Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/June/09 by Elizabeth Angsioco
GIVING BIRTH IS NO JOKE. Labor pain is like no other. One will pray to all the saints for help. Or, swear at, and curse the husband for her great suffering.
When the baby is almost there, doctors usually say, “isang matinding iri pa!” The mother is often helped by nurses in the final push. If things go right, she will then hear her baby cry.
The struggle for the passage of the reproductive health bill is similar to giving birth. The pregnancy is quite long and problematic. But alas! We have reached the “final push” stage.
Last week was good for the RH bill. The Senate terminated the period of interpellation when Senator Juan Ponce Enrile withdrew his reservation to further ask questions.
Ensuing pronouncements from the House of Representatives were quite encouraging after its long hiatus from RH debates. Categorically, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said that the RH bill would form part of the House’s priorities upon resumption of sessions.
As expected, RH advocates were relieved.
But we should not be carried away. The struggle is not yet over and very important things must happen within a short period of time.
Indeed, the Senate has overtaken the House in processing the bill. Moreover, I believe that the Senate will reach the voting stage.
But the bill will not become a law if the House will not also pass it.
Everything must happen between August and September or within about 24 session days. This is the remaining window of opportunity. By August, the HOR will already start budget deliberations (this is the most important of all bills), and by October, all those running for the 2013 elections will file their Certificate of Candidacies, thus, officially bringing in the election season.
There’s the rub.
For the Senate, next is the period of amendments where besides the committee chaired by Sen. Pia Cayetano, all senators may propose their individual amendments to the bill. Then approval on second reading happens. Then the third and final reading when voting is most crucial.
If anti-RH legislators want to create further delays, discussions during the amendments period can take long and this will eat precious time.
The thing is, the authors cannot afford not to enter discussions because they would want to protect the integrity of the measure so the bill is not watered down.
Advocates also want the important (though controversial) provisions intact particularly those on access to family planning information and services, age-appropriate RH and sexuality education, prohibited acts, and budget. Without any of these, the law will be significantly less effective.
At the HOR, they first have to decide to terminate the interpellation period before proceeding to amendments and other phases.
Unlike the Senate, HOR has close to 300 members and the anti-RH block is more rabid. We can expect them to create trouble every inch of the way. It is much more complicated there than the Senate.
I say that the only way by which the HOR will be able to pass the RH Bill is if President Noynoy Aquino exerts his influence over it. One sure way is for Malacañang to certify the bill as urgent. This will set the wheels rolling fast. The HOR leadership will surely exert the political will to finish the business.
We have seen how quickly the HOR passed Malacañang-backed bills the latest of which is the sin tax measure. We need this one final push to ensure the RH bill’s passage. After all, the bill has served more than 15 years of jail time in Congress.
If there is a most crucial time for the pro-RH public to make the push, this is it. We need to make the clamor for Congress to vote on and pass the bill so loud that no lawmaker will be able to turn a deaf ear.
Now is the time for mainstream media to focus on RH, for social media to unrelentingly push lawmakers online, for bloggers to repeatedly write about the issue, for other churches to issue strong statements, for personalities to come out and call for the bill’s passage, for young people to make their voices clearly heard, for mothers to exact accountability from lawmakers, and for us, voters to tell politicians that we will vote only for pro-RH candidates.
The time has come. Together, let us make our one final push for the RH bill to pass. Isang matinding iri pa!
firstname.lastname@example.org and @bethangsioco on Twitter