MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the Responsible Parenthood/Reproductive Health bill may not have a smooth sailing in the Senate even if some of the "contentious" provisions have been removed or amended.
Malacañang has included the bill on "responsible parenthood, reproductive heath, and population and development" in the list of priority measures discussed in Tuesday's LEDAC meeting.
"I think we cannot assume that we will pass that in a very short period. It will take a full blown debate in the Senate," Enrile told repoters in Malacañang after the meeting.
President Aquino said certain contentious provisions have been deleted and at least ten will be amended to "achieve the desired aims."
"There will be certain segments that view anything that talks about artificial means of responsible parenthood as anathema to their beliefs so they will not be satisfied with it but we have tried to remove certain issues that can be contentious," Aquino said.
But the provision on giving the public access to both natural and artificial methods on family planning stays.
"That hasn't been removed… We made it very specific that there will also be funding support for teaching, guiding as to the natural family planning methods. In fact, the values formation will also be sensitive to the religious affiliations that citizens belong to. So values formation will have inputs from the religious sector also, if not, if they don't even run it," Aquino said.
Deletions, additions, options
Aquino said RH proponent Rep. Edcel Lagman has pointed out that the provision targeting an ideal family size, defined as having two children, has been deleted.
Aquino said the Palace is also proposing to increase the age or level appropriate for sex education from Grade 5 to Grade 6.
"Certain members of the Church were proposing age 12, so we think 11 is a good compromise that will meet the requirements of the people from the Church, and also those who are saying that at 9 or 10 years old, there are some already that are at risk of having unwanted pregnancies, so the need to educate them," Aquino said.
Aquino said there is a provision that allows parents to opt not to have their children attend formal sex education in schools.
Not all hospitals will be required to give artificial contraceptives.
"The provision that says, 'All hospitals have to provide yung artificial… If they are conscientious objectors, that they will be allowed to-that provision will be modified-it recognizes that those that are Church-based hospitals can practice their faith in recognition of freedom of religion enshrined under Article III of the Constitution. So the proponents have already agreed to the same measure," Aquino said.
No more delays?
Aquino said the legislators have agreed not to intentionally delay the debates on the RH bill.
"We have agreements to have an airing of all the ideas and also a subsequent agreement to not practice dilatory tactics that you will continue revisiting issues that already have been tackled," Aquino said.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said the target is to finally put the bill into a vote.
"I think all of us more or less are in agreement with that. Insofar as the House is concerned, we will continue what we have always advocated which is to let us have every aspect of the law discussed but let it reach the point where we actually vote on it, so that we do not add just add another year to the 14 or 15 years that this whole thing has been pending," Belmonte said.
Human Security Act, other priorities
Meanwhile, amendments on the Human Security Act would include changing the fine for wrongful detention of suspected terrorists from P500,000 a day to P500,000 for the whole duration of the wrongful detention.
Aside from the RH bill and amendments to the Human Security Act, Malacañang's other proposed legislative measures are:
· an act amending the People Television Network's charter
· an act amending the law on the Rural Electrification Program
· an act restructuring the excise tax on alcohol and tobacco products
· an act providing for the delineation of the specific forest limits of the public domain
· an act granting broader protection for consumers
· bills on protecting personal data in IT systems in the government and private sectors
· an act imposing stiffer penalties for stealing or tampering government risk reduction and preparedness equipment
· an act providing for additional benefits and protection for househelpers,
· an act expanding the coverage of the science and technology program
· and act amending the law on the twenty percent balanced housing
Chacha, FOI not priorities
Charter change is not a priority for the Aquino administration for now.
"We just tackled that on a peripheral basis. There were slight discussions on the economic provisions of the Constitution. That is not yet ready for, as they say, primetime. We still have to discuss the particular details," Aquino said.
Aquino said a bill on freedom of information (FOI) is not included in the latest list of priority bills while a technical working group irons out the details and balances the need for secrecy and the public's right for information.
As an example, Aquino said that the DPWH should not be obliged to disclose all the details of certain projects since doing so might lead to speculation and an increase in the price of land.
"Kelangan ba sabihin ng DPWH right away kung saan nila idadaan yung highway na kung saan magtataasan yung presyo ng lupa. Pag nalaman ng publiko, magkakaroon ng speculation dyan so patataasin mo yung gastusin ng gobyerno para maitayo yung highway na 'yan. Pwede kayang matapos na mabili lahat ng lupa dun mo na sabihin, i-announce na ito ang alignment. Yung details ang pumapatay e. Nag-agree tayo ngayon na lalong closer yung baka may formal working committee, from the Senate, from the House and stakeholders to come up and try to answer all of the details or to come up with a general principle that will not make governance that much harder," Aquino said.
"Yung lahat ng detalye ang umiipit sa atin kung paano maglalabas ng mungkahi na kung pupwedeng masaklaw yung lahat ng contingencies para hindi naman pahirapan yung estado, hindi naman makasira sa interes ng bayan yung pagkakaroon nitong karapatan na magkaroon ng impormasyon," he said.
Love life, public interest?
In jest, Aquino also gave his love life as an example to drive his point on the need to place "contingencies" in defining what information is of public interest.
"Kanina nga biniro ko kasi yung nakalagay dun sa batas, 'where public interest…' sabi ko pag Tinagalog ko kasi, ang public interest nagiging interesado yung publiko, which is not necessarily the same thing. Kunwari parati niyo ako dating tinatanong sa love life ko, wala naman sigurong public interest doon. Parang joke na lang yung aspect nayun. But still, I think you have to recognize na kung hindi natin ilalagay yung contingencies like yung ano bang saklaw nito, pwedeng mangyari yung sitwasyon na lalong makasama sa estado ng bansa kaysa mapaganda."
Aquino is still hoping that an FOI law would be ratified under is watch.