MANILA, Philippines - With debates on the reproductive health (RH) bill in the Senate finally over, its proponents see a vote on the controversial measure this year.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the principal author of Senate Bill 2865, said senators may vote on the RH bill when session resumes in August.
"That is our best hope," she told reporters on Wednesday. "And we'll be very, very relieved if that can happen because it has been pending for decades in Congress."
The period for interpellation and debates on the RH bill ended on Tuesday, a year after health and demography committee chair Sen. Pia Cayetano sponsored it on the floor. This was after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, a critic of the bill, said he no longer has any questions to ask.
Tackled again in July
The bill will undergo the period of amendments starting Wednesday. Because it's already the last day of session, however, the bill will only be tackled again when session resumes in the last week of July.
"I'm happy and relieved," Cayetano said in a press statement. "There have been a lot of points raised by my colleagues that we will be able to use to improve the bill, and I would like to thank them for sharing their inputs and concerns with me."
Nine senators raised questions about the bill during debates on the floor: Senators Enrile, Vicente Sotto III, Ralph Recto, Panfilo Lacson, Sergo Osmeña III, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Aquilino Pimentel III.
"We've finished virtually the entire panoply of questions that could possibly be raised. We were very, very patient," Santiago said.
Open to amendments but...
Santiago added that she and Cayetano are open to possible amendments to the measure, "as long as they do not compromise the basic principles of the RH bill."
She also believes senators who are against the bill have softened their stand. But Enrile, who vowed to block the RH bill's passage, said its opponents are only being silent.
"Alam mo, kung kalmado 'yong tubig, natatakot ako. Baka malalim," he said. "Kung hindi ka marunong lumangoy, baka malunod ka."