The Occupy for RH (O4RH) movement is about to enter its second week. More and more tents are added as other organizations join the urgent call on Congress to immediately take the vote on the reproductive health bill.
The O4RH groups are also thankful for food and other forms of support sent by generous citizens. Knowing that people understand the situation keeps the spirits of “occupants” high.
While the O4RH is going on, so are the delaying tactics employed by anti-RH members of the House of Representatives. Last Tuesday for instance, veteran and known rabid RH oppositors took the floor one by one. They used technicalities and used precious time up before the RH bill, which was on the day’s agenda, could be discussed.
After a quorum was established, Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia delivered a privilege speech that ironically also touched on the RH bill. Garcia had to be reminded that the bill is already under plenary deliberation and had to be asked twice by the Speaker to wind up his speech before acceding.
Right after Garcia, Samar Rep. Raul Daza, also anti-RH, followed suit with a “personal and collective privilege,” the second highest motion (next to motion to adjourn) per the HOR Rules.
Daza talked about a letter to the editor calling for fellow Congressman and boxing champion Manny Paquiao’s resignation from the HOR. He talked lengthily and in detail about boxing, his personal experience on this, how a match is judged, the scores given by the judges to both Pacquiao and Marquez, how many punches were released by both fighters, what power punches were, etc., etc. He ended by saying that Manny Pacquiao should be honored because he won not only as a boxer and a Representative but as a Filipino.
When Daza finished, another anti-RH veteran, Manila’s Rep. Amado Bagatsing, rose to interpellate Daza. And the two men continued to banter about boxing and Manny Pacquiao on the plenary for sometime.
While this was going on, those in the gallery could plainly see House members, especially those against the RH bill, already leaving. When finally the bill was called for continuance of interpellation, it was difficult to say if a quorum was still present.
Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo took the floor to ask questions. As expected, Romualdo offered no new arguments. Instead, he insisted that: because contraceptives prevent pregnancies, then they cause abortions; contraceptives are cancerous; there already are enough laws on this; the RH bill is unconstitutional; and is immoral and against the law of God. All these (and more) have been previously and repeatedly asked and adequately answered.
After about an hour, it was already clear that there was no more quorum. Romualdo then asked that the session be suspended. Yes, the anti-RH camp again succeeded in delaying the process.
But at what cost the delays?
RH advocates assert that because of the delays, eleven mothers continue to die daily. For 2010 alone, more than 4,000 perished. This number will be doubled this year. This should be enough to make legislators listen and act. But no, mothers lives seem to be of no interest to them.
So, let us approach the question differently. Let us look at congressional budgets.
The budget copy that is publicly available does not indicate Congress’ allocation per session. Moreover, while the lawmakers’ job entails other work such as Committee hearings, etc., their work is finalized in the Plenary during deliberations. Therefore, we will compute their budget per session against each House’s total allocations.
The 2010 HOR budget per the General Appropriations Act (GAA) was P5,553,575.00 and P5,277,094,000.00 for 2011. So far, the HOR has had 53 sessions in 2010. Each session day cost the people a whooping P104,785,433.96! For 2011, 92 sessions are scheduled and each one costs P57,359,717.39.
As far as the RH bill is concerned, the HOR had 11 sessions for this in 2010 and six in 2011. Literally, the people spent P1,496,798,077.90 on these sessions on the RH bill.
Each session on the average lasts for about 2.5 hours. Thus, in 2010, we paid about P698,659.56 per minute of these sessions and P382,398.12 per minute for 2011. Imagine the amount of people’s money spent on our legislators who come up with absurd, even stupid arguments on issues. We pay them to preach their religion inside Congress, to talk about boxing lengthily, we even pay them to allow deaths of mothers to continue!
As far as the Senate goes, its 2010 budget was P2,757,421,000 and P2,620,077,000 for 2011. Each of the 53 session days in 2010 cost the people P52,026,811.32. For 2011, the cost is P28,479,097.83 (92 sessions). Thus, the people paid the Senate P346,845.41 PER MINUTE of session in 2010 and P189,860.65 per minute in 2011.
For the RH bill, the Senate used 15 session days that cost the people P427,186,467.45.
Thus, the people paid lots of money for Senator Tito Sotto to demand for copies of death certificates of mothers who died from maternal complications and for Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to say that masturbation is mass murder.
In total, both Houses of Congress spent P1,923,984,545.35 for the RH sessions. The P2 billion pesos could have been put to better use!
According to the Highlights of the 2009 Official Poverty Statistics released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), “… a Filipino family of five needed P4,869.00 monthly income to meet the basic food needs and P7,017.00 to stay out of poverty.”
Using these numbers, the money used by Congress to tackle the RH bill could have addressed the need for food of 410,762 families, or could have removed more than 285,000 families from the poverty line at one time.
Moreover, the numbers show that while anti-RH legislators vigorously reject government spending for family planning which is clearly wanted by the people, they do not have any qualms wasting billions of public money for their nonsensical arguments and delaying tactics against a bill that will surely save mothers’ lives.
The delays kill, in more ways than one.
Thus, advocates are determined to continue to Occupy for RH. This crucial bill must be put to a vote before Christmas. Mothers need this, the country needs this.
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