MANILA, Philippines – Reality check: with a year left in the current 15th Congress, advocates of the Reproductive Health bill (RH bill) face a tough time in the House of Representatives. Having it passed is close to impossible.
“Realistically, its chances are getting smaller. It’s getting more difficult that the bill will be approved in the House (Realistically, lumiliit at humihirap ang panahon na iyan ay ma-approve sa House),” said House majority floor leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II.
As majority floor leader, Gonzales is in charge of the House calendar and agenda.
There’s one year left in the current Congress. Given the upcoming 2013 elections, Gonzales said the House may only hold sessions until December. “That’s the legislative mill. Finish or not finish, pass your paper [by] December,” he said.
The window for the RH bill is barely one month. Congress resumes session on July 23. But by September, Congress will have to prioritize the government’s 2013 budget.
The RH bill is pending on 2nd reading in both the Senate and the House plenary.
At the Senate, the RH bill has hurdled the period of interpellations. On the other hand, it’s been in the interpellation period for over a year now at the House.
Both pro- and anti-RH representatives have been strong in their positions. The proposed legislation mandates government support for birth control, among others.
Gonzales said the House is committing to make the House members vote whether to continue or end the period of interpellation. “I think we owe it to the people that the House of Representatives reaches the point where we decide if we’re going to continue with the debate or not,” he said.
But Gonzales said the vote has to happen before the budget deliberations begin in September. And then the period of amendments would be “harder to hurdle,” he added.
RH bill advocates themselves cannot give assurances that they have the vote to pass it.
The House leadership has always been wary in tackling the RH bill in plenary because of the threat of anti-RH advocates to skip the session.
The number of legislators opposed to it can threaten a House quorum, which can also harm the other bills pending in Congress. – Rappler.com
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