Aquino urged to act as allies block RH bill

Published by rudy Date posted on May 18, 2011

HOUSE leaders on Tuesday urged President Benigno Aquino III to certify the reproductive health bill as urgent after they learned that 34 of the 38 lawmakers who had signed up to oppose the measure were from the administration camp.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said unless the President certified the bill as top priority, its approval in the last 11 session days was unlikely.

“The House leadership is doing its best pero mahirap sagasaan [but it’s hard to win] when we see 34 of 38 of the partial list … against House Bill 4244 are members of the majority bloc and only four are from the minority bloc,” Gonzales told reporters.

Gonzales, chairman of the House committee on rules, said each lawmaker had one hour to question the sponsors of the bill, which seeks to establish a national policy on responsible parenthood, reproductive health and population development.

At that rate, he said, only 10 lawmakers would end their questioning on June 9, when Congress adjourns.

“We only have 11 session days left and the RH bill is a very divisive issue that needs serious discussion. We have other top priority bills,” Gonzales said.

The bill’s chances of passing would vastly improve if the Palace certified it as urgent and included it in the list of priority bills for the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council.

On the other hand, without such certification the debates could last until after the President’s State-of-the-Nation address in July, when Congress will have been preoccupied with the deliberations on the 2012 national budget.

“There is a greater chance for the RH bill to pass now than when we put it to a vote near election time,” Gonzales said.

The plenary debate on the bill started Tuesday, with House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, its principal author, endorsing its immediate passage.

Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing started questioning Lagman at 4:50 p.m. and ended it at 6:15 p.m., taking up more than his allotted hour.

House Deputy Speaker Jesus Crispin Remulla, who presided over the plenary debate, had to remind lawmakers to “give due respect” to those engaged in the debate and “listen intently” so there would be no repetitive and irrelevant questions when their turn came to question Lagman.

Remulla also reminded the pro- and anti-RH advocates to refrain from applauding so as not to disrupt the debate.

Bagatsing questioned state funding for the bill when there were other important projects that needed to be financed. But Lagman said the program would be “cost-efficient” for the government.

“Studies show that some P5.5 billion is being spent on maternal health care due to complications in abortion and unwanted pregnancies while the bill is only allocated P2.5 billion to P3 billion,’’ Lagman said. –Christine F. Herrera, Manila Standard Today

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