MANILA—President Aquino certified as urgent the reproductive health (RH) bill, after it passed on second reading at the House of Representatives despite a spirited opposition mounted by the influential Catholic Church.
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.
The President said he expected the certification to be delivered to the offices of the House Speaker and Senate President on Friday, or Monday at the latest.
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 4244 has already hurdled second reading (and thus, no need to skip the three-day rule), the certification would boost the chances of the passage of Senate Bill 2865.
After closing the period of second reading, the Senate could proceed immediately to the third and final reading.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said this was the reason why Mr. Aquino had issued the belated certification.
“Senate approval 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 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.
It will briefly return after the holidays, only to to into recess again in February 2013 for the and 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. Inquirer