MANILA, Philippines – Despite the tight timetable, Sen Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr believes the Senate can still vote on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.
Yet in the House of Representatives, he said it’s another story.
In an interview on radio dzBB, Marcos said he will help push for a vote on the RH bill after the Senate passes the 2013 national budget. The budget is the priority of the chamber and the administration, with its enactment seen before the year ends.
Marcos has been one of the RH bill’s supporters, having authored a version when he was still congressman of Ilocos Norte.
“Susubukan talaga natin iyan, andiyan na eh. Konti na lang ang gagawin. Sa Senado, meron pang interpellation ang Senate President, nasa amendments na tayo. Pagkatapos niyan, botohan na,” Marcos said in the interview on Sunday, November 25. (We will really try that, it’s already there. We just need to do a few more things. In the Senate, the Senate president just has his interpellation and amendments. After that, let’s vote.)
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has yet to introduce 11 amendments after proposing an initial 6 last Monday, November 19.
Marcos said win or lose, the Senate should decide on the fate of the bill.
“Lahat ng debate nagawa na eh …. Paulit-ulit na rin ang ibang isyu kaya sa palagay ko, hinog na iyan. Dapat nang iboto iyan at ready na kami, ready na kaming lahat. ‘Di ko masasabi kung mananalo o matatalo o hindi dahil nililihim ng ating mga kasama.” (We’ve done all the debates. We just keep repeating the issues so I think the time is ripe for a vote. We are all ready. I can’t say if we will win or lose because our colleagues keep their stands secret.)
House vote may not happen
Marcos said the bill is encountering more problems in the House of Representatives. This week, a word war ensued, with RH proponents in the House accusing the chamber’s leadership of “dribbling” the measure.
There are only 12 session days left before Congress goes on Christmas break.
“Sa House, palagay ko, baka ‘di na umabot. Sa atin baka kayang tapusin pa,” Marcos said. (In the House, the bill may not make it. In the Senate, I think we can finish it.)
Marcos said another challenge in the House is that some authors abandoned the bill with the 2013 midterm elections drawing near.
“Tinatakot sila ng mga pari, mga obispo na lalabanan sila pag sumuporta sila sa RH bill kaya marami na rin ang umatras.” (Priests and bishops are threatening to campaign against them if they support the RH bill that’s why they backed out.)
Marcos said the reality is that the bishops’ warning affects politicians, with some priests having threatened excommunication and using their homilies to speak against RH advocates.
“That scares you somehow. No matter how strong you are in your district, those kinds of words will make you think twice.”
The senator said Congress must pass the RH bill before the year ends, with lawmakers going on full campaign mode come January.
Senate amendments vote no indication
Marcos also said that the Senate vote on the RH amendments last November 19 is no indication on the vote on the entire bill.
For example, he said he voted for the amendment introduced by Sen Ralph Recto that removed the mandate to provide RH services from local government units.
“In my view, we should not add to the burden of the local governments mandates that they cannot fulfill. That has always been my advocacy. I voted for the amendment,” Marcos said.
He added, “It’s hard to read where senators stand [on the entire bill]. We keep doing headcounts but no one can clearly say if we’re going to win or lose.”
If the Senate vote pushes through, Marcos said this will send the message that the measure was a “big deal.” Even if the bill does not become law in the 15th Congress, he said at least lawmakers will see that there is hope to continue in the next Congress.
“I am still hoping that we can vote at least. You plan for the ideal. The ideal is we have a vote in both houses [of Congress].”
The RH bill seeks to provide access to both natural and modern family planning methods and services, and to promote sex education.
Advocates said it is meant to promote women’s rights and health but critics label it as a population control measure that goes against the Catholic faith.
One of the most controversial measures, the bill has been pending before Congress for about 17 years. Catholic bishops staunchly oppose the bill while President Benigno Aquino III expressed support for a position he calls “responsible parenthood.” – Rappler.com