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Sea of purple, red divides Senate gallery


03:59 AM December 18th, 2012

By: Cathy C. Yamsuan, December 18th, 2012 03:59 AM

By their colors shall ye know their stand on the reproductive health (RH) bill.

The Senate main gallery was a sea of purple and red Monday, as the chamber prepared for the second reading of the controversial RH bill.

Supporters of the bill wore purple, a color said to be associated with women’s rights as espoused in Alice Walker’s novel, “The Color Purple.”

Nuns and those who opposed the bill were garbed in red, a color that they said signified life and sacrifice.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, one of the principal sponsors of the bill, wore a dainty lilac piña blouse, hand-painted with small flowers.

Bulletproof vest

While the choice of color was expected, what onlookers did not see was the senator’s other fashion statement: a bulletproof vest “as thin as a girdle” that she wore under her blouse and which, some people might interpret, was a sign that the outspoken senator was ready for battle to have the bill approved.

“I should not be telling you these things,” Santiago told reporters in mock modesty before the afternoon session began.

The principal RH bill sponsor, Sen. Pia Cayetano, wore a printed purple scarf around her neck to complement her all-white ensemble, while Sen. Loren Legarda wore a tight-fitting collarless shirt in purple with three-fourth sleeves.

Supporters of the bill were seated in the gallery near the desks of bill sponsors Cayetano and Santiago, including former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral.

VIP gallery

In the VIP gallery facing the Senate rostrum were anti-RH proponents Lito Atienza of the Buhay party-list group, former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad of Opus Dei, and Bishop Jesse Mercado of the Diocese of Parañaque.

Although the gallery can seat only 300 people, more than 1,000 guests came to the session hall to witness the Senate vote on the contentious measure. The overflow crowd had to be turned away by Senate Sergreant at Arms Jose Balajadia, who said the packed gallery reminded him of the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Aside from wearing her stand on her (purple) sleeves, Santiago had a strategy to get the bill passed, she told reporters.

The senator said she was expecting between 11 and 13 of her colleagues to vote in favor of the bill, and that she had asked other senators whom she believed would vote against it to stay away from the session hall.

“We have convinced some people to be absent, yeah. The others who want to be present were advised to while away the time in the senators’ lounge,” she added.

Santiago was confident that the Senate would approve the bill after President Aquino had certified it as urgent.


A certification means Congress may waive the three-day gap between second and third readings when it approves an urgent bill.

To hasten approval, Santiago said she and Cayetano had agreed to accept all amendments that Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto, a staunch RH oppositionist, would introduce.

Santiago said the RH bill sponsors would just allow the bicameral conference of senators and House representatives to reconcile the conflicting provisions in their versions of the bill, possibly including those that Sotto had proposed.

“We will let the bicameral conference resolve it ultimately because that is what will happen anyway,” she said.

Santiago added that she expected the bicameral meeting to take place today if senators would be able to move on and pass the RH bill on third and final reading last night.

Once the bicameral panel has resolved all conflicting provisions, a ratification of its report could be voted on tomorrow by the Senate and House of Representatives, allowing the President to sign the bill by Thursday.

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