MANILA, Philippines – After engaging in a verbal spat with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago admitted that they are not exactly the best of friends.
Santiago opened up about her heated exchange with Enrile during the introduction of amendments to the Reproductive Health (RH) bill. A day after, Santiago spoke about the episode.
Asked how she felt, Santiago joked, "Elated!"
On Tuesday, December 4, Enrile raised his voice when Santiago explained that the phrase “safe and satisfying sex life” should be included in the RH bill because it is used in international law. Enrile had proposed to remove the phrase.
Enrile shot back, “I am a Filipino legislator. I’m not an international legislator …. I am not as brilliant as the others out there.”
Santiago responded, “I feel alluded to and I resent it!” Enrile replied, “So be it.”
The female senator told reporters on Wednesday, December 5, that Enrile was trying to be snide and sarcastic.
“In a debate, you can say anything as long as long as you keep within issues but if you go to personalities, that’s considered a no-no. That’s hitting below the belt. It’s like saying I don’t like your face because you’re ugly,” Santiago said in an interview before the start of session.
When reminded that Enrile was her wedding sponsor, Santiago said, “Well that is a status. It does not indicate friendship.”
Asked to describe her relationship with the Senate President, Santiago said, “Ice-cold.”
Santiago is a co-sponsor of the RH bill while Enrile is a staunch critic of the measure.
The RH bill spat was not the first time the two exchanged heated words. They have had differences in opinion in various issues, from the proposal to change the Constitution to how to respond to the territorial dispute with China.
The RH bill aims to provide access to both natural and modern family planning methods, and to promote sex education and family planning.
One of the most contentious measures in Congress, it has been pending for about 17 years. The Catholic Church is staunchly against the bill, saying it promotes a contraceptive mentality and promiscuity.
President Benigno Aquino III has expressed support for it, saying he would vote for the measure if he were still a lawmaker.
‘Core group of 11+’
Despite the tussle with Enrile, Santiago said she was optimistic about the prospects of the RH bill after the Senate rejected the amendments of Enrile and Sen Ralph Recto.
On the Enrile amendments, the Senate voted 11-6 twice in favor of the sponsors.
“So it appears we have at least 11 senators we can count on but we have more senators because there are some senators who were absent last night. Sen Angara is out of the country. Sen Arroyo was no longer in the hall," Santiago said in the interview.
Sen Pia Cayetano’s office posted on Twitter that 10 senators voted consistently to support her:
Santiago said she will protect the “essence” of the RH bill from so-called killer amendments.
“I can smell victory in the air,” she said.
“The endorsement of PNoy was a very, very big help. It was a big boost for the RH bill,” Santiago said in reference to President Benigno Aquino III’s meeting with lawmakers from the House of Representatives to ask them to vote on the RH bill this week.
Marcos though has expressed a contrary view, saying the vote on the amendments cannot be taken to mean as a vote on the entire bill.
The bill was not on the agenda on Wednesday, and Santiago said it will likely be tackled again next week.
Before the start of session, Santiago and RH bill principal sponsor Sen Pia Cayetano received purple lanterns from RH advocates. The Reproductive Health Advocate Network led by the NGO Likhaan went to the Senate for a short ceremony.
In the assembly, Cayetano and Santiago announced what they said was the impending victory of the bill.
“Panalo na tayo (We are already victorious!),” Santiago said sparking cheers from the crowd. – Rappler.com