Focus now on 62 absent solonsBy Christian Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—At the House of Representatives, the bloc opposed to the RH bill is not raising the white flag despite the presidential certification.
The focus now is on the 62 House members who were absent when the chamber approved House Bill No. 4244 on second reading on Thursday.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said “more than 40” of these congressmen had earlier committed to vote against the measure.
“If they show up during the vote on third reading and stick to their commitment, we could overhaul the nine-vote lead of the pro-RH congressmen and win by a slim margin,” he said.
Nominal voting on the measure at the House lasted for five hours, ending at about 2 a.m., on Thursday, with 113 members voting in favor of HB 4244 and 104 voting against it. Three House members abstained, while 62 were absent.
Rodriguez said the anti-RH bloc earlier counted at least 136 congressmen rejecting the bill. He said the number went down to 123 on the eve of the vote, the same day the ruling Liberal Party ordered its 90-plus members in the House to support the bill.
Pressure from Palace
“We hope that this pyrrhic victory will turn into a sound defeat despite the pressure exerted on congressmen,” Rodriguez said.
“We hope that during the vote on third reading, the Executive (branch) would give us a semblance of independence. The South Lounge is the domain of the House of Representatives, not the Executive,” he said.
Rodriguez was referring to the presence of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, and Strategic Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang in the House lounge to “lobby” for the bill.
A senior House member recalled: “Towards the end of the vote when it was close, I personally heard Mar say, ‘Is there anyone else that we can send home?’”
“Mar looked a little concerned, moving from his table to the table occupied by his staff where they had a tally,” the congressman added.
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles accused Roxas of “forcing” House members who voted “no” to the RH bill to change their votes.
“Let’s not name the person. I might not get further reports,” said Arguelles, declining to identify his source.
Manuel Quezon III, an undersecretary in Malacañang’s communications group, was giving a running tally of the nominal voting on his Twitter account.
No pork, just prayer
Also seen lingering on the floor was Commission on Human Rights Chair Loreta Ann Rosales, a senior leader of the Akbayan party-list group. Akbayan is one of the groups lobbying for the RH bill.
Rodriguez scoffed at the criticism that Catholic bishops had also lobbied and watched the voting from the gallery.
“But they don’t give pork barrel. They have only the power of prayers,” he said.
Lawmakers usually go to the secretary of the Department of Budget and Management to follow up the release of their Priority Development Assistance Fund, commonly known as the pork barrel.