Cayetano to force Senate vote on RH

Ayee Macaraig

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Sen Pia Cayetano plans to move to end the period of amendments on the controversial Reproductive Health bill next week

SENATE VOTE. Sen Pia Cayetano says she may move for a vote to close the period of amendments if those opposed to the RH bill will continue to delay it. Photo by Ayee Macaraig

MANILA, Philippines – Sen Pia Cayetano will not wait until forever for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III to make up their minds on the pending Reproductive Health bill.

Cayetano said she will give Enrile, Sotto and Sen Ralph Recto until next week to introduce amendments to the measure. If delays continue, the principal sponsor plans to move for a vote to close the period of amendments.

Para naman sabihin mo sa akin na mag-antay ako hanggang maputi na ang uwak, eh iba naman ang usapan doon,” Cayetano said in the weekly Kapihan sa Senado press forum on Thursday, November 15. (For you to tell me to wait until forever, that’s another discussion altogether.)

“We all know every day that I patiently wait is one more day that this bill will be delayed and I know as they know and they know who I’m talking about, their objective is not to bring this to a vote and I will not agree,” she added.  

Cayetano said Recto was supposed to introduce amendments this week but asked to be given until Monday, November 19, because he was busy with the debates on the sin tax bill.

On Monday, Cayetano said she will entertain amendments from Recto, Enrile and Sotto. She said they will have to be ready because the budget is about to reach the Senate plenary.

“I don’t know if I will give them next week because there’s the budget. It’s possible that it will be only until Monday. It depends. As I said, I’m reasonable. If Tuesday, we will tackle the budget, then we should close soon. Let’s just use the time [on Monday] for other bills including RH,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano said if Sotto and Enrile will still not be ready, she will avail herself of the Senate rules that state that a majority can vote to close the period of amendments.

“The records will bear me out that Senators JPE and Sotto have taken the floor the most times on the issue. Sen Enrile for 9 times, Sotto for 10 times. So I think that’s enough time. It’s my right to move forward.”

Election issue

Cayetano stressed that the RH bill is linked to the May 2013 midterm polls. The bill aims to make family planning options and tools more accessible to the majority of Filipinos. But the Catholic Church, a key political bloc in the country, is staunchly opposed to it.

This is an election issue. Women and even couples will be looking at senators and congressmen on your vote on this issue,” Cayetano said.

She disagreed with the argument that politicians do not make their views on the measure known out of fear of the so-called Catholic vote.

“That is a traditional point of view,” Cayetano said. “The Catholic vote is a yes to RH vote, look at the surveys, SWS and all the other survey groups have come out with those surveys repeatedly that the popular vote is making RH available to people so there is nothing for politicians to fear.”

“Let us not vote for people who are sitting on the fence. If you look at many issues nowadays, people expect to now where you stand,” she told reporters.

On Tuesday, November 13, Enrile raised his voice at Cayetano when the sponsor asked him when he will be ready. He said no senator can compel a colleague to be ready with his or her amendments.

“I do not know, Madame Senator, when I’m ready,” Enrile said.

Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago later came to the defense of her RH bill co-sponsor, saying decisions cannot be held hostage by one senator.

‘Figures for PH very bad’

In arguing for the RH bill, Cayetano cited the United Nations Population Fund’s 2012 report, saying it showed “very bad” figures for the Philippines. 

Cayetano said the Philippines fared poorly compared to its Asian neighbors in the rate of population change, and fertility rate. She presented her comparison of the figures: 

Average Annual Rate of Population Change

Philippines – 1.7

Indonesia – 1.0

Malaysia – 1.6

Vietnam – 1

Thailand – .5


Fertility Rate

Philippines – 3.1

Malaysia – 2.6

Vietnam – 1.7

Thailand – 1.5

The sponsor said, “This should no longer be debated. The studies are very clear. Population is directly linked to development. What good is a high population of people who are not educated and who are ignorant?”

Sotto and Enrile, however, have argued against population control, saying the solution to poverty is not population control. 

The Majority Leader has argued in past speeches that the RH bill “harms women and the unborn.”

On the ethics against Sotto, Cayetano said she empathizes with Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late US Sen Robert F Kennedy. Kerry Kennedy wrote that she was offended by Sotto’s use of her father’s 1966 Day of Affirmation speech to argue against the right to contraceptives. 

“I felt her pain because if you passionately believe in something and those words that you used to describe or to support this thing you believe in is used for something contrary to what  you believe in, that’s very painful.”

Sotto already apologized to the Kennedy family, saying it was not his intention to upset them. He maintained though that the use of Kennedy’s speech was not plagiarism because he did not know then that the quote was Kennedy’s. –

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