MANILA, Philippines—Are congressmen opposed to the reproductive health bill headed for defeat or are their pro-RH colleagues in for a big surprise?
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said he was “cautiously confident” that House Bill No. 4244 would be passed before the Christmas break, with voting on second reading possibly happening as early as Monday.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the bill, said the defeat of amendments proposed by anti-RH lawmakers was indicative of the outcome of the measure in the chamber.
But Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles was unfazed even if his proposed amendments were ejected by Lagman and the majority of the chamber.
“To tell you frankly, it’s a good thing they are rejecting the amendments. It makes it easier for us to reject the bill,” he told the Inquirer after the session adjourned late Wednesday night for lack of enough House members on the floor. “Even if our amendments are good, they were not accepting them. If that’s the case, then let’s just vote on (the bill).”
On the third day of individual amendments, Lagman rejected Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado’s proposal to amend the declaration of policy to now state: “The State shall promote openness to life welcoming all children born to married couples…”
“Unintended pregnancies can be referred to adoption centers in the care of private religious organizations or non-government organizations. To improve the quality of life of the family, married couples are encouraged to plan and space the children they will have with full support from the State in matters pertaining to reproductive health and responsible parenthood,” she said.
But Lagman rejected the amendment, saying the provision had been “agreed (upon) in serious consultation” for the crafting of the substitute bill. Mercado appealed the decision only to be rejected once more by majority of the chamber in a voice vote.
Anti-RH congressmen zeroed in on the same provision, but Lagman, who was defending the bill, stood his ground. He was also sustained by the chamber whenever his rejection of proposed amendments was appealed.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez sought to delete the entire provision.
Rodriguez and his group particularly expressed discomfort over a clause that said: “…provided that parents bring forth to the world only those children that they can raise in a truly human way.”
Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing wanted to remove the condition, arguing, “Are we now saying that we will stop (poor couples) from having babies?”
Rodriguez said the provision showed that the RH bill “is clearly a population-control measure.”
“There is now here a prior restraint on pregnancy and bringing forth children,” he said on the floor, citing the constitutional provision promoting the establishment of a family based on one’s religious conviction.
“Responsible parenthood in the article on family pertains to what the family thinks as responsible parenthood and not the parenthood which the State would like to impose and coerce on its citizens,” he said.
In an interview after the session, Lagman acknowledged that the period of amendment was moving faster, saying that the anti-RH group had “realized that their colleagues in the House would not allow inordinate dilatory tactics.”
Asked if the RH bill could be passed by the House before Christmas, Belmonte said: “Yes, I’m confident, but cautiously confident. We have to be realistic. This is not a case where you can stampede it because there is hardly anybody on the other side. This is a case where many people are very conscious of the issue, as I myself think that a lot of them or all of them have made up their minds one way or the other.”
“But still we will (not) know (the outcome) until the issue itself is put to a vote,” he added.