Church says it has 140 votes against RH bill

The House of Representatives will vote Tuesday next week on whether or not to end debates and move to the second phase.

ALL-OUT WAR VS RH BILL: CBCP President Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes (CBCP photo)

MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Church is claiming that it has at least 140 votes to junk the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in the House of Representatives.

Bishops nationwide surveyed the lawmakers in their dioceses, according to CBCPnews.com, the news portal of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

They were supposedly able to survey 215 of the total 285 district and party-list representatives before President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week. Only 49 supposedly said they will vote for the RH bill. A total of 140 said no and 26 are undecided, the CBCP said.

The number is 5 votes away from the safe number, 145, to secure the majority vote needed to win the crucial vote on August 7 – when a motion to terminate the period of interpellations will be entertained. A prolonged debate favors RH bill critics.

News that at least 8 members of the House minority bloc withdrew their support for the RH bill delighted CBCP president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma. He said this means the number of anti-RH solons will grow.

“We expect something like that with the passing of time,” CBCPnews.com quoted Palma as saying.

Recently released on bail, former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo said she will attend the session on Tuesday to vote against the RH bill.

Debate means ‘death’

The August 7 vote is not the vote that will pass or junk the RH bill on 2nd of three readings for it to hurdle the House of Representatives. It’s a vote that will get the sense of House members if they want to end the period of interpellations or debate (the first stage of 2nd reading) to move on to the period of amendments (the 2nd stage of 2nd reading).

Voting to continue the debate – which is what the critics of RH bill want – almost means a death sentence for the bill in the current 15th Congress. The bill has been debated in the House plenary for over a year. An RH bill in various versions has, in fact, been in the legislative grinder for more than a decade now.

Voting to end the debate means good news to RH bill supporters. The chamber proceeds to the period of amendments.

’50-50′

On Monday, July 30, RH bill proponent Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said she’s also confident that the RH bill has the vote in the lower House.

Other supporters of the RH bill are hoping that President Aquino’s endorsement of the RH bill during his SONA last week will encourage more lawmakers to support it.

House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II said Tuesday it’s hard to say how the vote will go. “Both sides claim they have the numbers,” he said.

House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte said he will conduct a “text brigade” to make sure that all House members are aware of the scheduled vote.

Can they muster a quorum?

The pro- and anti-RH bill advocates don’t really need 145 votes.

A simple majority vote of all members present on August 7 will be required to win the vote. It will be an Ayes and Nays vote. The louder side wins. But House leaders are already expecting that the losing group will be calling for a nominal voting, where the votes will be counted one by one.

A potential problem could be the quorum. RH bill critics have threatened the quorum in the past. But Gonzales said it will be the fault of the RH bill supporters if they cannot muster a quorum on August 7. “If there is no quorum, it’s also indicative of the vote of the House,” he said.

The Catholic Church has declared an all-out war against RH bill for promoting artificial contraceptives and for allegedly allowing abortion. The latter claim is a lie, according to RH bill supporters.

The Church is also preparing for an Anti-RH protest rally at the Edsa Shrine in Quezon City on August 4, Saturday.

“We are happy about that (survey). We just hope that they (anti-RH lawmakers) won’t change their stand,” said Antipolo Bishop Gabriel, chairman of CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life. – Rappler.com