RH or sin tax? Senate forced to choose

Ayee Macaraig
Senators are forced to tackle amendments to the RH bill instead of the sin tax bill, which was widely anticipated to be approved Monday

(Senate file photo)

MANILA, Philippines – What will it be: a bill that aims to promote women’s health or a measure also dubbed as a health bill and certified urgent by the President?

On Monday, November 19, the Senate had to choose whether to tackle first the Reproductive Health (RH) bill or the so-called sin tax bill.

The senators were forced to choose after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile stood to defend himself from allegations of delaying the RH bill. Enrile then made a motion to tackle the RH bill first so he can introduce 17 amendments to the measure. The Senate voted to support his motion.

“I was perceived as delaying the RH bill, holding it hostage. To put an end to these baseless accusations, I’m ready to present amendments,” Enrile said.

Enrile took exception to the reaction to the statement he made last week that he was not yet ready with his amendments. RH bill principal sponsor Sen Pia Cayetano had said this was delaying the deliberations on the bill.

“No one here should be unduly rushed to accept hook, line, sinker data and assumptions,” said Enrile. “We should not impute ill motives on people who are opposed to us in an issue like this one which has far-reaching implications.”

Cayetano was torn with Enrile’s motion, saying she had committed to support Sen Franklin Drilon in ensuring the swift passage of the sin tax bill. Drilon targeted the passage of the sin tax bill on Monday, after President Benigno Aquino III certified it as urgent. Drilon wants the sin tax bill approved soon, with the Senate about to tackle the 2013 national budget in plenary. 

Cayetano asked if Enrile’s motion could be amended to say that the RH bill will be tackled after the sin tax bill.

Enrile said though, “I do not accept an amendment to my motion. I ask for a vote.”

Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said the RH bill was not on the agenda and in a rare occasion, disagreed with his ally, Enrile.

The senators ended the arguments with a vote, with only Sotto, Drilon and Sen Teofisto “TG” Guingona III voting to discuss the sin tax bill first.

Enrile is introducing his amendments as of posting time. Some were contentious enough for the Senate to divide the house.

Cayetano and co-sponsor Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago stood to reject and accept Enrile’s changes. – Rappler.com