MANILA, Philippines - It was only a week ago when House Bill 4244 or the Reproductive Health bill (RH bill) got a big boost after lawmakers voted to end the period of debates so they can move on to the more crucial period of amendments.
This week, critics of the controversial measure prevailed. The House of Representatives failed again to tackle the RH bill on Wednesday, August 15, as more solons delivered privilege speeches not related to the issue.
The House leadership scheduled to start the period of amendments on the controversial measure on Tuesday, August 14. For two days in a row, critics have successfully blocked it.
"We are happy. We will use all means, legal means, of course, to block this bill," RH bill critic Cebu Rep Pablo Garcia told Rappler after the session.
Anti-RH solons making 'palusot'?
Iloilo Rep Janette Garin, one of the staunchest supporters of RH bill in the House, said the privilege speech of Cebu Rep Benhur Salimbangon was acceptable because it concerned his district. He talked about the electricity problems of Bantayan Island in Cebu. He did not allow interpellations.
But Garin slammed known RH bill critic Paranaque Rep Roilo Golez for delivering a privilege speech on the devastation caused by the recent floods in Luzon. Golez's speech was accompanied by a photo slide showing the devastation.
A furious Garin tried to block the speech of Golez. "The House of Representatives is not the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Other government agencies are handling the devastation caused by Habagat," she argued before the plenary.
"Obvious naman na palusot. Mayroong iba na hindi gustong pag-usapan... (They are obviously mere excuses. There are those who don't want to tackle the RH bill)," Garin told reporters after the session.
Hierarchy of motions
Garin's attempt to block Golez from delivering a privilege speech was overruled because under House rules, motions to deliver privilege speeches take precedence over motions to amend bills.
The House leadership had no choice but to entertain them.
Garin also challenged the plenary to put the bill to a vote.
"I admit we're not sure about our numbers. We might win. We might lose. But we owe it to the people to show our vote.... Tapusin natin ito. Let us be man enough to show our vote," she said.
Pro-RH solons remain confident
Despite the critics' delaying tactics, Garin said RH bill authors remain confident they can pass the measure. "We still believe that there's still a good chance with the President who has strong political will," she said.
With several holidays lined up in the next two weeks, the House is expected to tackle the RH bill again on August 28. Time is running out. The House plenary is also scheduled to take up and prioritize the government's 2013 budget by September 10. When this happens, all other bills will be shelved.
Quorum continues to be a problem, too.
The House was able to muster quorum on Tuesday (194) and Wednesday (152), but the problem is that lawmakers don't stay long in the plenary. Anyone can easily move to adjourn the session and the RH bill supporters cannot object because they don't have the numbers. - Rappler.com