Substitute RH bill turns off even supporters, says lawmaker

Students from Catholic schools, religious, civic groups, seminarians and clergies from the Diocese of Lucena in Lucena City marched from the Saint Ferdinand Cathedral to the Quezon Convention Center Saturday to protest against the controversial reproductive health bill. INQUIRER PHOTO/DELFIN T. MALLARI JR./INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

MANILA, Philippines – The proposed substitute to the reproductive health bill at the House of Representatives has turned off some of its most avid supporters.

Agham Representative Angelo Palmones said Saturday he has lost his “passion” in pushing for House Bill No. 4244. He said about half of the original version’s nearly 100 co-authors shared the same sentiment.


“Nawala na yung passion [The passion has gone],” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview, noting that many of his fellow proponents were no longer attending “informal briefings” on the compromise version. He said there were at least three such meetings last week.

“I have to be honest. Many [proponents] are no longer attending briefings. What’s the sense of legislating something when it no longer contains what you originally believe in?” he added.


Palmones said he was dismayed that the proposed substitute was now focused on “responsible parenthood” and away from the “original intent” of the bill.

“It’s already watered down and most of [the provisions] are already being implemented. So if you look at it, [Senator Vicente] Sotto is correct. Why pass a law when many [of its provisions] are already being implemented?” he said.

Sotto has been actively fighting the RH bill in the Senate, arguing, among other things, that many of the provisions were already contained in existing laws such as the Magna Carta on Women.

In the national budget bill approved at the House, the Department of Health got a P537-million allocation for the purchase and distribution of contraceptives.

One key amendment contained in the House substitute is the state guarantee on “public”—not “universal”—access to “relevant information and education on medically safe, legal, ethical, affordable, effective and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices.”

The provision also includes supplies “which do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum as determined by the Food and Drug Administration.” It is seen as a guarantee that no known abortifacients would be included in the government’s purchase of contraceptives for public distribution.

The proposed amendments have set off spirited discussions in social media circles. In a Facebook page promoting RH bill, for example, one user blasted the new version. “You can call me anti-RH bill; I will fight any pseudo RH bill passed not to meet the needs of the people but the wishes and whims of the church,” he wrote.


Another user on the other side of the debate welcomed the position, saying: “We will fight this RH bill together!”

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, a principal author of the RH bill, insisted that the amendments “do not dilute or destroy the essence of the original bill.”

Told about Lagman’s assurance, Palmones said his senior colleague wanted an RH bill passed as a “feather on his cap.” But Palmones said time might be running out on the measure.

“We’re just giving false hopes to the advocates and I don’t think there will be time to pass it,” he said.

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