House fails to vote on RH Bill this week

Angela Casauay
The House of Representatives failed to grant the President's wish to put the Reproductive Health Bill to a vote this week after deliberations on the controversial measure was cut short due to the lack of warm bodies on the floor.

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 5, failed to grant the President’s wish to put the Reproductive Health Bill to a vote this week after deliberations on the controversial measure was cut short due to the lack of warm bodies on the floor. 

The period of amendments had been gaining momentum when Davao Rep Karlos Nograles questioned the quorum. Session was suspended and the quorum bell was rung as a signal for lawmakers to go back to the plenary but when it was apparent that there was a lack of quorum, House leaders decided to adjourn the session until Monday, December 10, rather than call the roll for a second time. 

“Maybe some congressmen were thinking that the proposals for amendments will be smooth sailing. Maybe the others decided to relax because it has been three nights of this and that’s why they decided to go home,” said Albay Rep Edcel Lagman, main proponent of the RH Bill, in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Some lawmakers believe that President Benigno Aquino III needs to crack the whip to push for the passage of the RH Bill but House Speaker Sonny Belmonte said the responsibility to put the bill to a vote rests on the House.

Aquino earlier said it was best for lawmakers to vote on the RH Bill this week to give the Senate enough time to act on it. 

With only two weeks left before the House goes on Christmas break, a vote next week has become more crucial. 

Two more days of heated deliberations and long hours could bring both sides to their tipping points, Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales III said.

“It will take a toll, definitely, kaya nga sabi ko another two days of this will test the limit of the patience of every congressman both pro and anti,” Gonzales told House reports. 

Before the start of Wednesday’s RH Bill deliberations, Cavite Rep Lani Mercado appealed for “sobriety” over the “emotional nature of debates” on the controversial measure.

With Christmas fast approaching, Gonzales said lawmakers are expected to start going back home to their constituents come next week, building up pressure to put the RH Bill to a vote sooner while a quorum can still be mustered.  

“Pressure is slowly building up. Isang araw magigising na lang tayo magbobotahan na kami,” he said. 

Quicker pace

Lagman said he was satisfied with the rate the deliberations were going even if the House only managed to tackle up to page 4 of the 27-page bill. 

“The most important thing is we have tested the sentiment and the sentiment is in favor of the bill,” he said. 

Pro-RH solons have maintained their numbers as indicated by the 99-73 vote to reject a killer amendment Monday and the 100-74 vote to deny another amendment Tuesday. 

All amendments that were put to a vote Wednesday was rejected. It was a smooth-sailing process, according to Lagman, who worked to accept, reject and compromise on proposals. 

Batangas Rep Hermilando Mandanas wanted poor families to be the beneficiaries of the RH Bill, instead of “poor women and men,” saying that he wants to preserve the sanctity of a family. 

Lagman proposed a compromise to change the line to “shall prioritize the needs of poor women, men and children in marginalized families and households.” Mandanas agreed. 

But Lagman rejected Mandanas’ amendment to include that RH beneficiaries should voluntarily ask for RH services. It was also denied through a viva voce vote. 

Lagman also denied Cagayan Rep Rufus Rodriguez’s proposal to delete an entire paragraph stating that “The State shall also promote openness to life, provided that parents bring forth to the world only those children that they can raise in a truly humane way.” Rodriguez said the provision was nothing but a population control measure.

But Lagman said that the provision was crafted by a distinguished individual, whom he refused to name, during consultation. 

Other amendments rejected through voice voting include: the deletion of freedom of choice from the guiding principles of the bill and the word modern from line stating “natural and modern methods of family planning.”

Meanwhile, Lagman agreed to insert the phrase “sound replacement rate” in the guiding principles so the provision can read: “Since human resource is among the principal assets of the country, maternal health, safe delivery of health children and their full human development, sound replacement rate and responsible parenting must be ensured throuugh effective reproductive health care.” 

Another new amendment was inserted to emphasize the billings ovulation method in promoting modern natural methods of family planning. – 

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