Reluctant Sotto 'did not delay RH bicam'
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:
- Sen Pia Cayetano
- Sen Alan Peter Cayetano
- Sen Joker Arroyo
- Sen Edgardo Angara
- Sen Franklin Drilon
- Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago (co-sponsor)
- Sen Teofisto Guingona III
- Sen Ferdinand Marcos Jr
- Sen Sergio Osmeña III
- Sen Panfilo Lacson (co-author)
- Sen Loren Legarda
Five senators registered a negative vote, consistent with their votes on 3rd reading:
- Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
- Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III
- Sen Jinggoy Estrada
- Sen Gregorio Honasan II
- Sen Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III
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:
- Any mention of international treaties and agreements have been removed (consistent with the amendments of Sotto)
- Any mention of population and development has been deleted (consistent with the amendments of Sotto and Enrile)
- Retain the Senate version that only requires public health care facilities to provide family planning methods without prejudice to private health care facilities extending the same to paying patients with the option of granting free services to indigents
- On the issue of access by minors to contraceptives, we have retained the Senate version as amended by Sen Recto but we have allowed a minor who is already a parent or one who has had a miscarriage to be allowed such access
- On RH education, we have retained the Senate version as likewise amended by Sen Recto with the amendment that the Department of Education shall formulate the curriculum for public schools without prejudice to private schools adopting the same
- Terms that emphasize that the bill does not promote or condone abortion or the use of abortifacients were retained and strengthened (consistent with the amendments of Enrile, Sotto and Lacson)
- On the issue of the role of local governments, the bicameral committee again adopted the Senate version of Sen Recto with the additional amendment of Sen Marcos, “Thus in accordance with the Local Government Code, local government units are encouraged to comply with their mandates to provide health care services in the Local Government Code with the funding and other kinds of assistance from the national government"
- For the curiosity and pleasure of the body, the term “safe and satisfying sex” was retained and this was further improved and it now reads "responsible, consensual, safe and satisfying sex” – Rappler.com