Aquino praises Congress for RH victory, says he wants five kids

Even as legislators credited his last-minute certification of the Reproductive Health Bill as "urgent" for its swift passage in the bicameral Congress, President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said the victory for the legislation rightfully belongs to lawmakers and the bill's advocates. “Let’s give credit where credit is due. I’d really like to say alalay lang ako doon. It’s Congress who decided,” Aquino said during the Bulong Pulong with members of the media in Manila. After the bill squeaked through with a 114-103 vote on second reading at the House of Representatives well past midnight Wednesday last week, Aquino certified the measure as urgent, paving the way for its approval on third and final reading in both houses of Congress on Monday. The President downplayed his role however, saying, “Members of Congress went really through tremendous pressure and at the end of the day, I can’t say I facilitated it. All I can say is I assisted because I really believe in the objectives of the measure. "To claim any credit for it—even an equal credit—is, I think, presumptuous and improper on my part,” he explained. RH Bill advocates have hailed the president’s “strong political will” as instrumental in the passage of the bill, which the Catholic Church strongly opposed. The measure promotes the use of both natural and artificial forms of birth control, youth education on reproductive health, and responsible parenthood. The bill will now go to the bicameral committee composed of representatives from both chambers, which will submit a unified legislation that has to be ratified by their colleagues before it can be submitted to President Aquino for enactment into law. His Christmas wish, Aquino said, is to have public unity as it would make his job easier. Once the law is passed, the President said lawmakers who were on different sides of the fence must set aside their differences for the sake of Filipino women and children. “When it becomes a law, let us move on to ensure that all the positive attributes of the bill really is what happens. Let us not treat people who have divergent opinions as the enemy. There are no enemies within the country. Between Filipinos, we shouldn’t treat each other as the enemy,” Aquino said. Aquino also reminded lawmakers that although debates may have become heated at times, there were no winners or losers in the RH bill issue. “This was not a battle where there are victors and losers. This is a battle where the country can be, especially the women and the children, can be victors. We have to work to ensure that everybody is committed to doing that,” he said. Five children? Asked about his own plans for a family, the 52-year-old Aquino quipped that he would want as many as five children. “I really want a family the same size as the family that I grew up with. Parang may balance with five,” said Aquino, who has four sisters. The bachelor President, himself one of five siblings, is the only son of martyred ex-senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino. However, the President was quick to point out that--in keeping with the recently passed RH Bill--the future Mrs. Aquino would definitely have a say in the number of their children. “But five will be too much now for any woman that I’ll be courting at this point. So can I just answer the question but that number is negotiable—especially for the person who will be bearing the children,” Aquino said. — DVM/YA, GMA News

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