House begins crucial vote on RH bill

The House of Representatives begins nominal voting on the Reproductive Health bill

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Wednesday night, December 12, began its nominal voting, where each lawmaker stands up to vote, on the Reproductive Health bill.

The bill is now on its 2nd reading, the most difficult stage of the legislative process. If approved, this brings the measure closer to becoming a law.

As of posting, a total of 217 members of the House were present in the session hall. The bill thus needs 109 “yes” votes for it to pass the 2nd reading.

The majority initially pushed for a viva voce voting, which is the usual form of voting for 2nd reading. Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada said the ayes had it for the bill. But the victory of RH bill advocates was short-lived.

Anti-RH bill Navotas Rep Toby Tiangco stood up to object and proposed a nominal voting (one by one).

House rules allow for nominal voting if one-fifth of the present lawmakers approve the proposal. And they did, prompting each representative to stand up and explain his or her vote for a maximum of 3 minutes. As of 8:30 pm, lawmakers with family names starting with letter A were explaining their votes.

House Bill 4244 seeks to institutionalize access to reproductive health information and services such as contraceptives.

At least 8 members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, including Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes and Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, sat at the House gallery to watch the solons cast their votes hours after holding simultaneous masses to reiterate their call for lawmakers to vote against the bill.

Anti-RH solons proposed amendments up to the very last page of the 27-page document.

A day before the vote, leaders of the ruling Liberal Party and key ally Nationalist People’s Coalition announced their support for the divisive measure in a last-minute meeting with party members. 

Saying he’s all for it, President Benigno Aquino III two weeks ago also asked lawmakers to vote on the measure as soon as possible to give the Senate time to act on it. 

For a rundown on what transpired during the period of amendments in the House of Representatives, view Rappler’s live blog here. – Rappler.com