Senate ratifies RH bill

The Senate on Wednesday ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, now leaving up it up to President Benigno Aquino III to sign the measure into law.

The Senate had earlier passed the RH measure on third and final reading with a 13-8 vote last Monday. In an interview with reporters, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he registered a negative vote again to be "consistent." "My vote is a matter of conscience, faith and my notion of the national good so I cannot. Either way, they have the numbers to pass it," he said. The Senate made the ratification after the bicameral conference committee approved a unified version of the two versions of the Senate and House of Representatives. Among the important provisions passed by the bicam are: the requirement of parental consent from minors who are not yet married or are with children; the mandatory reproductive health education for those aged 10 to 19 years old; and the responsibility of the national government to assist local government units in the distribution of RH services. After ratification, the bill will be submitted to President Benigno Aquino III for signing. Thankful Sen. Pia Cayetano, co-author and co-sponsor of the RH bill, said she was thankful to the Senate and House panels for "working collectively to come up with a unified version of the RH bill." "I defended the RH bill Senate version faithfully even though it was hard because of amendments I did not agree with.

In the end, I believe we have a RH bill that is better than it was when it left each House. Not perfect, but better," she said. In a press conference earlier in the day, RH bill co-authors House deputy majority leader and Iloilo Rep. Janet Garin and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman were also thankful for the passage of the measure. Garin said she was thankful to the lawmakers who were initially against the bill but who eventually accommodated their wishes. "Pinapasalamatan din namin sila sa kanilang pagtugon sa panawagan ng lahat...the common goal of everybody was to come up with a legislative measure that will really answer the need of the Philippines," she said. Lagman, on the other hand, thanked the trimedia and the social media for its "enduring support" for the measure. "We are happy that both Houses now have decided in accord [with] the sentiments of our constituents as reflected in survey after survey that they want this bill to be enacted into law," he said. But Lagman admitted the possibility that the measure may be contested before the Supreme Court. "All controversial measures will reach the Supreme Court, this will not be an exception," he said. He noted however, that they are going to "win the final round in the Supreme Court because [the RH bill is] truly constitutional." The RH bill seeks to improve public access to reproductive health services, including natural and artificial family planning options. It also promotes better maternal care, responsible parenthood, and youth education on sexual and reproductive health issues. The Catholic Church has staunchly opposed the bill. — BM, GMA News