Lack of quorum stalls RH debates in House
MANILA, Philippines—With the nation focused on the impeachment trial of the chief justice, lawmakers have not been attending House sessions, stalling the passage of important social justice measures like the reproductive health bill, the bill’s advocates complained.
In a press conference on Thursday, some lawmakers and family planning advocates said renewed their call to put the RH bill to a vote, lamenting that problems with attendance were stalling the passage of the measure.
Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan reported that few lawmakers have been attending sessions, and the lack of a quorum made any call for a vote useless.
She said some lawmakers were using the impeachment trial as an excuse not to attend sessions, even though relatively few lawmakers were in the Senate for the trial.
“Where are the others?” she asked.
Some of the lawmakers who have put down their names as interpellators against the RH bill have also not been showing up, thus stalling debates, she further complained.
The bill sets the framework for the consistent promotion of family planning, both natural and artificial methods, and mandates sex education in schools.
Bag-ao and Ilagan said the RH bill should be put to a vote before the 15th Congress finally adjourns its second year in June.
Congress is going on a break this week and will resume sessions in May. It has only a month within which to pass bills, advocates noted.
Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, who also spoke in the press conference, said lawmakers “continue to have blood on their hands” because of their continued failure to pass the much-needed RH bill.
She said an average of 11 women a day, or about 8,000 women in the last two years have died because of a lack of services and natal care that the RH bill would have provided.
The deaths were unnecessary and could have been avoided had the government taken the proper steps to provide the proper health care to women, Cabral said in the press briefing.
Accountability was with Congress, which has still failed to put the bill to a vote despite the measure being debated for long hours and no new questions about it coming up during interpellations, added Bag-ao and Ilagan.
The ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona should not be an excuse for their inaction, they said.
President Aquino, who claimed support for the bill, could marshal his supporters in the House of Representatives to pass the bill. He has shown it could be done when it comes to other measures, Ilagan noted.
But now there seems to be no clear impetus, Ilagan noted.
“If they can fast-track other measures, why not one that has been pending for 16 years?” she asked.
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