the ire of their parish priests in the run-up to the May 2013 elections.

It was only last week, after finally mustering quorum, that the lawmakers adopted a “substitute bill’’ for debate.

The new version prioritizes the poor in the provision of birth control methods and bans contraceptives that prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum, which is considered abortion by the Catholic Church.

Daza, a party-mate of the President, said he agreed with Aquino that the bill should be put to a vote at the soonest possible time.

“Like everyone else, especially, the members of the Liberal Party, will follow that, regardless of the vote,’’ he said in the interview.

Daza said nobody requested the President to certify the measure as urgent, but doubted Aquino would do this, saying “he’s already said he’s parsimonious about certifying bills as urgent.”

Daza also admitted that even LP members in the House numbering 94 were divided on the bill. He said he himself would vote against it, saying that there’s no “public calamity or emergency’’ that necessitating its immediate enactment.

“It’s a close vote,’’ he said when asked how LP members in the House would vote on it. “Even the President acknowledged that all the parties are divided. Even the minority is divided.’’

Secretary Manuel Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, earlier said that the pro-RH lawmakers had a slim margin over the anti-RH lawmakers, and the vote could “go either way.’’

According to Antonino, the lawmakers were not asked to give a response to the President’s statement.

Three-fourths of LP members turned up at the caucus, moderated by Belmonte, Valte said.

Representatives Henedina Abad of Batanes, Fernando Gonzalez of Albay, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, and Daza were among those who shared their views on the bill during the LP’s caucus with the President, she added.

“It was a matter of the individual positions of the congressmen who stood up,’’ she said.

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  • boypalaban

    “This is what the President said, `I’m pro-responsible parenthood.”

    kapag pala gumagamit ng contraceptives responsableng magulang na…

    dami palang mga iresponsableng magulang dahil ayaw gumamit ng contraceptives…

    • http://www.facebook.com/jake.dionisio.5 Jake Dionisio

      Did he say contraceptives? So fixated on condoms. Did you have a bad experience? 

      Maybe if you looked at the idea of “free family planning”, which can also translate to pro-responsible parenthood”. Maybe if you looked at your income to see if you could support a mouth to feed and send to school, instead of beg on the streets to augment your crappy income, you’d realize you shouldn’t have had sex in the first place.

      But you know, I’ve seen all your replies. Its all fixated on complaining about the bad things, but no suggestions or solutions, and totally overlooking the good points.

    • Facilitator1

      Kabayan, ang galing mo. IDOL mo siguro si Joseph Goebbels, Adolph Hitler’s NAZI propagandist. Sabi nya, “To be perceived, propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium.” Thus, your RESPONSIBLE PARENTHOOD analogy/logic…PEACE

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QZZKXPEA67I7HELEIYM35QVYFA Jon

    Aquino did not tell the lawmakers to vote for the controversial legislation, Daza and Antonino said

    Kung ganoon, bakit pa nagpatawag ng meeting sa palasyo?
    What a waste of time.
    Puro palabok lang ang mga press release na ito.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EDXEVEFHW2ZT5VWHDWBNM6XGE4 RyanE

    Just vote on and be done with it. Afterwards, post the names of representatives and their votes, whether for or against the RH bill, and let their constituents be the judge.

    Remember, RH bill is non-mandatory, just giving options and choices to couples to choose what’s best for them and their families. Let the couples decide on their own fate, not by the dictates of the priests and bishops who have the least knowledge about marriage life and parenting.

    PASS THE RH BILL NOW!!

  • EdgarEdgar

    I wish this spineless president would spare us the drama. What he and the cardinal did a few days ago was plain for all to see. When his spinelessness Noynoy and his holiness Tagle came together to kiss and make up, while thawing in a pool of brotherly love, the covenant has already been sealed with the exchange of body fluids. Noynoy abandoned the RH bill in exchange for the church’s support for Bum Aquino and Ting-Ting Cojuangco. This spineless president can sell the drama all he wants but no one’s buying it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OHOD5EA75DBBUH53UKLRXRK764 Mang Teban

    The RH bill was, is and will never be about responsible parenthood.
    If the proponents of the RH bill have reasoned out that specific poverty of generalized impoverished families is caused by too many children, then the bill is founded on the wrong premise. So, propagating contraception is the not about improving the economic lot of the impoverished families but simply to depopulate. Like the models used in other countries, the RH bill aims to have a slow birth rate in the Philippines based on the flawed logic that couples in the impoverished families have been irresponsible parents. But how and how much can impoverished families expect to better their lives is not discussed in the RH bill?

    No one can safely forecast if contraception will solve hunger and poverty. To say that, in the future, more poor families will have smaller size, preferably two children per family only, how can contraception bring additional income to the family? Does this mean that President Aquino expects less poor people will go hungry when contraception rules our society? That does not provide a safe answer or solution to the problems of hunger and poverty among our poor population.

    Time and time again, the United Nations and other independent private NGOs have identified that hunger and poverty arise from greed from Big Business and corruption in the government service that deprive the poor consumers access to fair price of commodities,, displacement of communities due to protracted pockets of rebellion, mismanagement of a nation’s economic programs, and authoritarian regimes that repress and suppress freedom to speak out their needs and demands for justice and fairness. Where is the reference by the RH bill proponents that should convince the legislators that increasing population size increases hunger and poverty rates? Or, this was simply an excuse to dump billions of pesos of condoms and contraceptive pills from foreign manufacturers? 

    So, if the president is after responsible parenthood, then he is supporting the wrong bill to make his advocacy bring positive results. 

  • speedstream2

    Since the proverbial party whip has not been cracked, doesn’t it now appear that the RH bill could be sidelined? Realistically, with the elections just around the corner, will those in the running take the risk of a backlash from either side of the fence? It’s an awkward situation, to say the least. Lack of quorum could still be the main stumbling block, due mainly to ‘pressing concerns’ that need to be addressed by the solons in their respective constituencies.

  • Hey_Dudes

    A No Vote for the RH bill is a victory for the catholic hierarchy which signals to no end in their meddling ways.

    Vote YES to RH bill to put a check not only to the runaway population and more importantly – bishop’s meddlesome ways.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VY25ZOHU3FJFFX6CYSH5W4AX3I sugbu

    Mga Pro RH….self defeating ang takbo ng rational….kung meron man sila ?

  • disqusted0fu

    either way they vote, it will affect some of these lawmakers. if they vote for the bill, they might lose votes in the upcoming elections. if they vote against it, they know that its a big no no in this Aquino government to oppose the president. so what is it going to be???

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