(UPDATED) MANILA, Philippines – The mood among advocates of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in the House of Representatives has changed from concerned to confident in a span of 3 days, December 3 to December 5.
The House is expected to vote on the RH bill on 2nd reading this week. The critics of the bill want it to happen on Wednesday, December 12. It is a schedule that appears to be agreeable to the House leadership, which is confident that the bill will be passed before the Christmas break.
Second reading is usually the most difficult stage of the legislative process. The vote on 3rd or final reading is often a matter of formality.
The House was forced to do nominal voting 3 times on killer amendments introduced by critics of the bill last week. In all 3 occasions, the RH bill advocates maintained majority and successfully rejected the amendments.
“As far as I am concerned, that is indicative of pro-RH votes,” said House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II.
The margins between the votes were getting wider from the first vote to the third vote, RH bill advocates told Rappler.
“The voting pattern rejecting all killer amendments to the RH bill introduced by critics is irreversible as succeeding nominal voting registered wider margins of victory for the RH advocates confirming the results of the viva voce voting,” said bill sponsor Albay Rep Edcel Lagman.
3 proxy votes
Cebu Rep Pablo Garcia first tried to amend the RH bill on Monday, December 3, to limit reproductive health services to married persons. Voting 91-73, the House rejected it.
On Tuesday, December 4, Garcia again tried to introduce a killer amendment. He wanted to include a provision declaring that “the state shall refrain from taking any action or measure that will tempt to make any woman or couple violate the tenets or teachings of their religion.” Voting 100-74, the House rejected it.
Also on Tuesday, Cagayan De Oro Rufus Rodriguez sought to include the beginning of life in the declaration of principles. Voting 81-47, the amendment was lost.
The margin of votes favoring the RH bill increased from 18 to 26 to 34.
Critics of the bill tried to insert other amendments, but not all were put to nominal voting. On Wednesday, they did not call for nominal voting when their motions were rejected.
Anti-RH cites another vote
But critics of the RH bill are looking at another vote as the proxy vote — the one that prevented Palawan Rep Dennis Socrates from speaking further against the bill.
Voting 99-91, the plenary junked the motion of RH bill critics to allow Socrates 10 more minutes to speak.
“That 99-91, you see the difference is very small and the reason why we lost is because most of our congressmen are from the Visayas and Mindanao and they had to attend to their constituents who were affected by Typhoon Pablo. We will call on our forces next week. Hopefully, they will attend sessions next week because the typhoon is over. Hopefully, no new typhoon comes along,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez maintained they have 136 votes to reject the bill. There House has total 283 members, excluding those who have passed away and those who have left their posts for other positions.
Advocates of the RH bill were initially concerned. Seen as a way to delay the legislative process, they rejected the motion of Socrates.
Although they were victorious, it was not a comfortable victory considering a number of those who voted against Socrates were anti-RH solons who just wanted to put the bill to a vote.
But further analysis of the vote showed that a number of pro-RH solons also voted in favor of Socrates. These solons supposedly found nothing wrong with allowing Socrates additional time to speak before the plenary.
The RH bill advocates now say the real proxy votes are the 3 votes on the killer amendments.
‘It ain’t over till it’s over’
RH bill advocates outside Congress are equally confident about the number of votes supporting the bill.
“The votes in Congress shot down every ridiculous argument against the Reproductive Health bill. Clearly, the opposition to RH is untenable and indefensible, it is based on out-dated and conservative conceptions of sexuality and relations between persons and has absolutely no respect for the rights of women over our own bodies,” said Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio, the spokesperson of a group of academics supporting the passage of RH bill.
But UP School of Economics professor Dr. Ernesto Pernia of the same group said it’s important to hold the momentum of the RH bill.
“The positive momentum needs to be sustained by us all to avoid the impending ‘RH Cliff,'” he said.
University of the Philippines College of Law professor Elizabeth Pangalanan added: “We are very happy that the House of Representatives is at its best performance for the RH bill; with session attendance at its height, even as several hours of amendments go into the night. But we know it ain’t over till it’s over.” – Rappler.com