MANILA, Philippines – Fear not. There is no such thing as a Catholic vote.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago urged her re-electionist colleagues to pass the Reproductive Health (RH) bill once session resumes on July 23.
In a statement on Friday, June 22, Santiago said that senators should not worry about the Catholic Church and speak up in support of the bill.
“In the time of former Health Secretary Juan Flavier, he just started distributing condoms for free even without any legal basis. The Catholic Church campaigned against him but he won as senator anyway. So apparently, there is no such thing as a Catholic vote.”
The re-electionist senators are Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Antonio Trillanes IV, Loren Legarda, Gregorio Honasan II, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
Santiago is a co-sponsor of the measure, along with Sen Pia Cayetano. (Read: Pia Cayetano: 5 misconceptions about the RH bill)
In early June, the RH bill hurdled the period of interpellations after one year of debates. It is now in the period of amendments. Santiago and Cayetano expect the Senate to pass it in August or the end of the year at the latest.
Instead of being wary about earning the ire of the Catholic Church, Santiago said re-electionists must be sensitive to the needs of the public, particularly reducing the maternal mortality rate (MMR).
“Government efforts to reduce our maternal mortality rate have not been effective. The three core interventions to reduce MMR – family planning, attendance of pregnancy and delivery by skilled professionals, and access to emergency obstetric care – are core services not available in many [local government units].”
Santiago said the maternal mortality rate in the Philippines is almost unchanged since 1990 based on data from the National Statistics Office.
Changes to the RH bill
In the period of amendments, Santiago said some senators may want to introduce changes regarding government subsidy of medication, and the phrasing of the inclusion of contraceptives in the so-called national formulary.
“I am positive that after the impeachment trial, some senators have softened their stand against the RH bill, and will hopefully vote in favor of passing the bill. I am also confident that there will be no serious challenges to the bill.”
In a press forum on Thursday, June 21, Sen Pia Cayetano said she knows they will have a difficult time convincing their colleagues to pass the bill.
“Eh may naging madali ba dito [sa Senado]? Wala naman, ‘di ba? (Is there anything easy here in the Senate? There’s none, right?) So it is understood that those who oppose will not offer it to us on a silver platter. I know that.”
Critics of the RH bill in the Senate include Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.
Cayetano also encouraged the House of Representatives to finish interpellations on its version of the bill.
“Sana ma-inspire sila sa sipag at tiyaga ng mga (I hope they will be inspired by the hard work and perseverance of the) senators to bring it to action.”
Cayetano added, “I’m pretty hopeful it will pass. I will be prepared to submit my committee amendments and then I have a pretty strong indication of what the individual amendments are.”
With strong opposition from the Catholic Church and lack of political will, the RH bill has been languishing in Congress for about 17 years now. President Benigno Aquino III, however, has voiced support for the responsible parenthood bill. – Rappler.com
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