Senate battle over RH bill still too close to call | Inquirer News

Senate battle over RH bill still too close to call

MANILA, Philippines—The battle lines are drawn and so far the scores are pretty even.

More than a month into the plenary debates, a good number of senators are still keeping their cards close to their chest as to whether they would support the reproductive health bill or not.

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Senator  Joker Arroyo, a senior member of chamber, said the number of “undecided” senators—himself included—remained significant enough to determine the fate of Senate Bill No. 2865.

“We don’t know what will be the voting because nobody is talking, but everybody is listening,” he told the Inquirer in an interview.

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Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III agreed that the senators favoring the bill and those against it were even so far.

But Senator Gregorio Honasan warned his colleagues on Saturday against “accelerating or railroading the process.” He said he has reached a decision, but would prefer to further listen to the discussions.

“It is better to have a prolonged and exhaustive debate, one that is rigorous and deliberate,” he told the Inquirer by phone.

So far, SB 2865 enjoys the support of at least five senators. It was co-sponsored by Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Pia Cayetano, and Panfilo Lacson. Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also announced on the floor that he was in favor of the bill. Also in favor is Senator Francis Pangilinan, who admitted his preference to the Inquirer Saturday.

“I will support with amendments,” Pangilinan said. “I am still deciding on a number of amendments, but it will be clearer after the end of the period of interpellation.”

Arroyo said the Liberal Party bloc in the Senate—save for Senator Ralph Recto—would most likely support the bill since their party-mate, President Benigno Aquino, had included SB 2865 in his administration’s list of priority measures.

But Senator Franklin Drilon said Saturday he was still “undecided.” Recto, who ran in the 2010 elections on a platform promoting family values, had questioned key provisions of the bill, such as the projected distribution of contraceptives even to non-married couples and minors.

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Senator Loren Legarda said she would “continue to listen to the debates” and would announce her “enlightened decision” in due time.

Those against SB 2865 are Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, and Sotto. Arroyo said Senator Manuel Villar, a member of the Catholic group Couples for Christ, was also likely not to favor the bill.

Pimentel said in a text message he was against the bill “from the start.” “Why spend billions for condoms, etc.? We should be spending on education, jobs, real medicines that cure illnesses. Fertility is not an illness.”

Sotto said the RH bill could pass only via majority vote of senators present in a quorum.

Honasan said he was carefully studying the measure, considering its impact on society for years to come.

“The effects will not be felt tomorrow or next year,” he said. “They will be felt a generation from now. Remember that Europe is now depopulated. Singapore is now reviewing its population management program.”

Should the RH bill survive after the plenary debates, Arroyo said the battle would shift to the period of amendments.

“That is where it will be very interesting,” he said. “Senators would vote for every amendment. Somebody will introduce an amendment and of course, we would want a division of the house.”

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TAGS: Birth Control, Family planning, Legislation, Population, reproductive health, RH bill, Senate
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