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RH backers warn of Senate plot to derail bill

By: - Reporter / @KatyYam
/ 02:52 AM September 05, 2011

Proponents of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in the Senate have warned of a plot to derail its passage through a privileged motion that any member may invoke to postpone or delay an ongoing debate.

A source privy to developments said Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III would invoke Section 90 of the Senate rules when the debate resumes this afternoon.

Section 90 allows a senator to move “to postpone the consideration of a pending measure, without prejudice to the status of the bill or its place in the calendar.”

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It also provides that such a motion “shall not be debatable, and shall have precedence in its consideration according to the order above-mentioned.”

“If true, any (effort to block the RH bill) would be an unfair trick on the public which is following the debates in the two chambers (of Congress),” said Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the bill’s author and principal sponsor.

“It would be tantamount to defiance of President Aquino’s avowed policy to give (the bill) priority,” she said.

Sotto has denied a plot in a telephone interview, saying “it is unfounded and untrue.”

“In fact, I am the complete opposite of what they fear. I want (the RH bill) debated because most of the senators want to expose the people behind it. We want to inform the people of its contents and the real core issues,” he said.

So far, the Senate has held two lengthy debates on the RH bill in the past month. Sotto was most vocal in questioning the merits of the measure.

Santiago and Senator Pia Cayetano, RH bill cosponsor and chair of the committee on women, children and the family, have circulated a manifesto calling for twice-weekly debates on the bill.

So far, the document has gathered 12 signatures. Aside from the two, the other signatories were Panfilo Lacson, Edgardo Angara, Alan Peter Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, Gregorio Honasan, Sergio Osmeña III, Ramon Revilla, Teofisto Guingona, Ferdinand Marcos and Francis Pangilinan.

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Santiago explained the senators who signed the manifesto did not necessarily commit themselves to vote “yes” to the bill, but merely committed to give it priority.

She expressed confidence the pro-RH bloc could gather up to “14 senators, while the anti-RH group would only have nine senators.”

The nine Santiago referred to were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Francis Escudero, Lito Lapid, Aquilino Pimentel, Ralph Recto, Antonio Trillanes, Manuel Villar and Sotto.  All have not signed the manifesto.

Senate insiders, however, noted that three senators from the pro-RH bloc—Osmeña, Honasan and Pangilinan—might be convinced to cross over.

Senators Loren Legarda and Joker Arroyo, who are not on Santiago’s list, are also not seen to favor the bill.

Observers say there is a possibility it would be the anti-RH bloc that would garner the 14 votes.

At least four senators are set to interpellate Santiago and Cayetano on the RH bill—Sotto, Recto, Osmeña and Enrile.

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TAGS: Legislation, RH bill, Senate
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