MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Reproductive Health Bill is now one step away from becoming a law. All it needs is the President’s signature.
The Senate and the House of Representatives separately ratified the final version of the measure on the last day of session – Wednesday night, December 19 – before Congress paused for the Christmas break.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the President “certainly” wants to sign the RH Bill into a law before the end of the year.
Voting 11-5, the Senate ratified the bicam report on the RH bill at 7 pm while the the House of Representatives ratified the report via ayes and nays at 8:02 pm.
The 5 senators who voted no were: Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Gringo Honasan, Koko Pimentel, and Tito Sotto.
The 11 affirmative votes from the Senate came from: Alan Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Joker Arroyo, Edgardo Angara, Franklin Drilon, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, TG Guingona, Bongbong Marcos, Sergio Osmena III, Loren Legarda, and Panfilo Lacson.
“I think you cannot beat a good idea, you cannot vanquish relentless advocates, you can’t possibly defeat a measure which is promoting the welfare of the people,” said Albay Rep Edcel Lagman, principal author of the RH Bill in the House.
On Thursday, December 13, Aquino certified the measure urgent. It seeks to provide reproductive health services to Filipinos, especially the poor.
To ratify the controversial measure before the Christmas break, lawmakers hurried to finish the bicam report Wednesday afternoon.
A lot of pressure on the #RHBill bicam to agree on final version by 2pm to enable ratification later this afternoon.— Antonio L. Tinio (@tonchi) December 19, 2012
The key features of the final version are the following:
- The bill calls for parental consent before minors get access to contraceptives and other RH services, except if they are pregnant, have given birth or had a miscarriage;
- The mandate of providing RH services is shared by both the national and local governments;
- Sex education is optional for private schools;
- Providing RH services optional for private health institutions
In the end, I believe we have a #RHBill that is better than it was when it left each house. Not perfect, but better.— pia cayetano (@piacayetano) December 19, 2012
A pre-bicam conference was held Tuesday night at the Senate to identify the most contentious provisions between the House and Senate versions, Sen Pia Cayetano said in an interview before the bicam started.
Members of the House contingent were appointed Monday night after the House passed the RH Bill on 3rd and final reading and were ready for the bicam Tuesday night. The Senate, on the other hand, only announced their members Wednesday.
The Senate panel included Senators Pia Cayetano (Chair), Bongbong Marcos, Francis Pangilinan, TG Guingona, Alan Cayetano, Vicente Sotto III, Ralph Recto and Ping Lacson.
The House contingent was composed of Representatives Rogelio Espina Jr. (Chair), Cesar Sarmiento, Henedina Abad, Janette Garin, Edcel Lagman, Danilo Suarez, Teddy Baguilat, Kaka Bag-ao, and Antonio Tinio.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona and Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag were also present.
Safe, satisfying and more
Based on tweets and information gathered from members of the bicam, other changes agreed upon at the bicam were:
- They added the words “responsible and “consensual” in the phrase “…people can have a responsible, safe, satisfying and consensual sex life.”
- Instead of the word “religion,” the delivery of reproductive health services will respect “religious beliefs.”
- They removed any mention of international treaties, as well as population and development.
- Private hospitals have the option to provide RH services.