MANILA, AUGUST 7, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Christina Mendez - Debates on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill remain heated at the Senate after Sen. Vicente Sotto III (photo) offered to resign as majority leader yesterday amid accusations that he is trying to delay passage of the controversial measure.

“I might contemplate on resigning as majority floor leader. If that happens, there will be more filibustering procedures that I cannot do as majority leader but I can do as a regular senator,” Sotto said.

“They should not accuse me of delaying the proceedings or I might accept their challenge,” Sotto, who stressed he was keen on delivering his “turno en contra” against the measure, said.

“They had their turn. This time it’s my turn. They did not answer all questions so now they accuse me of asking repetitive questions. My critics say all questions have been asked but were they all answered?” Sotto said.

Apart from Sotto, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Gregorio Honasan have been vocal that the RH measure should not be rushed.

Enrile stood by Sotto yesterday after the latter offered to resign as majority leader.

“I cannot speak for him. There’s no need for anybody to withdraw from his position. Of course, we are replaceable anytime, I can be replaced as Senate president also but as far as I am concerned, I want him to continue as Senate majority leader,” Enrile said.

“He is my majority floor leader. I have enough confidence in him to be objective about it. But each of us we have our own individual perception and notion for the country so we respect each other’s position,” he said.

Still against RH

Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao yesterday said he remains firm on his stand against the RH bill.

“It’s the same, I have not changed my position,” said Pacquiao who was in Camp Crame as “Gospel Sharer.”

He added that he is ready to defend his vote on the floor.

Former senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, meanwhile, said there is no need to pass a law on reproductive health as the provisions of the bill are already contained in the Magna Carta of Women.

“We don’t need to legislate RH. The local government’s participation is already provided for in the Magna Carta of Women,” Zubiri, who co-authors the bill, said.

“We put in Magna Carta the need of women and family, not only pregnant mothers, for medical purposes of government,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri also expressed doubts that the proposed RH bill would be approved, citing the opposition of Enrile, Sotto and Honasan, who joined a prayer rally at the EDSA Shrine on Saturday to push for the blocking of the passage of the RH bill.

CBCP warning

Amidst reports that the voting on the termination of debates on the RH bill was being railroaded, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) executive secretary Fr. Melvin Castro warned supporters of the bill “not to push the Church against the wall.”

“The bishops will not think twice. It’s railroading. They’re destroying the very essence of democracy,” said Castro.

“Don’t push the Church against the wall. We are faithful and voters too. They cannot blame us if we vote according to how they vote... We will not dictate on the voters but the bishops can always issue stronger guidelines given the circumstances,” he said.

CBCP secretary-general Monsignor Joselito Asis said that while there is no “Catholic vote” and they would not directly dictate their flock who to vote in the 2013 polls, they would be more aggressive in “influencing” them to vote only for pro-life candidates.

If the bill is passed, he said he would regard President Aquino as someone “hard-hearted.”

“God have mercy on him and on us. We will not take this simply, 2013 is just around the corner,” he said. - With Eva Visperas, Danny Dangcalan, Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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