Tuesday, February 1, 2011

House panel approves Reproductive Health (RH) Bill


MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives committee on population and family relations approved yesterday a consolidated version of several measures on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill despite a last-ditch effort of some lawmakers to block it.
Biliran Rep. Rogelio Espina, chairman of the panel, started the hearing by reporting that the technical working group has already come out with a consolidated version of House Bills 96, 101, 513, 1160, 1520 and 3387 authored by a total of 87 lawmakers.
The bill is titled “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development and for Other Purposes.”
He asked the members of the committee if there are any suggested amendments, to which Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia, a pro-life advocate, responded by saying that each provision of the consolidated bill must be debated first in the panel.
Espina agreed to discuss the consolidate bill and Garcia first asked why there was no mention of the constitutional provision protecting the rights of the family and the unborn.
“Are we skillfully avoiding such questions on protecting the life of unborn in this bill? Where is the provision that recognizes the sanctity of family life? Where’s the provision to protect the life of the unborn from conception?” Garcia said.
Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas said that the panel should approve the bill since the same measures have been extensively debated on in the previous Congresses and the consolidated bill would also undergo another grilling at the plenary.
Espina also cited the new rules of the 15th Congress that state that legislative work on bills that were nearly approved in the past Congress and re-filed in the present Congress should be fast-tracked.
“We have invited so many resource persons and experts who have testified not only in our hearings but also in previous Congresses. If we debate again, it would take us forever (to approve the bill),” Cagas said.
He moved that the committee vote on the consolidated bill and this was seconded by the panel’s vice chair, Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin.
After the panel approved the bill, House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman moved that the hearing be adjourned.
Buhay party-list Rep. Irwin Tieng registered his opposition to the bill while Garcia moved for the reconsideration of the approval of the bill.
Garcia, however, was ignored as the other committee members already stood up and ended the hearing just half an hour after it started.
Under the consolidated bill, the state shall “promote without bias all effective natural and modern methods of family planning that are medically safe and legal.”
It also mandates “age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education shall be taught by adequately-trained teachers in formal and non-formal educational system starting from Grade Five up to Fourth Year High School using life-skills and other approaches.”
The bill also calls for the integration of family planning and responsible parenthood in anti-poverty programs.
The bill linked high population to poverty but set no targets for the population growth rate.
There was no mention of appropriations for the bill.
Espina said the bill would be referred to the committees on rules and on appropriations. He said he expects the measure to be debated in the plenary next month.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) yesterday lauded the passage of the consolidated version of the RH bill at the House of Representatives-Committee on Population.
“We are happy now that it has been passed by the committee. It was a big step towards the approval of the bill. We were worried that the bill would be watered down but it did not happen,” said DSWP chair Elizabeth Angsioco.
Angsioco said they hope that although President Aquino had pronounced repeatedly in the past that the bill is important for his administration, he would certify it as an “urgent bill.”
She said that since there are still more than two years before the 15th Congress ends, there is a big possibility that the bill would pass the plenary.
“There is now enough time for the bill to be voted on in plenary. The bill has been pending in Congress for 16 years and we are hopeful that this time, it will pass,” Angsioco added.
Tandag, Surigao del Sur Bishop Nereo Odchimar, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said that they might pull out from their dialogue with Malacañang once they prove that the government has taken efforts to speed up the passage of the RH Bill which is now known as the Responsible Parenthood (RP) Bill.
Odchimar made the announcement at the closing of the CBCP’s 102nd Plenary Assembly held at the Pope Pius XII Center along United Nations Ave. in Manila.
The fate of the dialogue on the RP Bill would be more thoroughly discussed this February when
representatives from Malacañang and the CBCP meet for the third time.
When asked if the CBCP would pull out from the dialogue, he said they are not discounting the possibility. “At this point in time, we have not yet agreed to pull out. We have to still make a formal disengagement from this dialogue.
“As of now, we are still open but then that would
be discussed in all probability in the next meeting of the dialogue.”
CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) chairman Pampanga Archbishop
Paciano Aniceto said that they have decided to be open to the possibility of terminating the dialogue after they received information that the government appeared to be in a hurry to pass the proposed legislation.
“We read from the papers that they are fast tracking, with unusual haste, the prioritization for RH Bill,” said Aniceto. With Sheila Crisostomo, Evelyn Macairan

sourceBy Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star)      

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