Miriam on RH: Aquino slew monster; Sotto: Poor PH!
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – She may not agree with him in all issues but Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago went all-out in praising the President’s support for the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill.
A “very enthused” Santiago welcomed President Benigno Aquino III’s certification of the RH bill as urgent. Santiago said the move means the Senate will now be able to vote on the bill on 2nd and 3rd reading on Monday, December 17.
In a statement on Friday, December 14, the RH bill co-sponsor welcomed the announcement of Aquino’s decision.
“President Aquino is my hero! He has cut the Gordian knot! This is manifest proof of executive leadership,” Santiago said.
“By one stroke, he has ended the time-wasting prevarication of the last 13 years over the RH bill. Other presidents shirked their duty but President Aquino rose to meet the challenge, and he has slain the monster.”
With the RH bill certified urgent, Santiago said both houses of Congress can ratify a bicameral conference committee report on the bill before going on Christmas break next week.
The senator expects the House of Representatives to approve the bill on 3rd reading on Monday.
“By Tuesday, the bicameral conference committee of the two chambers can already meet. Therefore, it is possible for the two chambers to ratify the bicam report by Wednesday, before going on Christmas break.”
Based on Santiago’s ideal timetable, Aquino will be able to sign the bill into law by Thursday, December 20, or any time within 30 days after he receives the measure.
RH bill principal sponsor Sen Pia Cayetano said the women bloc in the Senate and the men who supported them greeted the news.
“Definitely, President Noy’s certification is the sweet icing on the cake that makes all the stress that we (the sponsors) had to go through worthwhile,” Cayetano said.
“But seriously, this sends a strong message that the President is one with us in recognizing the needs of our people, especially the women, and in responding to the overwhelming call to have an RH law passed.
“I urge everyone to follow the proceedings and the voting in the House and Senate on Monday. This vote will put to a test our political maturity as a people and nation," she added.
The RH bill aims to provide access to both natural and modern family planning methods like contraceptives.
One of the most contentious bills in Congress, it has been pending for over a decade. Catholic bishops strongly oppose the bill, saying it promotes a contraceptive mentality and promiscuity while advocates say it is for women’s health and informed choice.
Aquino certified the bill as urgent after the House of Representatives passed the bill on second reading early Thursday, December 13, the farthest the measure has gone in the legislative process.
‘Stop mothers’ deaths’
Certifying any bill as urgent removes the 3-day rule between the second and third readings of a bill, which requires that 3 days must lapse between the vote on second reading before Congress can vote on the bill on 3rd reading.
Santiago said Aquino certified the RH bill as urgent “to meet a public emergency.”
“The emergency consists of the mounting deaths every single day of Filipino mothers, from the poor, owing to childbirth complications, brought about by sheer ignorance of RH. According to the latest surveys, 13 to 15 such mothers die everyday,” she said.
Last week, Santiago said Aquino’s support was key to moving the bill forward in Congress.
“The endorsement of PNoy was a very, very big help. It was a big boost for the RH bill,” she told reporters.
Like Santiago, RH advocates from the House and civil society also welcomed the news:
Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, the self-styled “number one oppositor of the RH bill,” was disappointed.
Sotto said, “Kung ano pang Bill ang humahati sa bansa ‘yun pa ang sinertify na urgent. Bakit hindi ‘yun FOI Bill?” (Why certify as urgent the bill dividing the country? Why not the FOI (Freedom of Information) Bill?)
“It’s obvious now that what I have been saying all along is true, that this is a foreign imposition for their so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and one of which is to depopulate third world countries,” Sotto said.
“Kawawa ang Pilipinas!” (Poor Philippines!)
Sotto plans to introduce 25 amendments to the RH bill before the vote on 2nd reading on Monday.
Sen Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, also a critic of the bill, disagreed with Aquino’s move.
“The purposes or objectives of the RH bill can never be justified as ‘urgent.’ There’s a constitutional issue there,” Pimentel said in a text message.
"What is the public emergency or calamity to be met by the RH bill which necessitates its immediate enactment??? Wala!" (None!)
Pimentel added, "What should be certified as urgent and prompted by Malacañang are bills authorizing supplemental budgets for LGUs hit by [Typhoon] Pablo!"
Recto inclined to support RH bill
Sen Ralph Recto, who has criticized parts of the bill, gave this response.
"Yes, I expected it. It is proper for PNoy to do it (certify it urgent)," Recto told Rappler in a text message.
Asked if he is now supportive of the bill after some of his amendments were accepted, Recto replied, "Have read the clean copy of RH bill. The Senate version is better than the House. It's not extreme on either side. It incorporates 30 of my 38 amendments. [It] could be supported by many if not most."
"I am inclined to support the Senate version," Recto said.
RH critics have vowed to muster the numbers to oppose the bill. Church leaders are also expected to lobby against it. – Rappler.com