Enrile: ‘Our biggest export is OFWs. That’s why I’m against RH bill’

Ayee Macaraig

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Senate President Enrile says whether his amendments are accepted or not, he will vote against the RH bill

IT'S A NO. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile says whether his amendments are accepted or not, he will vote against the RH bill. Photo by Ayee Macaraig

MANILA, Philippines – There’s no convincing Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Enrile says whether his amendments to the Reproductive Health (RH) bill are accepted or not, he will vote against the controversial measure.

The Senate President has yet to introduce 11 out of his 17 “substantial amendments” to the bill. Yet the staunch RH critic said it does not matter whether the bill is revised.

“I’m not a hypocrite. I speak out according to my best assessment for what is good for the country. My vote is against the RH bill even if my proposals are accepted, not because of religion, morality but because of my long-term assessment of what this bill will do to the country,” Enrile said at the Kapihan sa Senado press forum on Thursday, November 29.

Asked why he introduces amendments in the first place, Enrile said he wanted to show that he is not delaying the passage of the bill but refining the measure.

“My purpose in proposing some of my amendments is to show the people that this bill is not really all for the health of the women. It is [for] population and control management. I feel that. Hindi ba, every time I touch on population, tumatalon si Sen Pia Cayetano, pumipiyok, she screams sometimes.” (Isn’t it that every time I touch on population, Sen Pia Cayetan’s voice breaks?)

Enrile was referring to heated debates with the bill’s sponsor, Sen Pia Cayetano.

When he spoke about the economy in the earlier part of the press briefing, Enrile said, “Ang pinakamalaking export natin is OFW (overseas Filipino workers). Export iyan eh, kaya ako kontra ako sa RH dahil diyan. Ang magpapalago ng bansa natin ay iyong excess population natin na sinanay natin na tumatanggap ng mga trabaho abroad that others don’t want to handle. We have to accept that. Korea started that way.”

(Our biggest export is OFWs. That is export. That’s why I’m against RH. What will improve our economy is the excess population that is used to accepting jobs that others don’t want to handle.)

The Senate President began introducing 6 amendments to the bill on November 19. Among the changes he wanted was to remove the phrases “population and development” from the bill.

Sen Ralph Recto also proposed changes, removing the mandate to provide RH services from local government units and private hospitals. The Senate voted to accept Recto’s changes.

The RH bill aims to provide access to both natural and modern family planning methods, and to promote sex education.

‘What’s so special about RH?’

Enrile also objected to the plan of Cayetano to force a vote to close the period of amendments of the RH bill. Cayetano said Senate rules allow her to do so provided a majority of senators vote in favor of the move.

“Senator Cayetano is only one senator. She cannot impose her will on the Senate,” Enrile said. 

“If she can get the numbers to [have] the other members so be it but I do not think the other senators will do that because that will start a precedent and while they may have the numbers now, soon the political weather might change and it can also be used against them.”

Enrile said with his amendments and the changes other senators plan to introduce to the RH bill, it is uncertain when the Senate can vote on the measure.

He responded to questions about the RH bill’s timetable.

“Kung walang timeline ang passage ng CamSur, bakit naman may timeline ang passage ng RH? Kung walang timeline ang passage ng Anti-Trust Law, what is so special about RH? If there’s no timeline for the Freedom of Information bill, why should there be a timeline for RH?” 

(If there is no timeline for the passage of the bill dividing Camarines Sur and the Anti-Trust Law, why will there be one for RH?

Enrile added, “What is so special about that?”

‘There is Catholic effort vs RH’

Enrile also commented on the statement of Catholic bishops warning of a “Catholic vote” against pro-RH lawmakers.

RH proponents like Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago contradicted the bishops, saying there is no such thing as a Catholic vote. Citing surveys, other RH advocates said the Catholic vote is pro-RH.

Asked if he believes in such a vote, Enrile said it is best to wait and see. Yet he cited the first EDSA People Power Revolution, saying it was Church leaders who got the people out on the streets.

“That should be food for thought for anybody who claims there’s no such thing as a Catholic vote but there’s such a thing as Catholic effort if it becomes necessary,” Enrile said.

“You can just imagine what will happen if bishops link their arms together with nuns and priests and a crowd to march on the streets to push their position on this particular issue. Do you think any policeman or any soldier will be crazy to raise their guns against these people? Don’t ever think this issue is just simple.” – Rappler.com

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