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House terminates RH bill debates


The debate is done.

The House of Representatives on Monday evening voted to terminate the period of interpellation on the Reproductive Health bill despite vocal objections from some lawmakers.

This could be an initial feat for RH advocates and for President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III who earlier in the day met with and urged lawmakers to end debates.

But passing the RH bill still has a long way to go. While the period of interpellation is over, the bill will go into the period of amendments, where proposed changes to the bill will be taken up. Once all proposed amendments are addressed, the bill will be up for voting on Second Reading. It will need to pass on Third and Final Reading in both Houses of Congress and be signed by the President to become a law.

End of debate

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino has met with "a multi-party caucus composed of members of the majority and minority of the House of Representatives," including solons for and against the controversial measure.

"The President echoed the view that the Responsible Parenthood measure had been discussed thoroughly over the past several years and expressed his desire that Congress move on to the next step in the legislative process," Lacierda said.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, former minority leader and principal author of the RH bill, said the President asked lawmakers to make a conscience vote and to have "the courage to make a decision as leaders of their respective constituencies." He said the President also told them to not be "cowed by intimidation of reprisal at the polls."

Lagman also said Aquino urged solons to also address major problems like "ills in health and backlog in education which are aggravated by a ballooning population."

The President also hinted at support for the controversial bill, with Lagman noting that Aquino said "presidential prescription adopts the call for 'children by choice, not be chance.'"

Voting on ending the RH bill debate was initially set for Tuesday, August 7, but was moved to Monday, reportedly after Aquino appealed to lawmakers to put the matter to a vote ahead of schedule. Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay, a member of the minority, said the House majority should have followed the original schedule.

"The agreement was for tomorrow, why move it today? What are you afraid of? (You have) no word of honor," she said on her Twitter account.

She said changing the schedule "just showed our subservience to the President."

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez tried to delay the vote, saying opponents of the bill did not know about the change in schedule. "(The RH bill) is anti-life. Anybody who says that this is pro-life is telling a lie. This is an assault to faith," he also reportedly said.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, which staunchly opposes the bill, meanwhile criticized the House for "rushing" the vote on whether or not to terminate interpellation, which began in March last year. A CBCPNews report quotes Fr. Melvin Castro of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life as saying Congress "really forced" the vote.

"It’s railroading. They’re destroying the very essence of democracy," CBCPNews quotes Castro.

By Jonathan de Santos and Kim Arveen Patria | Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

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