MANILA (UPDATED) - President Aquino has decided to certify the reproductive health or the responsible parenthood bill as urgent.
Aquino told reporters that he would like to see an end to congressional deliberations on what he called as a “divisive issue” before the year ends.
He explained that he did not immediately certify the bill as urgent at first because it did not entail an emergency.
Things changed Thursday night.
“I actually certified it tonight,” Aquino told reporters on Thursday night.
“Medyo makunat ako mag-certify ng urgent e. May constitutional provision, ‘yung emergency, etcetera. Tsaka largely ‘pag ‘yung talagang klaro na undebatable emergency—kunwari state of calamity na kailangan ng supplemental budget, ise-certify ko as urgent. Pero in this particular case, I don’t think it’s the same urgency as addressing the storm. Kumbaga masyadong narrow ang definition ko ng urgency as required by the Constitution,” Aquino said.
“But tonight, I was convinced. Session will be ending next week. You’d really rather [na] itong divisive issue sana matapos na before we start the new year. So to give them that opportunity to finish especially in the Senate, na-certify ko na ‘yung urgency today, actually tonight lang, Thursday. At the latest by Monday morning— but I think tomorrow, we’ll attempt to deliver to the offices of the Senate President and the Speaker—pagkakaintindi ko magkakaroon daw ng persons to receive it.”
No quid pro quo
Aquino also denied dangling the pork bark barrel as prize for legislators, saying the priority development assistance funds (PDAF) have been released even to RH opponents before the voting, which can be verified, he said, at the Department of Budget and Management website.
He appealed to critics to verify claims before making an accusation.
"I would invite you, and I will invite them to look at all of the websites and see when all of the releases had been done, and my understanding is everybody's PDAF had been released long before the vote. And please observe also those who voted against it if they have not been given their PDAF," Aquino said.
"Baka puwedeng mag-appeal: Whenever we say something, we make it a point to ensure that what we're saying is verified and correct. So may we ask anybody to do likewise and give us the courtesy of before accusing (to) just check on the available data."
Nothing wrong with presence at House
Aquino also said there was nothing wrong with Cabinet members being at the House of Representatives as lawmakers voted on the reproductive health bill.
Aquino said that just like the bishops and priests who were there, members of the Cabinet, as citizens, have the right to witness the deliberations.
He added that they were also there to lend moral support to party-mates who supported the bill.
"Kayo yatang naglalabas nung mga ating obispo, ating kaparian, ating ibang mga organisasyon na araw-araw nandoon. Dumating ‘yung mga miyembro ng gabinete kong mamamayan rin ng Pilipinas na pwede naman sigurong mag-witness nitong makasaysayang botohan na ito and sasabihin sa isang araw na presensiya nila, intense ang lobbying? May karapatan rin naman sigurong ipadama sa kinatawan," Aquino told reporters.
"At meron tayong mga kapartido, except for Secretary Lacierda, Butch Abad and Mar Roxas are or were officers of our party. May mga kapartido tayong nagsasabi ng mga pressures nila kung saan galing sa ibat-ibang sektor, at kung nag-led ng moral support ‘yung ating mga miyembro ng Gabinete, may mali ba?"
'Children by choice, not by chance'
The government moved closer to a controversial birth control law on Thursday as lawmakers passed a version of the bill after a long debate over an issue that has deeply polarized the largely Catholic nation.
The bill paving the way for sex education in schools and the provision of free contraceptives in a country with one of Asia's fastest-growing populations was passed by the lower house of parliament after a five-hour vote.
"Let us have children by choice, not by chance," Edcel Lagman, a lawmaker who initiated the legislation, said after voting on the bill that passed with a narrow majority just before dawn.
His comment reflects the view of Aquino who is pushing for the law that he hopes would help bring down poverty in a nation of nearly 100 million people as well as the high maternal mortality rate.
The move is supported by women's groups and the United Nations but is vehemently opposed by the politically influential Catholic church, which is against the use of contraceptives, including condoms and birth control pills.
The proposed legislation would come into force after both houses of parliament agree on a common version that would be signed into law by the president.
Aquino had urged legislators at a recent meeting to help get the law passed after more than a year of bitter debates on the issue.
But he stressed that while he was for "responsible parenthood", he would leave it to the legislators to vote on the measure based on their conscience. -- with Agence France-Presse