Latest Stories

RH bill certified urgent by Aquino

By ,
, ,

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III has certified as urgent the reproductive health (RH) bill, virtually ensuring the passage of the controversial measure that has hurdled second reading in the House of Representatives despite a spirited opposition mounted by the influential Catholic Church.

The presidential certification removes the three-day waiting period between the second and third readings of any given bill.

However, since the House version, Republic Act No. 4244 has hurdled second reading (and thus, no need to skip the three-day rule), the certification would boost the chances of Senate Bill No. 2865.

After closing the period of second reading, the Senate could proceed immediately to the third and final reading.

The President’s move signals the formal shift of the battle over the RH bill to the Senate, which was still stuck in the period of individual amendments when the session adjourned last Wednesday.

“We’d really rather (that) this divisive issue, hopefully, will be finished already before we start the new year,” the President told reporters late Thursday after he certified the bill.

“To give them (the lawmakers) the opportunity to finish, especially the Senate, I certified its urgency,” said Mr. Aquino, adding that he expected the certification to be delivered to the offices of the House Speaker and Senate President yesterday, or Monday at the latest.

Racing against time

“Senate approval is needed to complement House approval, so that enactment of an RH law can be achieved within the few remaining session days of the 15th Congress, and after the Christmas break,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma in a text message.

The President said the “too narrow definition” of the constitutional provision on when to certify bills as urgent—“clearly undebatable” emergencies like a state of calamity needing a supplemental budget—did not apply in this case as Congress will go into recess next Thursday, briefly returning after the holidays, only to go into recess again in February 2013 for the election campaign.

Sure enough, anti-RH bill Rep. Rufus Rodriguez questioned the basis of the certification, citing the constitutional provision that gives the President the option only “to meet a public calamity or emergency.”

“What public calamity or emergency is the RH bill supposed to meet to justify its certification as urgent by the President,” said the Cagayan de Oro congressman.

Encounter in Tondo

Explaining why the issue needed state intervention, Mr. Aquino again recalled his encounter with a 16-year-old mother during a visit to the Baseco compound of Tondo, Manila.

The girl, who was barely out of puberty, had just given birth to a second child and had a common-law husband without a stable source of income, he said.

“She’s now 18 and she’s pregnant again with a third child, and she has a new common-law partner,” he told reporters.

“You have a responsibility to those being born into this world. You can’t rely on bahala na (God will provide). What’s wrong with informing them of all these (family planning) choices? Let them choose the size and what method to plan the family etc.,” he said.

No viable solution

The President said that anti-RH groups had not put forward a viable solution to the runaway population growth, save for a blanket denial of the bill’s benefits.

“At the end of the day, what I’ve heard from anti-RH is that they don’t suggest that if you have problems, here’s the solution. They always say, ‘you can’t do that, you can’t do this, you can’t do everything,” said Mr. Aquino.

“If you have a problem there must be a solution, and I think the RH bill presents, especially this massively amended form, a way to address a situation like this. Can anybody here imagine that this 18-year-old lady will be able to improve the lot of her three offspring? Is she capable of raising them and giving them the opportunities? If we do nothing, the three (children), in turn, will repeat the same mistakes, will have a worse situation, will produce another set of multiple (children) who will face a much harsher situation. That’s why I really feel that we have to address the problem, and not pretend we’re ostriches,” he said.

Aquino the hero

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, one of the sponsors of the RH bill, could not praise the President enough for issuing the certification.

“President Aquino is my hero. He has cut the Gordian knot. I am very enthused with him. This is manifest proof of executive leadership. By one stroke, he has ended the time-wasting prevarication of the last 13 years over the RH bill,” she said.

“Other presidents shirked their duty, but President Aquino rose to meet the challenge, and he has slain the monster,” Santiago said.

She said she was not as confident of the bill’s approval by the Senate and the House before the certification. But the presidential action ensures the bill’s passage, Santiago said.

“I would not have been able to say that categorically. Because you see during the period of amendments, sometimes you would win and sometimes you would lose. Sometimes, we have as big as a majority of 11 and most recently our majority was only 9,” Santiago said.

With the three-day waiting period removed, the senators can proceed immediately to the third and final reading after closing the period of the second reading, she said.

However, anti-RH Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the certification would not affect the position of the senators on the controversial measure.

Most of them have already made up their minds on whether to support the RH bill, he said.

“Usually, the certification as urgent means just the removal of the three-day rule. That’s just it. It doesn’t affect the bill,” Sotto said in a telephone interview.

Sotto also questioned the President’s basis for certifying the RH bill.

“It’s the bill that’s dividing the country that got certified as urgent. Why not the [freedom of information] bill?” he said in a statement.

Icing on the cake

Sen. Ralph Recto, a member of the Liberal Party that many have perceived to be anti-RH bill because of the tenor of his interpellation and the amendments he proposed, said he was now inclined to support the Senate version of the bill.

“Thirty of my 38 amendments were accepted. The Senate version is very different from that of the House and I welcome it,” Recto said.

“I think the Senate version is in-between. It is not extreme on either side. I’m very happy with the Senate version and I’m inclined to support the Senate version,” he said.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, a coauthor who does most of the defending of the RH bill on the Senate floor, was happy with the development from Malacañang.

“With the all-women bloc in the Senate, namely Senators Miriam, Loren [Legarda] and I, and all the men who have firmly stood beside us, definitely, President Noy’s certification is the sweet icing on the cake that makes all the stress that we had to go through worthwhile,” Cayetano said in a statement.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the presidential certification “totally changes the complexion of the bill.”

“As for the doubting Thomases of the Liberal Party in the House, it sends a very clear and unmistakable message to its members as to the stand of its party leaders that we should support its passage,” he said. With a report from Christian Esguerra

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Other Stories:

No related posts found!

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Catholic Church , Congress , Government , Health , Politics , President Benigno Aquino III , Reproductive Health Bill , RH bill , Women

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. US teacher fired over comment on black president
  2. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  3. Filipinos, Dane re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  4. Magnitude-7.5 earthquake shakes Mexican capital
  5. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Massive infra spending set
  8. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  9. Easter crucifixions draw huge crowds
  10. Korea ferry captain arrested, divers spot bodies
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  5. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  6. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  9. Massive infra spending set
  10. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  5. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  6. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  7. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • Pope sends condolences for S.Korea ferry victims
  • Drone kills 15 ‘Qaeda,’ 3 civilians in Yemen – security
  • Palace expects Gigi Reyes to tell all on pork scam
  • MH370 search at ‘critical juncture’–Malaysia
  • 16 workers in Batangas sugar cane factory hurt over toxic chemical shower
  • Sports

  • MLB pitcher donates $100,000 for Sewol ferry victims
  • Hamilton takes pole at Chinese Grand Prix
  • Duke’s Rodney Hood joining Jabari Parker in NBA draft
  • Phelps entered in 3 events at comeback meet
  • Boston prepares for huge wave of marathon visitors
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • Myx TV premieres Asian American ‘docu-series’
  • A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show
  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Business

  • Fiat-Chrysler to produce iconic Jeep in China from 2015
  • US commerce secretary spells out economic facet of ‘pivot to Asia’
  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • 5 Filipinos with MERS in UAE reported in stable condition
  • PH boosts MERS monitoring after UAE nurse scare
  • Canadians back PH plea to take back waste
  • We treasure our Sierra Madre
  • OFW from UAE tests negative for MERS-Cov–health chief
  • Marketplace