RH BILL: HOUSE TO START PERIOD OF AMENDMENTS / PRO-RH SEEK 10 CHANGES


[PHOTO -Majority Leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales Jr. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO]

MANILA, AUGUST 15, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Karen Boncocan - After hurdling the period of debates, the controversial Reproductive Health bill will now face another challenge when the House of Representatives enters the period of amendments this Tuesday.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Raymond Palatino said that lawmakers were informed that amendments to House Bill 4244 will be taken up at the plenary. The session will start at 4:00 p.m.

In the period of amendments, lawmakers may propose amendments to certain provisions of the bill.

House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II said panels for pro and anti-RH bill lawmakers will be created to iron out issues with the proposed measure.

After the period of amendments, the lawmakers will then vote on the bill on second and third readings.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, the proponent of the bill, said he will attend the session to witness the deliberation even he was mourning the loss of his mother , Cecilia, who passed away Monday.

“I will be in Congress this afternoon. I will be present during the period of amendments,”

Lagman said in a text message to reporters.

Pro-RH lawmakers seek 10 changes By Leila B. Salaverria Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:19 am | Thursday, August 16th,

At the behest of President Benigno Aquino, proponents announced Wednesday proposed 10 changes in the reproductive health (RH) bill to make it more acceptable, including deletion of any reference to family size and the classification of contraceptives as essential medicines.

The entire section of the consolidated bill which recommended an ideal family size to Filipinos was deleted, in deference to the wishes of the President, said Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, who was to introduce the alterations at the start on Tuesday of the period of amendments in the plenary.

The proposed changes—reached weeks before the Palace meeting with congressmen last week—suggest that the bill is not a population control measure and amend provisions that tie responsible parenthood and family planning components to antipoverty programs, according to its authors.

However, opponents of the measure, for the second straight day yesterday, managed to block discussions on the changes by delivering privilege speeches.

Lagman, principal author of the RH bill, said that the deletion of the section on family size was made to allay apprehensions that the measure was intended to impose a two-child policy.

He said that the deleted provision was never meant to be compulsory in the first place.

The authors of the RH bill also agreed to scrap the section classifying family planning supplies, including contraceptives, as essential medicines, according to Lagman.

This would be replaced by a new provision directing the Food and Drug Administration to determine the safety and efficacy of supplies for modern family planning methods prior to their procurement and distribution.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said some of the proposed amendments dealt with softening language to remove contentious phrases to appease critics, led by the powerful Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

He stressed this did not necessarily mean that the intent of the RH bill would be diluted.

On August 6, hours after a meeting with the President, a majority of the congressmen in a voice vote ended debates on the bill to bring it to the period of amendments.

The swiftness of the Congress action was denounced by the CBCP as a display of “naked power” reminiscent of the impeachment in December of then Chief Justice Renato Corona. The bishops however insisted they have the numbers to squelch the measure

Foreign agencies denounced

In the Senate Wednesday, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto in the second part of his turno en contra speech on the floor denounced foreign agencies, including the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations and the World Bank, for promoting population control.

Last week, the country representative of the UN Population Fund said that the passage of the RH bill was essential to the Philippines reaching its millennium development goals of reducing poverty.

The Senate leadership has been accused of siding with the Catholic Church in blocking passage of the bill in the upper chamber. The period of interpellation has been closed, but was reopened after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he still had questions on the measure which he was unable to ask because of his preoccupation as presiding judge in the recent impeachment trial of Corona.

Another proposed amendment in the House version of the RH bill seeks to change the age at which mandatory reproductive health and sex education would start, according to its authors. Under the new version, sex education would begin in the sixth grade instead of the fifth.

The teaching of values formation would take into account religious affiliation. The subjects to be included in sex education would include proper and responsible sexual values and behavior, delayed entry into sexual relations, abstinence before marriage, avoidance of multiple sexual partners, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

Parents would also be given the option not to allow minor children to attend reproductive health and sexuality education classes to respect religious convictions and beliefs.

The proponents also agreed to delete the section on employers’ responsibilities on RH services for their employees.

Other proposals include:

Funding of mobile health-care services for districts by the national government, instead of the pork barrel of politicians.

Rephrasing prohibited acts and refusal to perform legal and medically safe RH procedures on the ground of lack of marital or parental consent and clarifying actions expected of a conscientious objector to certain family planning practices, and prohibiting pharmaceutical companies from colluding with government officials or contributing to partisan political activities.

Revoking the license of pharmaceutical companies or its agents, and fining them for violating the law.

Emphasizing that the state would fund the promotion of modern natural methods of family planning consistent with the needs of acceptors.

Guaranteeing religious freedom and the option of hospitals owned by religious groups in the provision of a full range of modern family planning methods. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra, Jocelyn R. Uy and Cathy C. Yamsuan


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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