By Elizabeth Angsioco | Posted on September 15, 2012 @ Manila Standard Today
What is House Speaker Sonny Belmonte doing to expedite the process on the reproductive health bill?
This was the question raised by various organizations advocating for the bill’s passage in their last meeting. All expressed frustration over the seemingly inactive stance the Speaker is taking on the controversial but crucial proposed measure.
When former Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte became Speaker of the House of Representatives, many groups rejoiced knowing that he is pro-RH. After all, Mayor SB supported the passage of the city’s RH Code, making it the first to have one in the National Capital Region.
We thought he would lead the HOR in expediting the process on the RH bill.
That was in 2010.
Belmonte has been in office for more than two years and yet, the bill continues to be in limbo in the House that he leads.
Since he assumed office, RH advocacy leaders have had several meetings with him and always, he would give a time frame as to when the HOR process would continue.
During one meeting in 2011 when advocates expressed serious apprehension over the delaying tactics employed by anti-RH lawmakers through endless interpellation using repetitive questions, religious and moralizing arguments, and questioning the quorum, the Speaker promised that they would implement existing rules and craft needed ones to help address the situation.
No rules ever came out from his office and the anti-RH House members continued to reign over the plenary, delaying the bill at every step of the way.
Remember those who were supposed to interpellate but said they were not ready? Those who insisted they would take the floor only to absent themselves when their turns came?
Who would forget those who, to prevent RH from being discussed, chose to ramble about boxing in the halls of the People’s House? Or that Honorable Representative who had the whole House waiting for him to interpellate because he was taking his merienda in their lounge?
Did Belmonte exercise leadership during those times? Barely, if ever.
It took the President of the country to end the period of interpellation in the HOR. No thanks to Speaker Belmonte. Para yatang nakakahiya ito, Mr. Speaker.
People wonder why despite several media statements indicating targets for the HOR process on the bill, the Speaker has done nothing substantial to achieve what he publicly declared.
Those of us who frequent the House to monitor developments on the RH bill rarely see Belmonte in the plenary. We know that he is supposed to do other things and can readily monitor from his office what goes on in the hall. But his absence I think emboldens those against the bill to just go on creating problems.
Absent sa Plenaryo is Speaker noong nagwala si Kagalanggalang na Kinatawan Rufus Rodriguez. Didn’t the Speaker even care that the House was being turned into a carnival? Nakakahiya po, Mr. Speaker.
It is worrisome that since then, the RH process has again been put on hold. Sadly, we did not hear a word from the Speaker about Rep. Rodriguez’ unbecoming behavior. Does this mean that all it takes to continuously derail the process is for anti-RH House members to throw tantrums during plenary?
If this is the case, the RH bill is doomed.
Then came the news that a Technical Working Group (TWG) that will include the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will be formed to renegotiate the contents of the RH bill.
I understand that this was not the Speaker’s idea. But it does not need rocket science to know that again, this would only create more delays. Again, there was nothing from the Speaker until after the CBCP said they will not take part in the TWG.
What the bill needs in the HOR is for its leadership to show political will. Speaker Belmonte is key here.
President Benigno Aquino, Jr. has repeatedly said that he is for the passage of the RH bill. He even met with the HOR members on this. The ball is in the hands of the Speaker and other House leaders.
Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales, through the media asked the President to again lead the House on the RH issue. We know that the majority floor leader would not say things without the Speaker’s approval. Is this an admission that the HOR leadership is without a backbone that they would again rely on the President to move the process forward?
I say, IF the President moves and the House votes on the RH bill, the people will be thankful to the President, not the House leadership.
Paging Speaker Belmonte!
firstname.lastname@example.org and @bethangsioco on Twitter.