MANILA, Philippines?Proponents of the reproductive health (RH) bill ran into a snag in getting the measure debated on the floor after opponents of the measure declared they would not be ready for interpellation before May.
?We're hoping that we can break the ice in the interpellation but as of yesterday, the anti-RH forces said that they were not ready to interpellate, but we're ready to interpellate them,? Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Lagman said he was informed by Manila Representative Amado Bagatsing and Deputy Speaker Raul Daza that anti-RH interpellators were not yet ready to ask questions at this time.
?They were telling us that they could start the interpellation when we resume in May. That might be too long, so I would force the issue today or next week,? Lagman said.
Lagman questioned why the resolution containing the articles of impeachment against Ombudsman Mercedita Gutierrez and the proposed postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao scheduled in August this year were being expedited.
He said the Senate has already announced that it can hold trial only in May should the House decide to impeach Gutierrez.
Two House committees proceeded to approve a bill providing for the postponement of the ARMM elections for plenary debate before public consultations on the issue were held.
?If they are not ready to interpellate, there are pro-RH who will be willing to interpellate and underscore the salient features of the measure,? Lagman said.
He said the leadership of the House of Representatives, particularly the speaker and the majority floor leader, should meet with the pro- and the anti-RH congressmen in order to expedite the process and avoid duplications in the interpellation.
Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said that the RH bill and other important measures awaiting floor debates should not be sacrificed as doing so would be an injustice to those who might want to ask questions.
Lagman acknowledged that while the impeachment has a timeframe and the ARMM election nears, the RH issue has been pending for more than a decade.
?We're not saying that we should fast-track it but what we're saying is that we should start interpellation because there are many people who want to interpellate. If we start in May, when are we going to finish it?? he said.
Seven proponents have already delivered sponsorship speeches on the RH bill on the floor although interpellation has yet to commence.
Lagman said the House leadership should ensure that there is a quorum for floor deliberations on the RH bill in the same manner it ensures that there is a quorum with respect to legislative measures deemed important to the Aquino administration.
?We've waited for long and we patiently waited for this 15th Congress but huwag na palampasin ng 15th Congress (don't allow the 15th Congress to pass up this chance),? he said.