By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 21:35:00 03/08/2011
MANILA, Philippines – An issue just as searing as the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez reached the plenary Tuesday – the Reproductive Health (RH) bill – and is expected to take up debates among lawmakers in the coming days.
Delivering his sponsorship speech on Committee Report 664, a consolidation of six RH bills, Biliran Representative Rogelio Espina appealed to his colleagues to be open-minded and objective about the measure, which has been in Congress for the last 16 years.
“It is my utmost desire as chairman of committee on population . . . to consider this bill with open-mindedness and objectivity to achieve a neutral deliberation most beneficial to all,” said Espina, chairman of the committee on population and family relations that deliberated on the measure.
Espina said it was time to lay on the floor the debates as the bill has been extensively deliberated at the committee level.
About 30 minutes before his sponsorship speech, the session was suspended due to demands by some lawmakers to extend the privilege hour for speeches.
Deputy Speaker and Northern Samar Representative Raul Daza debated with Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Representative Neptali Gonzales II, which took up some time.
It was then that Deputy Majority Leader and Iloilo Representative Janette Garin questioned the attire of Daza saying he had no business debating on the floor because he was not observing the dress code.
Daza was only wearing a long-sleeved, pin-striped polo at the time.
Garin said she had to raise the dress code because Daza was deliberately prolonging the debates to block the sponsorship speech of the RH bill.
Garin, one of the sponsors of the measure, lamented that the bill never reached voting stage since the 8th Congress due to “political baragaining and the noise from the Church.”
She said she hoped that her colleagues would keep an open mind in debating the matter and vote on it.
Three of the six sponsors of the bill delivered speeches urging for its passage – Minority Leader and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, Gabriela partylist Representative Luz Ilagan and Akbayan partylist Representative Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao.
“This is the third time in many Congresses that I have stood before this august chamber to deliver my sponsorship message on the RH bill. I am confident that the saying ‘third time’s a charm’ will abide with us,”Lagman said.
Lagman said the RH bill is “rights-based” and is about “informed choice. He stressed that it is not a population control measure.
Lagman said the bill mandates access to all forms of family planning, both natural and modern, as long as they are legal, medically safe and truly effective.