Enrile to Cayetano: I’m not yet ready for RH bill

Ayee Macaraig

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Enrile says Sen Pia Cayetano cannot compel him to be ready with his RH amendments

'CENSURE ME.' Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile says Sen Pia Cayetano can move to censure him but she cannot compel him to be ready with his amendments to the RH bill. File photo by Hoang Vu

MANILA, Philippines – “I do not know, Madame Senator, when I’m ready.”

A peeved Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile made this response to Sen Pia Cayetano as she called on the Senate to fast-track the discussion of amendments to the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

The two clashed on the Senate floor on Tuesday, November 13, after Cayetano raised a point of privilege to move the RH bill forward. Cayetano is the principal sponsor of the measure.

Cayetano said she understood that the Senate is prioritizing the 2013 national budget and the sin tax bill but asked if the RH bill could be tackled. She pointed out that Enrile and Sen Ralph Recto are the only ones left in the Senate to introduce individual amendments, and that if tackled later in the day, senators usually leave the floor. 

“Since I’m only asking for 30 minutes, can this be taken up before sin tax?”

Cayetano said, “It doesn’t have to be but I’m only being reasonable. If I take it up after, then some of you will question the quorum, that is unfair to me, the sponsor, and to every person who would like to see this measure come to its rightful end.”

Enrile stood up to respond, saying even he had a bill that has been pending for 10 years but he did not complain about it.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who can compel any senator to jump simply because they want him to jump. I’m ready to defend my position in any debate here. I hope that they will understand that I’m not ready yet to propose any amendment,” Enrile said.

Cayetano then asked him when he will be ready, saying he told her during a caucus that he is prepared.

At this point, Enrile interrupted her and raised his voice. “I do not know, Madame Senator, when I’m ready.”

He added, “I’m ready for any remedy that the gentle lady would want to take if you want to put it into a vote that I be censured or I’ll be kicked out as a Senate President or I’ll be outvoted, so be it.”

NEW CLASH. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen Pia Cayetano again clash on the RH bill. Cayetano asks Enrile to be ready for his amendments but the Senate President said he cannot be compelled to do so. File photo by Joe Arazas/Senate PRIB

‘Not priority’

Cayetano has expressed her frustration with the delays in the RH bill in the Senate. Enrile has said that the measure is not a priority because the chamber is focused on passing the budget and the sin tax bill on time.

The sin tax bill has overtaken the RH bill in the Senate sessions.

Cayetano has hinted that Enrile’s staunch opposition to the RH bill is a factor in the delay.

“Honestly, I’m a little bit disappointed with all the drama because why do we have to put it aside? We can take it up. We are hardworking. No one here can be accused of not wanting to work. It’s just a matter of if they don’t like it, they don’t, right,” Cayetano told reporters last week.

The two senators also clashed in September over delays in the RH bill. Enrile even said then, “Who are you to challenge my purpose here?”

In the House of Representatives, RH proponents also complain about delays. A substitute RH bill has not yet been voted on, with critics saying the measure should be discussed in the committee because of the substantial changes. 

The window for passing the bill is becoming narrow with time. RH proponents want the bill approved on second reading before Congress goes on Christmas break on December 22.

After the Christmas break, session will resume for 3 weeks on January 21. Lawmakers will again take a break on February 9 for the campaign period for the May 2013 polls and return only on June 3 to close the 15th Congress.

Malacañang has said that while it pushes for the sin tax bill and the budget, it will leave the fate of the RH bill up to the lawmakers

The RH bill seeks to provide access to natural and modern family planning methods, and promote sex education. The measure is one of the most contentious in Congress, with Catholic bishops strongly against it. – Rappler.com 

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