MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – “Momentous day indeed!”
Sen Pia Cayetano posted this tweet to express relief and gratitude on the Senate’s ratification of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill. She is the principal sponsor of the measure.
After the House also ratified the bill, it is now ready for President Benigno Aquino III to sign it into law. RH advocates want Aquino to sign the bill before the end of the year.
Voting 11-5, the Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the bill on Wednesday, December 19. The bicam finished the committee report earlier in the day.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, the bill's self-styled number one oppositor, dissented but this time made no biting remarks or efforts to delay the bill.
Cayetano’s office said the 11 senators who voted in favor of the bicam report are:
Five senators registered a negative vote, consistent with their votes on 3rd reading:
The vote comes after the Senate approved the bill on 3rd and final reading on Monday, December 17, in a vote of 13-8.
The ratification of the bill is historic, following the 14-year effort to make it a law. The RH bill aims to provide affordable access to both natural and modern family planning methods like contraceptives. It mandates sex education and promotes women’s rights and family planning.
Catholic bishops staunchly oppose the measure, saying it promotes promiscuity and a contraceptive mentality. Yet the bill was ratified after President Aquino lent his political capital, certifying it urgent last week.
Sotto commends Pia
Before the ratification, a reconciliation of sorts occurred between the bill’s fiercest champion and number one critic in the Senate: Cayetano and Sotto.
Sotto has criticized the bill repeatedly, delivering 3 speeches to argue that the RH bill harms women and the unborn, and is a foreign imposition of international organizations.
Yet bicam panel member Sen Alan Peter Cayetano manifested, “May I testify that the Majority Leader today and in the bicam did not delay this bill.”
“In fact, because he moved that we finished at 2pm, napabilis po ang bill kaya matatapos po ngayong hapon.” (The bill was fast-tracked this afternoon.)
Before the RH bill was tackled, the Majority Leader joked that he was quickly dispensing with the day's agenda so as not to be accused of again delaying the bill.
Sotto's tune changed from a day ago when he raised a howl over the efforts of the proponents to rush the bicam.
Sotto voted no even if he signed the bicam report. He explained why.
“I’d like to give credit where credit is due. I’d like to commend the chair of the Senate panel [for] being true to her commitment to the Senate to fight for the Senate version and most of the amendments if not all of the amendments that we proposed [were adopted]."
Sotto added, “To that, I express my gratitude but because of previous reasons that I have cited on the issue of foreign intervention, I register a negative vote.”
‘Safe, satisfying sex’ stays
Cayetano said it was with "great pleasure and delight" that she reported to the Senate the major agreements reached in bicam: