Citizens’ plea seeks Senate probe into ‘abortifacients’ in RH measure

Published by rudy Date posted on May 19, 2011
The issue on the fiercely-debated Reproductive Health (RH) bill took a different turn in the Senate yesterday with the filing of a citizen’s petition seeking an inquiry by the upper chamber, in aid of legislation, on some contraceptives supposedly included for public use in the proposed measure as abortifacient.
The “petition,” a first in the history of the Senate, according to Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, came practically on the eve of the submission on the floor of the committee report on RH bill by Sen. Pia Cayetano, health and demography panel chairman.
Cayetano earlier had announced she would be ready to present and even defend her committee report on the measure in two weeks’ time.
“It has undergone many revisions based on the numerous hearings that we’ve had and technical working groups and consultations. So I’m literally line-by-line
going through all the recommendations to finalize the version. The bill is with me, we have been going through it with my staff for the whole break and we’ll be done with it soon,” she said.
Sotto, however, said the citizen’s petition which was noted by the upper chamber’s deputy legislative secretary as valid basis to effect an inquiry, will be referred to the rules committee and the panel would be conducting a proceedings separate from that of Cayetano.
“It will be a separate committee (inquiry). It’s separate from the RH bill although the RH bill will likely be tackled. There’s no bill to come out, out of this but a bill or output on the findings of whether it is correct or not or whether we need a law to buy it or not,” he said.
“That’s (Cayetano’s report on RH bill) different issue, it’s not related or connected to this petition. It has no direct connection with the RH bill. It’s an inquiry because there will be a constitutional question,” Sotto said in an interview with reporters.
“It’s a right, a privilege of any citizen and this is the first time that this is being exercised. There’s no reason for us not to acommodate them because it’s a very valid issue. They would like to question the validity and the legality of the use of abortifacient,” he added.
Supporters of the bill at the House of Representatives, meanwhile, expressed dismay at how the bill is going through the legislative mill.
According to Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna the bill has been pending in Congress for decades and that attempts to approve it in the current 15th Congress is again in the doldrums.
“We have been attempting to legislate this issue for more than a decade, the 15th Congress now has another chance to either have a law on reproductive health or not,” Tugna said adding that the plenary debates for the approval of the bill could go haywire.
“But we have to rein the debates to stay on a reasonable level and avoid dragging God and the heavens into the issue,” Tugna said in an apparent reference to previous heated debates between House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, a staunch supporter of the bill, and Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez, who is against the bill.
“Questions on the deliberation must be limited to secular questions, not on morals, beliefs and religion. Debates must be issue based and not on belief in God,” Tugna said.
The Congressman said the RH bill was first introduced more than a decade ago and its about time that we decide on it as a society once and for all and bringing metaphysical arguments about religion, faith and morality will only stall us some more in making a solid and factual decision.
This developed as Lagman took a swipe at boxing icon Saranggani Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao, who is among the oppositors to the bill, that he cannot “knockout” poverty by opposing the RH Bill.
Lagman maintained that the passage of the RH bill will stump out poverty.
“Neither the pulpit nor the boxing ring would be able to address fully the impoverished multitude. It should take legislation in the precise police power of the state to protect the interest of the greatest number,” said Lagman.
Lagman said he is willing to engage Pacquiao in a debates on the RH issue. Pacquiao is one of the 38 interpellators in the RH debates.
House Deputy Minority Leader and Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay, an anti-RH advocate, said the position of Pacquiao joining the Catholic Church’s fight against the RH measure should be respected.
“It is unfair to say that the Catholic Church is lacking in argument that is why they have to get Cong. Pacquiao. I think everybody should respect the stand of each and every individual, especially their congressmen. We all have our own reasons why we are for or against the RH bill,” said Magsaysay.
A review of the rules of the Senate showed that section 6 of the rules governing inquiries in aid of legislation allows non-members of the Senate to file a petition which can be made basis of a legislative inquiry.
“The second paragraph of that rule states that ‘if the (Senate) president finds the petition or information to be in accordance with the requirements of this section, he shall refer the same to the appropriate committee,” lawyer Edwin Bellen, deputy secretary for legislation said in his memorandum to Senate Secretary Emma Lirio-Reyes.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile sees no reason why they should not accommodate the request from petitioners named Ma. Andrea Mendigo, Eric Manalang and Norman Cabrera filed last May 9.
“The sovereign people of the country, the citizens of the Republic are like the citizens of Rome, they are powerful,” he said, adding that there had been similar incidents in the past.
Enrile also said he does not see any conflict in hearing the petition with the committee report of Cayetano, saying that whatever will be the output would be integrated with that of the latter’s recommendations.
“These people are asking a hearing in aid of legislation about. People can come to us and ask us to conduct an investigation. We look at it, if it is germane, proper, then we will act,” he said, further explaining that the conduct of the inquiry will not affect the status of the RH bill if its presented in the plenary within the remaining two weeks of Congress’ sessions.
“We can integrate it. If there’s already a bill, then it depends upon the Majority Floor Leader. He can refer it to the Committee of Pia Cayetano or he can refer it to another Committee. I do not know the full subject matter of this request. It depends upon the request,” he said. Enrile said the petition can not be considered as a form of lobbying against the RH bill.
“It is useless really to lobby with me. I have my own stand on an issue, I stand by that. They cannot change my mind. I can tell them that I stand alone if necessary,” he said.
In their petition, they’re asking the Senate to conduct an inquiry on the following issues: on Department of Health (DOH) and its attached agencies regarding its policies advocating the use of modern methods of family planning/contraceptives; on the Department of Education (DepEd) regarding its programs that promote the policy of the DoH; on the DoH and DepEd regarding the disbursement of public funds to advocate the use of modern methods of family planning/contraceptives, including in educational materials. –Angie M. Rosales and Gerry Baldo, Daily Tribune

Month – Workers’ month

“Hot for workers rights!”


Solidarity with CTU Myanmar,
trade unions around the world,
for democracy in Myanmar,
with the daily protests of
people in Myanmar against
the military coup and
continuing oppression.


Accept National Unity Government
(NUG) of Myanmar.
Reject Military!

#WearMask #WashHands

Time to support & empower survivors.
Time to spark a global conversation.
Time for #GenerationEquality to #orangetheworld!
Trade Union Solidarity Campaigns
Get Email from NTUC
Article Categories