RH bill debates on track despite Sotto bomb — House

Published by rudy Date posted on May 12, 2011

Members of the House of Representatives are determined to pursue floor deliberations on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill next week despite the exposé the other day of Sen. Vicente Sotto III about the alleged corruption involving P423 million funds used to implement RH-related projects by the Department of Health (DoH).

The Palace, which supports the RH bill, meanwhile, welcomed the Senate Majority Leader’s call for an investigation into the alleged irregularity.

Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said Health Secretary Enrique Ona will definitely coordinate with the senator as a matter of policy by the administration over the allegations of irregularity.

House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III said there will be no postponement of the deliberations amid calls from Sotto to temporarily halt debates until an investigation is conducted into the alleged misuse of some P2.6 billion intended for the family health program from 2008 to 2010 under the DoH’s integrated Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) project.

“The question of whether or not the funds for MNCHN have been used for corruption is entirely different from the issue of the soundness of a law on Reproductive Health. We

should be careful not to confuse the two,” he said.

“To equate the matter of the wisdom of a proposed legislation with the question of whether it has been properly implemented is to put the cart before the horse. Legislators should not be so myopic,” he added.

Tanada said the purpose of debates in Congress is “to think through all the factors that may be relevant to a proposed government program, not to shadowbox its improper implementation in the future.”

“If we were to stop every government program just because it might possibly be corrupted, then we might as well throw in the towel on our development strategies, because as we all know corruption is the endemic disease of every government endeavor,” Tañada added.

“The RH bill has been around for ages, which is all the more reason to put it to a vote as soon as possible — and let the chips fall where they may. Whether it wins or loses, at least we get to move on from it. After all, there are other pieces of legislation that need the attention of Congress,” he said.

House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said there’s no stopping the chamber from continuing deliberations on the RH bill.

“We are doing a political mapping and we assure you that if a vote is taken it would pass,” said Lagman, one of the bill’s authors.

He said more of his colleagues in the House are seeing the wisdom of having the proposed “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Management”`becomes a law and have expressed openness to support the proposed measure when voting time comes.

The Albay solon said that even Malacanang said it will no longer submit its own version of the measure, an acknowledgment that the bill pending in the House can address the country’s need for such law.

For his part, Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas said the House has devoted more than enough time to debate on the RH bill, noting that the measure has been pending since the 8th Congress.

“I would suggest a closure of the debate because this has divided the nation already. Let’s vote on it and accept whatever the result is,” he said.

“It has always been our policy that, if ever Congress or Senate conducts an investigation and invites the members of the President’s Cabinet [for questioning], we always come and coordinate in such types of investigation. I don’t see why this should be any different,” Valte told reporters.

Besides the assurance of its cooperation in the Senate investigation, Malacañang has not said anything on the issue and deferred instead to Ona to speak on behalf of the government pertinent to the latest allegations of anomaly linking his department.

Valte also refused to be categorical when asked whether Malacañang considers Sotto’s disclosure of this alleged irregularity at the DoH for the purpose of intellectual discussion with respect to the longstanding contentions raised on the issue of the RH bill. –Aytch S. de la Cruz, Daily Tribune

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