MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said he wants the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill to be put to a vote “either way.”
It’s still a conscience vote, but the President’s message when he meets with members of the House of Representatives in Malacañang on Monday is: I support the RH bill.
“I think, I have stated publicly, I have a position, I’m pro for Responsible Parenthood that this is a matter of conscience. We all have a value system, a belief system and we have to respond to what our conscience tells us. So our party will not impose anything to our members, our members’ conscience. They should be the ones to decide,” Aquino told reporters in Cebu in a mix of English and Filipino.
The President hopes that the meeting will break the deadlock on the bill. But he also said he’s not about to certify it as urgent.
“This is why we will talk, we still have to see whether it needs to be urgent. As a general rule, you know I’ve been very thrifty when it comes to certifying bills as urgent in accordance with what the Constitution says is urgent. So, it’s not an easy process for a bill to just become urgent,” Aquino said.
House Bill 4244, otherwise known as An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development and For Other Purposes, contains amendments from the Palace.
Malacañang worked with opponents and proponents of the measure from both Houses of Congress, as well as the Catholic Church, in an informal Technical Working Group that produced the compromise version of the measure. This was adopted by Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II on Monday.
The substitute bill includes a shift from “universal access” to RH services to “public access” and prioritizes poor households in the distribution of RH care services.
It also states that access must be to “medically safe, legal, accessible, affordable and effective” RH care services and supplies “which do not prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum,” as determined by the Food and Drug Administration.
The amendments prompted criticisms from certain lawmakers that the consolidated bill is a watered down version of the original. But Albay Rep Edcel Lagman, the principal author of the RH bill, has consistently denied such allegations.
Aquino said he intends to “appeal” to lawmakers to, at the very least, ensure a quorum before the Christmas break.
“We will discuss [the RH Bill] and I will appeal to them number one, to ensure that there will be a quorum; number two; to make sure that it will be decided on. If we leave this hanging, there is this divisive factor. But you know, I hope we can get past the division. There should be a decision either way. Whatever they pass, that’s what the Executive will implement,” Aquino said. – Rappler.com