MANILA, Philippines - The proponents of the reproductive health (RH) bill in the Senate will get their wish of putting the measure to a vote within the year with the blessings of one of their fiercest critics.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, chair of the Senate committee on health and demography, has been pushing for an end to the debates on the bill so that a vote can be taken on the measure soon.
Cayetano expressed her frustration over what she felt were unnecessary delays coming from the opponents of the bill, which has led to debates that lasted for more than a year.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, the most vocal critic of the bill, does not believe the RH bill should be treated as a priority measure as its proponents have been insisting.
However, Sotto has indicated the bill would be put to a vote sometime between the end of August and the first week of September.
As majority leader, Sotto has some degree of power to determine the agenda for the legislative sessions of the Senate.
The period of voting on the RH bill predicted by Sotto was based on the fact that the period of interpellations for the measure has been concluded and it is well on its way for approval on second reading.
Cayetano welcomed the statement of Sotto, saying that it is about time that a vote is taken on the bill.
“It is the obligation of any senator not to delay the RH bill. We owe that to every single Filipino here. They can oppose the bill but the process must go through,” Cayetano said.
“To come up with reasons not to pursue this bill is a disservice to the Filipino people. Vote against it. That is what you do if you do not like the bill, or propose amendments,” she added.
But before the bill is put to a vote, it must undergo two more steps, namely the turno en contra, which is to allow the opponents of the bill to make their arguments against the measure, and the period of amendments.
Sotto has indicated that he would avail of the turno en contra, which is unusual but part of the legislative process.
Sotto vowed to expose the bill for what he claims is a backdoor to abortion, the proliferation of contraceptives and abortifacients.
Sotto said he has been preparing his arguments for the turno en contra for some time with the hope of convincing his undecided colleagues to vote against the bill.
He admitted the vote on the bill could go either way at this time, so he intends to enlighten the undecided senators about the dangers of the bill. – With Evelyn Macairan, Aurea Calica