In historic 113-104 vote, House approves RH bill on second reading
Through an initial voice vote, the RH bill—formally known as House Bill 4244—moved a step closer to passage at the chamber, after surviving more than a year of plenary debates and a two-week amendment period.
“Obviously, the crowd at the back joined the nay voting. The ayes have it,” Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, presiding officer, declared during Wednesday’s session.
Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco immediately called for a nominal vote to verify the results of the voice vote. In the end, a close 113-104 vote with three abstentions solidified the passage of the RH bill on second reading.
The vote marked the first time the House approved on second reading a bill on reproductive health. For over a decade and spanning five Congresses, similar versions of the RH bill either languished at the committee level or got stalled during the period of plenary debates in the lower chamber.
The House approved on second reading the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill in a close 113-104 vote with three abstentions. Find out how the voting went down.
Several Roman Catholic bishops were present at the House gallery when the RH bill was approved on second reading.
The Roman Catholic Church, which supports only natural forms of birth control, opposes the RH bill because it promotes artificial forms of contraception. In the Philippines, more than 80 percent of the nearly 100 million Filipinos are Roman Catholics.
After being approved on second reading, the RH bill will have to get another majority vote from House members for it to be passed by the chamber. At the Senate, the measure is still pending on second reading.
For almost five hours, the House allowed each lawmaker to explain his or her vote on the RH bill.
During the nominal voting, critics of the RH bill argued that the measure will violate tenets of the Roman Catholic faith, promote promiscuity, and duplicate existing laws.
Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy party-list Rep. Pastor Alcover Jr., an RH bill critic, even called the measure communist-inspired, an “evil bill” that will “destroy choice and divide the nation."
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, one of the bill's most vocal oppositors, said the proposed legislation will “destroy the moral and religious foundation” of the country. “This bill is not about reproductive health. This is about killing the unborn. This bill does not protect life. It prevents and ends life.”
Ang Galing Pinoy Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo meanwhile said he decided to reject the RH bill because of his Roman Catholic beliefs. “Hindi ko po maaaring isuko ang aking pagiging Katoliko. I always try my best to follow the teachings of my Church,” Arroyo said.
Davao Oriental Rep. Thelma Almario, for her part, argued that the government should not enact a law that will limit population growth. “I’d like that in my lifetime, we will have more countries with Filipinos. We need more Filipinos so we can Filipinize the world!"
Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez meanwhile said the RH bill is a “mere reiteration of what the government must do.”
“What is good on paper is not necessarily good in practice. All the purported things that this bill wants to accomplish are already covered by a multitude of laws,” said Alvarez.
‘Not about religion’
Supporters of the RH bill countered that the proposed legislation is “not about religion” but about “sustainable” human development.
DIWA party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay said the RH bill was not crafted for a particular religion, but to ensure “the obligation of the state to all religions.”
“To reject the RH bill is to discriminate against the poor. I am not against life. I am against ignorance,” the party-list congresswoman said.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño meanwhile defended the provision on sexuality education in the RH bill by saying that it will not promote promiscuity among Filipino youth. “I studied in a Catholic school. Itinuro po sa amin ang sexuality education Grade 4 pa lang. Hindi naman po ako lumaking manyak!”
For his part, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, primary proponent of the RH bill, said the measure is all about ensuring the protection of human rights. “The bill does not follow a particular family planning method. The choice belongs to couples and women. The bill pursues a sound population policy that addresses the population issue,” he said. — KBK/DVM/HS, GMA News