Published in Manila Standard Today on 28 January 2012
By Elizabeth Angsioco
People have asked why I haven’t written about the ongoing Senate impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona and I have consistently answered that it is because I want to see more.The first two weeks of the trial have at the very least shown us that with the present pace, this will most probably drag on for months. As Senator-Judge Gringo Honasan correctly observed, the trial is going faster in media than in the Senate.A lot of people have also worriedly asked what will happen to the reproductive health bill now that the impeachment trial is in full swing. I also answered that I would want to first see what both Houses of Congress would do in relation with their legislative functions, especially on important bills like RH, before saying anything.
Two session weeks have passed and the Senate has yet to resume RH interpellation. Even as it now acts as an impeachment court, the Senate has said that it would continue performing its legislative functions in the mornings. We were hoping that the sessions on the RH bill will continue on Monday, 30 January but I just received notice that it will not.
The House of Representatives which has close to 300 members almost did not do anything during its first session week. While some of the House members are involved in the prosecution panel and thus, are needed in the trial, more than 200 are not. That’s more than enough to constitute a quorum and enable the House to continue its sessions.
An irate House member called and complained that the House was almost empty! Why were a lot of representatives absent when Congress has just returned from a long break? Was their Christmas vacation not enough?
My source said that it seemed that the present House members were “expected” to be in the Senate to rally behind the prosecution. Air-conditioned buses were provided for use of those who would attend the impeachment hearings. These buses were scheduled to leave on an hourly basis. Thus, virtually nothing happened during the first week of the year.
Last Tuesday, the RH bill was on the day’s agenda. Scheduled to interpellate was Cebu Representative Gabriel Quisumbing. People thought that it again would not happen because the Honorable Rep. Quisumbing only appeared on the floor after making the plenary wait for a long time. The session had to be suspended while waiting for him. Note that Rep. Quisumbing was one of those who failed to appear in earlier sessions they were supposed to question the RH bill’s authors.
Yes, one anti-RH finished his turn but there was nothing the next session day.
While I agree that the impeachment trial is important, this should not be done at the expense of Congress’ legislative functions. Specifically, not at the expense of bills that will result to social justice like the RH bill.
The impeachment trial is in search of the truth about accusations levelled at Supreme Court Chief Justice Corona. This is about justice some people say.
But, what about social justice?
What about the 11 mothers dying daily due to pregnancy and childbirth complications? What about the couples, who, by virtue of their poverty, are without access to information and services that could help them plan their families and pursue a better quality of life?
What about our young people who remain ignorant about matters related with their reproductive health and rights? What about the hundreds of thousands of young girls who get pregnant yearly without even knowing the threat to life of teen-age pregnancy? What about the very alarming rates by which HIV and AIDS cases increase?
The RH bill is about justice. Social justice, which will directly affect the lives of the tens of millions of Filipino women who form half of our country’s population, the millions of families living in poverty but dreaming of a better future, the millions and millions of young people who are left without knowledge about their rights and life-skills they can use to become productive citizens of this country.
Our country’s leaders should know that outside of the impeachment process, most of our people continue to live their hard, harsh lives. While Senate is ascertaining the CJ’s fate, our people are busy trying to put food for their table, finding money for their children’s education and health, or simply struggling to stay alive.
Much as we want ordinary people to get involved in political issues such as the impeachment trial, they are too busy trying to stay afloat.
Their hardships will not be alleviated whether the CJ is convicted or acquitted. The impeachment trial is immaterial to them.
Thus, government, must not be single-minded. It must be able to multi-task and simultaneously address pressing social issues.
President Benigno Aquino’s resolve to remove CJ Corona should be the same resolve he needs to exercise so the RH bill passes. After all, in many instances, he has already declared his support for the bill. All he had to do is tell both Houses of Congress to do their job and already put the bill to a vote. I am more than 100 per cent sure that if the President does this, the vote will be taken and the bill passed.
If only the HOR and Senate leaderships will do their job as the representatives of the people, they will already close the RH interpellation, go through the period of amendments, and vote on the RH bill.
Nobody can claim that doing this is railroading the RH bill. It has been in Congress for more than 12 years. Its parent bill was first filed more than 16 years ago. All arguments for or against have been repeatedly, and thoroughly exhausted. I am pretty sure that legislators, even those who are quiet about their position are now ready to vote.
If this government wants social justice for the people, then the RH bill must already be voted on. There is no more reason for further delay. There is no reason to wait till the impeachment trial is over.
firstname.lastname@example.org and @bethangsioco on Twitter