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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

House determined to have vote on RH bill

Hmnnn.. maybe now we can hold our breath... =)

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:32:00 09/21/2009

MANILA, Philippines -- The leadership of the House of Representatives will finalize the rules and procedures for the debates on the reproductive health bill so that voting could take place before the end of the 14th Congress, according to Majority Leader and Iloilo Representative Arthur Defensor.

Defensor said proponents and opponents of the measure would meet with Speaker Prospero Nograles on Tuesday to discuss how to tackle the bill, after some of the opponents disagreed with the proposal to form two panels who would handle the plenary debates on the bill.

Nograles earlier ordered the formation of the two panels representing backers and opponents of the bill in order to simplify the debates. He also said both sides should agree to a timetable so that “personal divisive emotional matters” would not hamper the process, and voting would be able to take place.

But one of those opposed to the bill, Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar, protested the creation of the panels during a meeting of the rules committee last week on the ground that there were a lot of House members who wanted to interpellate the supporters of the measure, said Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin.

Garin, who was at the meeting and is one of the backers of the reproductive health bill, suggested that the opponents could bring as many as 20 members to their panel, even though the proponents would only have about five members in theirs. But, she added, the opponents wanted to discuss the procedures with Nograles himself.

Defensor said the matter would be brought before the Speaker.

“We will meet with the speaker. The speaker is responsible for the agenda. He is the one who controls the agenda. We'll try to find, come out with a common ground so that it will be an orderly, civil debate,” he said in a phone interview.

But he added that the 14th Congress would have to make a stand on the measure, whether voting to kill it or to approve it, especially since the measure has been pending since the 11th congress.

“The speaker wants a vote. If it loses, then it loses. Let's face the issue, let's address the issue so that [the debates] would not be acrimonious and would not be too lengthy. We want to act on it with dispatch, [or] we will be charged with sleeping on it, and that is dereliction of duty,” he said.

Asked if he thought lawmakers would vote on the bill even though it might become an election issue and be used against them, Defensor said members of the House should be given more credit.

“Do not underestimate the congressmen. There are congressmen who are not afraid to take a stand and want the RH bill. They believe it does not promote abortion or a one-child or two-child policy. They just want people to have an informed choice,” he said.

Garin also said on Monday that it was time for the House to make a categorical stand on the reproductive health bill, and said that lawmakers could not expect to please everybody.

“In the process of legislation, you can't please all sectors. You really have to decide, you have to choose,” she said.

The reproductive health bill seeks to promote both natural and artificial birth control methods through government programs, among others. Critics, including the Catholic Church, said the contraceptives that the bill would promote would actually induce abortion.

Surveys have shown that more people favor the measure, although opponents have challenged the results and the way the questions were propounded.