Controversial RH bill vote lacks transparency
MANILA, Nov. 27, 2012—For a highly controversial population control bill that has divided the nation and generated criticism for pouring billions into the purchase and distribution of birth control supplies, including abortifacients, the apparent resistance of pro-reproductive health (RH) solons to nominal voting in moving the substitute RH bill forward has put the spotlight on the lack of transparency in legislative proceedings.
The Lower House accepted the substitute bill as the new one under consideration through viva voce voting by the 174 members present. Viva voce (live voice) voting refers to voting by speech – saying “aye” or “nay” (yes or no) instead of by written or printed ballot.
Seconds later, after Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia moved for nominal voting, ALAGAD Party-List Representative Rodante Marcoleta moved for adjournment.
Deputy Speaker Crispin Remulla hence declared session adjourned till the following day.
Nominal voting refers to a scheme in which lawmakers cast their votes one by one and will be allowed to explain their votes on the bill.
Reminiscent of August 6 sudden end of debates?
Observers and pundits have pointed out that the apparent aversion to nominal voting was reminiscent of an incident that took place also at the Lower House: On the afternoon of August 6, majority of the lawmakers voted viva voce for the termination of the debates on the RH measure, following their meeting with President Benigno Aquino III earlier that day. The vote had originally been scheduled for August 7.
Pro-life solons stand up
Garcia, a staunch critic of the P3.6 billion measure, earlier questioned the validity of the substitute bill, discussing matters of committee amendments, individual amendments and unanimous consent with Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II and HB 4244 principal author Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.
The Cebu lawmaker took over from Palawan Representative Dennis Socrates who was the first to take the podium as soon as Gonzalez moved to have the RH bill taken up.
Socrates objected to the proceeding due to a pending motion made by Paranaque Representative Roilo Golez on August 15 to postpone consideration of HB 4244. After a few minutes of discussion on the floor between Socrates, Remulla and Gonzales, the motion was denied.
Socrates, however, made a continuing objection – an objection that can be raised again until it is resolved by a vote – which the Deputy Speaker officially noted.
RH bill being passed is ‘catastrophic for our country’
“It’s really holding action – holding back the enemy as far as we can. And ’delaying’ presumes that there is a right for something to proceed. [The bill] has no right to be there even in the first place; it never should have been filed in the first place,” he said.
“So we have to do everything we can to prevent it from maturing into a law, and if we can stop it in its tracks altogether at any given point, that would be the best.”
The earlier the measure is buried, the better, he said, and pointed out that pro-lifers need to do what they can “by whatever means, as long as it’s moral, as long as it’s allowed by the rules. We have to do everything to stop it.”
The Palawan congressman said that if the RH bill passes, it would be “catastrophic for our country.”
What would be a step in the right direction is for “Catholics to vote as Catholics,” Socrates said.
‘Catholic vote’ on the rise
“I think there has to be a Catholic vote, although of course the Catholic Church… does not have ‘commands.” People are free. It’s a religion of freedom and love, because love is not possible without freedom. It has to be free, it’s never compelled,” he explained.
The lawmaker expressed his hope in people eventually seeing the truth, “but it’s hard without grace. There are truths that are really difficult to grasp by the human intellect alone, we need faith to understand the issue of life.”
Socrates also said that the coming elections – set on May 13, 2013 – can be “a defining election, where I hope Catholics vote as Catholics, and therefore make the RH issue the most decisive consideration.”
He added that he is optimistic the campaign will prosper, with at least a negative Catholic vote guiding the Filipino people despite the absence of a positive Catholic vote.
“There might not be a positive Catholic vote because it’s not in our tradition to identify people to vote for. But at least we know people who are really against us, whose values, whose advocacies are contrary to our faith, to our culture – we should vote against them,” he explained.
“We should not allow our government to be dominated by that kind of philosophy, that kind of culture. It’s a vote against a particular world view, a particular philosophy, let’s put it that way – not so much the person but whatever advocacy they carry,” the lawmaker continued.
“If they’re going to use their position to compel everybody to contracept, cheapen the marital act, devalue the family, devalue life, then we should not vote for them.” (CBCP for Life)