Senators divided on RH bill

by Caroline Howard, ANC

Posted at Sep 07 2012 07:31 PM | Updated as of Sep 08 2012 08:10 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Senators remain divided on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.

As the Senate kicked off the period of amendments on Wednesday, the bill's title became the subject of discussions.

RH bill sponsor Senator Pia Cayetano removed the phrase "population and development" from the bill's title, raising questions on whether the measure was leaning towards  population control rather than reproductive health.

"Population control pa rin. Hindi mo na mabubura 'yon. That's already in the record," Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said.

In his "turno en contra" speech, Senator Tito Sotto said the RH bill is a population control measure masked as a health bill.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada declined to comment on the issue.

"According to Tito Sotto it is not RH bill. A population control bill. I'll reserve my comment," Estrada said.

Aside from changing the bill's title, Cayetano also removed a provision on mandatory care for women with post-abortion complications.

She also deleted the phrase "essential medicines" to refer to contraceptives.

Senate leaders said the sides of the RH debate in the upper House are getting clearer.

Enrile said at least 9 senators, including Sotto, have voiced their opposition to the measure while 8 have committed to support it.

But Estrada said at least 3 senators, including himself, are still undecided.

He said an anti-RH bill senator had voiced the possibility that the vote could end in a tie at 10-10.

Estrada said the 2 other senators who have yet to choose sides are running for re-election in 2013.

While the Senate debates are expected to take time, Malacañang sees no reason to ask Congress for a special session on the controversial bill.

"Wala kaming nakikitang katwiran para mag-push ng special session. Again, we leave it with the majority floor leader and the speaker to direct the traffic during this period of amendments. So we don't see any reason to push for a special session," Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

The bill's sponsors hope that a vote on the measure will be made in the current 15th Congress.