SENATOR VIC SOTTO TO EXPOSE RH BILL LOBBY GROUPS


MANILA, AUGUST 13, 2012 (STANDARD) By Macon Ramos-Araneta - RH supporters slam Enrile’s delaying tactics.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III (photo) on Sunday said he will reveal today the international lobby groups behind the reproductive health bill and expose a “hidden provision” that would allow abortions to be performed.

“I will also explain why the RH bill is unnecessary in our country,” Sotto said in an advisory on the speech he will deliver today.

He earlier threatened to quit as majority leader to pursue an all-out campaign against the RH bill, but Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (photo at right, below) said there was no need for him to do so.

“Of course, we are replaceable. Any time I can be replaced as Senate president also,” Enrile said.

The RH bill seeks to establish a national policy on population management and to educate the Filipinos on the family planning options available to them.

The House of Representatives last week voted to end the debates on the proposed measure, which has been in Congress in varying forms for more than a decade.

In the Senate, the bill is already in the period of amendments, but Enrile said he wanted to reopen the debates so that he could ask further questions, a move that the RH supporters have criticized as a delaying tactic.

Enrile said he would not impose his stand on the RH bill on his colleagues in the Senate.

“My position on the RH bill is personal to me,” he said.

“I’m not convincing anybody to join me. It’s a matter of faith, conscience and, above all, it involves my notion of what is in the highest interest of the country,” Enrile said.

On Saturday, Senator Franklin Drilon said the Senate must wait for the results of the House vote before they acted on the bill.

The bill’s principal author in the Senate, Senator Pia Cayetano, vowed to press her colleagues to vote for the passage of the bill.

Cayetano said she was no longer surprised at what Enrile and Sotto were doing.

“They really don’t like the RH bill. We all know…they will do whatever they are capable of doing just to block its passage,” she said.

Cayetano, the bill’s co-sponsor Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, and Senator Panfilo Lacson are the only senators who have openly supported the bill in the Senate.

Cayetano admitted she did not know where the rest of her colleagues stood on the issue.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to end the plenary debates on the reproductive health bill, setting the stage for amendments and a vote on 2nd reading–dealing a blow to the Catholic Church that has lobbied heavily against the measure.

While the advocates of the bill claimed victory, President Benigno Aquino III reminded them that they needed to “perfect” the proposed law by including amendments aimed at appeasing the Church.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the bill’s principal author in the House, described the termination of the debates as an “emphatic validation by the people’s elected representatives of the periodic surveys that Filipinos want the enactment of the RH bill.”

The House has formed a committee that will work on the amendments to the bill, which will then go to the plenary for a second reading.

In a clear reference to the Catholic bishops who have launched a vigorous campaign against the bill, Lagman said the bill’s expected passage would be “an affirmation that public funds have no religion and can be used for the general welfare independent of the dogma of any church.”

But at a meeting Monday ahead of their vote to end the debates, the President reminded lawmakers of five of his own proposed amendments to the bill, and seven others that were the result of discussions with Catholic bishops last year.

Those included the removal of a provision that targets two children per family and specific population targets, which have already been excised from the consolidated measure that has been renamed the responsible parenthood bill that is still pending before Congress.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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