MANILA, Philippines – The Reproductive Health (RH) Bill has a chance of being enacted into law before year end after it has been certified urgent by President Benigno Aquino III, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said.
The bill was recently passed on second reading at the House of Representatives after a close nominal voting process that took several hours with the affirmative votes eventually winning with only six votes.
The Senate version of the bill is set for second reading or the period of amendments on Monday.
“The President’s certification means that, as early as Monday, the Senate can already proceed to third and final reading,” Santiago said in a statement Friday.
“By Tuesday, the bicameral conference committee of the two chambers can already meet. Therefore, it is possible for the two chambers to ratify the bicam report by Wednesday, before going on Christmas break,” she said.
The bicameral conference committee will reconcile the versions of the House and Senate after which they will separately approve of the final version that will be given to President Aquino for his signature.
“Aquino will be able to approve the bill starting Thursday, December 20, or at any time within 30 days after he receives it,” Santiago said.
The president can certify as urgent any bill that is needed to address a public emergency. An urgent bill does not need to comply with the three-day waiting period rule between the second and third reading of a bill.
“The emergency consists of the mounting deaths every single day of Filipino mothers, from the poor, owing to childbirth complications, brought about by sheer ignorance of RH,” Santiago said.
“According to the latest surveys, 13 to 15 such mothers die everyday,” she said.
Aquino had previously certified as urgent the Sin Tax reform bill speeding up its passage in the Senate.
“President Aquino is my hero! He has cut the Gordian knot! I am very enthused with him. This is manifest proof of executive leadership,” Santiago said.
“By one stroke, he has ended the time-wasting prevarication of the last 13 years over the RH bill. Other presidents shirked their duty, but President Aquino rose to meet the challenge, and he has slain the monster,” she added.