Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives during its session saw a different kind of anger—that of the angry Nanays. And yes, it was over the delaying tactics used against the reproductive health bill.
The past two weeks of the Occupy for RH (O4RH) saw the daily rallies at the HOR gate mostly by mothers calling on the House to already terminate the interpellation process and take the vote on this bill which has been extensively and exhaustively debated on for more than a decade.
Through all the Congresses that subjected the RH bill to the legislative mill, the advocates have always been quite reasonable and disciplined. They never lost their cool. They never violated any rule of both Houses of Congress even at times when they could have complained because of the seeming preferential treatment (especially in the HOR) given to anti-RH groups.
RH advocates, to be able to enter the plenary hall, have to come hours before sessions start, wait under the hot sun or rains, line up, go through the several layers of security checks one by one, and are always positioned at the second or third levels of the gallery.
On the other hand, nuns, priests, and their groups have been seen entering through the main lobby’s side entrances without any problem. Also, they almost always get the choice seats—those said to be reserved for VIPs.
No, our Nanays never complained for many years.
They kept their emotions under control even if there were many times most felt like lashing at the lawmakers who very obviously have been making a mockery of the legislative process.
Nobody wanted to disrespect the Honorable Representatives.
The O4RH is a movement that is Nanay-led and managed. Most booths are maintained by women, simple fare is prepared and cooked by mothers, activities are mostly planned and implemented by mothers, education sessions are conducted heavily by women, and the rallies are attended to a more significant degree by Nanays. And mind this, these are community women. They run their homes and manage their families, as well as the movement.
This is how committed these Nanays are to the RH cause. After all, they KNOW and LIVE the problems that the bill wants to address.
And what do the Nanays get for their incessant calls on lawmakers to already stop the talks and instead take the vote on this very crucial bill? More delaying tactics employed by anti-RH lawmakers and NOTHING from the HOR leadership.
In short, our Nanays are IGNORED by the people’s representatives.
Remember that it was Speaker Sonny Belmonte who earlier publicly said that the bill would be voted on this December.
The Speaker, in a meeting with advocates also said that he would come up with rules that will guide the interpellation so it would be efficient.
The promise of a December vote was repeated to the advocates.
As of this writing, the rules have yet to be released and the vote remains as a big question.
RH advocates again wrote the Speaker requesting for another dialogue. So far, there has been no answer despite repeated follow ups.
For the Nanays to decide to do O4RH was a huge decision. They sensed the inertia that seemed to have engulfed the HOR leadership and they were keenly aware of the dilatory tactics employed by RH opponents. The Nanays knew the sacrifices it would entail but readily met the challenges heads on.
Thus, one cannot blame them for getting angry when day in and day out they witness the parade of Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, Troopers, Pajeros, Hummers and all sorts of luxury vehicles entering the gates of the HOR with their passengers, their REPRESENTATIVES, turning a deaf ear and blind eye to them.
One cannot blame the Nanays for getting angry when they knew that millions of public money is wasted by Team Delay members Representatives Raul Daza and Amado Bagatsing who lengthily discussed boxing instead of the RH bill, and Rep. Pablo Garcia for his privilege speech lambasting RH bill proponents.
Last Wednesday’s outburst of the Nanays inside the HOR Plenary happened because they have been very angry over how anti-RH legislators continue to play games with their lives.
The long list of interpellators was one reason cited by Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales Jr. on why the bill may not be voted this December. But how could the list become shorter when there are no clear rules to go by?
How could the list be shorter when those who are scheduled to interpellate absent themselves from the sessions?
Last Wednesday, 184 HOR members made the quorum during the roll call. RH was number one in the Order of Business for the day. But Cebu Reps. Pablo John Garcia and Gabriel Quisumbing, who were scheduled to do the interpellation, were both absent!
Because there was no interpellator, the Bill was pushed down in the agenda. The session was suspended many times as if the Plenary was looking for something to do.
Resolutions were read, first reading of new bills was done, the 2012 General Appropriations Act was ratified earlier than usual, other bills came in.
The Nanays were patiently, quietly waiting for the RH Bill to be called.
Leyte Rep. Sergio Apostol, known to always question the quorum when RH is on the floor, agreed to do the interpellation. However, instead of immediately doing his job, Apostol went to the lounge next to the plenary to have his merienda! Because he was nowhere to be found, the session was again suspended. This suspension was the longest for this day.
Imagine the whole plenary unable to work because the Honorable Rep. Apostol was having his snack!
Eventually, Reps. Romero Quimbo (Marikina) and Rodolfo Farinas (Ilocos Norte) found and called him. The session was resumed but still, Apostol did not immediately return to the Plenary. When he did, he was heard to have said to people that he was having stomach ache.
As soon as the resumption was called, Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, who was to respond to Apostol, immediately stood up and went to her rostrum. She was there waiting for sometime for Apostol.
When at last Apostol went to his place, before the interpellation started, Rep. Bag-ao manifested a parliamentary inquiry. She asked about the status of the RH bill since it has been in the HOR for many years. Bag-ao asked the Speaker if the bill would be voted on within December.
Hearing this, Apostol repeatedly shouted that Bag-ao was grandstanding. It was at this point when the usually quiet and cooperative Nanays suddenly shouted from the second floor gallery protesting the delaying tactics against the RH bill. The Nanays got fed up!
To this, Apostol motioned for adjournment because according to him, the gallery was unruly. The Nanays did not stop the shouting and the Speaker ordered the security to bring them out of the plenary.
What happened definitely showed that the Nanays are already losing patience with how Congress is treating the RH bill. And when Nanays are angry, we should take notice.
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