Anti-RH bill lawmakers plan to stretch debate until 2013 –Rep. Bello
Opponents of the reproductive health (RH) bill are planning to delay the plenary vote on the controversial measure until before the 2013 elections to put more pressure on its proponents, a party-list member of the House of Representatives claimed Tuesday.
“They (anti-RH group) don’t want an early vote but would like to stretch things till it’s near the 2013 elections so those running will be intimidated by the Church lobby,” said Akbayan’s Walden Bello.
Bello said the RH bill should have already been up for plenary voting if not for the delaying tactics of the Church-backed lobby, noting that the majority of voters were Catholic.
According to Bello, practically all issues concerning the measure had been tackled at the committee level and in previous plenary debates and its opponents had resorted to repeating their questions and raising the lack of quorum to delay the process.
At least 25 representatives have lined up to debate the measure and House leaders do not expect the voting to start until the end of the year.
Bello noted that while the majority bloc had delivered the votes in passing the national budget on time the past two straight years and in impeaching former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, this time President Aquino could not rely on his allies’ superior numbers even if Minority Leader Edcel Lagman was on his side, being the bill’s main author.
Novaliches Representative Rex Gatchalian, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) spokesperson, said the party had allowed its members to vote based on their conscience.
Even the President’s Liberal Party allies had indicated that they were planning to vote independently of the Palace. “I believe it will be a conscience vote,” said Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tañada III.
At the Senate, Senator Pia Cayetano, one of the sponsors of the RH measure in the upper chamber, on Tuesday clarified that while the bill would give unmarried women various options to prevent unwanted pregnancies, it did not promote promiscuity or abortion.
She said the RH bill intends to prevent situations that would allow for unwanted pregnancies that eventually “create economic hardships and psychological difficulties,” in answer to questions from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
As it is the woman who usually takes responsibility for family planning, Cayetano said the bill would allow unmarried partners access to information on safe means to prevent pregnancy.
Cayetano said the RH bill also recognizes the problem of rising teen pregnancies and intends to “drastically reduce the number of Filipinos who become teen parents”.
Cayetano and the bill’s principal sponsor, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, have come under fire from anti-RH proponents who claim that the measure supports abortion by endorsing contraceptive pills and other artificial means of preventing pregnancies.
Cayetano was left alone to field questions on Monday as Santiago has taken a week’s leave to go to The Hague to campaign for her candidacy in the International Criminal Court.