SENATE, HOUSE PASS RH BILL

Osmeña, lone Cebuano senator, absent in voting

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Cebuano senator Serge Osmeña III followed the footsteps of his younger  brother, Tomas, by not showing up at the  session hall last night as the Senate passed on third and final reading the Reproductive Health bill.

Serge and Sen. Lito Lapid were marked absent as the Senate voted 13-8 with no abstention on the controversial bill that would provide government funding for contraceptives and sexuality classes in schools.

Also yesterday, the House of Representatives approved the landmark measure on third and final reading despite strong opposition by the Catholic Church, which said the measure would destroy family life.

Congressmen voted 133 to 79 with seven abstentions to approve its version of the measure. There were 199 legislators present during the voting.

On Thursday, Tomas Osmeña, who represents Cebu City’s south district, was absent when the House passed the bill on second reading, 113-104.

Before the voting, Tomas said that while he supports the measure, he would abstain in the voting  because he values the friendship of his close political ally, former congressman Raul del Mar, who was intensely lobbying against the bill.

Reached for comment, Tomas said his elder brother Serge  called in sick yesterday.

“He is now under medical care and they are giving him some tests, but it’s nothing serious,” Tomas told Cebu Daily News last night.

In earlier interview, Serge said he , too, was for the passage of the RH  bill but would rather keep himself under the radar so as not to agitate those against the measure.

Serge  co-sponsored the RH bill being pushed by former senator now Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon ten years ago.

He said  he remembered how his family and friends would lecture him about his stand on the issue.

“I’m a coward when it comes to that. I don’t want to fight with my elders, my mother, cousins, friends and all that,” Senator Osmeña told reporters last week.

The 13 senators who voted in favor of the bill were  Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano,  Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Franklin Drilon, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Teofisto Guingona III, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand “Bong-Bong” Marcos Jr., Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Ralph Recto.

The eight who voted against it were  Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile,  Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada,   Majority Floor Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III,  Senators Gringo Honasan,  Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III,  Manuel “Manny” Villar, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., and  Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV.

CONDITIONAL VOTE

Arroyo said he voted  yes “conditionally” as he  threatened to change his  vote if the amendments by the Senate will not be retained in the bicameral conference committee.

He noted that the original versions of the Senate and the House of Representatives  were “onerous’ and “so provocative” that  one, he said,  could not expect the Catholic Church   to surrender its doctrinal and moral position on such a life and death issue without putting up a fight.

The bill without amendments, Arroyo said, was “vulnerable to constitutional challenge especially on religious  grounds.”

“The Court  may strike down even the good provisions along with the bad,”  he said.

And to address those weaknesses,  Arroyo said the Senate  introduced reasonable amendments to make sure the measure ‘less dogmatic, less provocative and more constitutionally accepted.”

“Many of these amendments were mislabelled as killer amendments. I can see none that  are,” he said.

“I hope they will be respected in the bicameral conference committee rather than dismissed out of hand for I shall change my vote I cast today should that happen. I vote yes, conditionally,” Arroyo added.

Religious freedom

Bishop Gabriel Reyes told reporters  after the voting that he noticed some representatives who previously voted against had changed their vote.

“Some [lawmakers] whom I know had gone to the other side,” Reyes said. Others had simply not attended, he said.

He alleged that there was pressure from Malacañang on lawmakers by threatening to hold their pork barrel if they vote against the bill.

Reyes  said RH bill opponents plan to file a case in the the Supreme Court to question the bill on the grounds that it violates religious freedom.

He said they would continue to educate the people  and urge families not to accept contraceptives even if these are given free.

The bill languished in Congress for 10 years as legislators avoided upsetting the conservative bishops.

But in a sign of changing times and attitudes, particularly across generations, reformist civil society groups and Aquino threw their weight behind the bill despite the threat of a backlash.

An independent survey in June last year found 68 percent of respondents agreed that the government should fund all means of family planning. An October survey of 600 teenagers in Manila, the capital, also carried out by the Social Weather Stations, found that 87 percent believed the government should provide reproductive health services to the poor.

The two versions of the bill will later be reconciled in the bicameral conference committee before the final version is sent to Malacañang for President Aquino’s approval.

The President, who certified the bill as urgent, considers the RH bill a major step toward reducing maternal deaths and promoting family planning in the impoverished country, which has one of Asia’s fastest-growing populations.

Church leaders said in a pastoral letter Sunday that if passed, the bill would put the moral fiber of the nation at risk. /Inquirer, AP and Chief of Reporters Doris Bongcac

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  • virgoyap

    Certainly they were absent in the voting because somebody very influential in the Church whispered to them.

  • antiscam

    THE WORD IS COWARDICE AND FAILING TO STAND BY YOUR CONVICTIONS DISGUISED UNDER THE VEIL OF FRIENDSHIP AND POLITICAL CONVENIENCE.

  • antiscam

    WHEN IT COMES TO CONVICTIONS AND PRINCIPLES, I DONT CARE IF YOUR PRO RH or ANTI-RH. JUST STAND UP AND BE COUNTED. BEING SO “SEGURISTA” IN GETTING ALL THE VOTES OF A PRO AND ANTI RH MIGHT BE CONSIDERED SHREWD BUT IN MY BOOK ITS CALLED COWARDICE AND GREED.

  • akimaxx

    Bishop Reyes, how effective are the RCC in teaching morality and responsible parenthood to the Filipinos? 13 years the RH Bill was pending in the senate, with the influence of the Catholic hierarchy and delaying tactics strategy, our population still boomed. RH Bill is a flexible law, if your parishioners don’t want to avail the health services of our government, then do it. Excommunicate all church members who don’t follow you, tingnan ko lang. The Catholic church can’t control the entire Philippines with your arrogance. Help the government by teaching effective good christian moral values and responsible parents to their families. Don’t neglect your duties, first to our God and next to our nation. It seems God is not listening to your prayers anymore.

  • TinimbangNgunitKulang

    Mga Osmena talaga walang yagbols. Simula pa kay Sergio Osmena noong panahon ng Hapon.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VJJCQJW3WYFG5STFXINFSZBRRQ Alfred

    Most of the anti RH bill are members of UNA. So we all know now who is depending on CBCP ‘s support.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZFJ33JUQK7G5OSYRA7OXSEKIZU Accountant Tax

    are osmenas afraid of the priests?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3KFXGRMYGEX6KWPI4HJNSAKGAE almer jasper

    they are absent cos they are afraid to catholic,shame on those politicians who cannot stand on their feet…bakit b kailangan pang maki-alam ng mga pari s usaping political?the church and the state are separate. 

  • blainz

    “Reyes said RH bill opponents plan to file a case in the the Supreme Court to question the bill on the grounds that it violates religious freedom.”

    How arrogant… they keep ramming Catholicism on everybody’s throat and then have the gall to claim its their religious freedom being violated. Everyone else should be protesting before the Supreme Court against the supreme sense of entitlement of these mitsubishops. Kapal!

  • popeyee

    Coward!!!

  • Ramon Mayuga

    How the Lower House of congress voted on the RH Bill?

    Second reading: 113 for, 104 against. 

    The bishops refused to give up the fight an vowed to continue fighting, with one of them saying that “contraception is corruption.”

    Third and final reading: 133 for, 79 against.

    The pros gained 20 more votes while the antis lost 25.

    And the winner is: the people.

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