Senate Votes On RH Bill Today

MANILA, Philippines --- As members of the Senate head for another showdown over the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, Senate President Juan Ponce predicted that senators who are supportive of the measure will win as they vote on the bill on second reading today.

''That's my reading...the pro-RH senators have the numbers,'' Enrile said in Pilipino in an interview over radio DZBB yesterday, a day before the Senate is scheduled to vote on the controversial bill which President Benigno S. Aquino III has certified as urgent.

But Enrile did not discount the possibility that it would be a close vote again between pro and anti-RH senators as when the Senate voted on the bicameral conference committee report on the sin tax bill, another divisive issue among lawmakers, which split the Upper Chamber with a 10-9 voting.

''There's a probability that the voting may be very close...because a number of senators do not know their position on the RH bill yet. They are waiting to hear all the arguments and amendments (to be introduced) in the bill,'' said Enrile, who Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago earlier claimed is likely to face ouster for opposing administration-backed measures.

But already, Enrile admitted the RH bill has a strong possibility to be enacted into law.

Meanwhile, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle yesterday called on lawmakers to help prepare the ''straight path'' for the next generations by rejecting the RH bill.

The Cardinal, in his message for the nine-day Simbang Gabi (dawn mass), urged lawmakers to feel the spirit of Christmas by ensuring that the future generations will not be adopting a mindset the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has dubbed as something that ''corrupts the soul''.

''As the issue of the RH bill heats up again, I appeal to our legislators in the House of Representatives and the Senate to welcome Jesus with joy. His Word and Wisdom (and not just any human word or wisdom) is needed to form consciences,'' said Tagle.

''I pray that you may prepare a straight path for the Lord so that the Filipino people of today and those of coming generations may find true and lasting joy,'' he added.

In doing so, Tagle said they would be likened to St. John the Baptist, who helped prepare the world for the arrival of Jesus Christ.

The Cardinal also urged the faithful to make their congressmen realize that they would want to see the RH bill being rejected and eventually scrapped.

''I call on all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Manila to make their joy complete by turning away for what is contrary to the Gospel in order to follow Jesus,'' said Tagle.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is set to vote on the RH bill on final reading this week.

Liberal Party members should think twice before casting their no votes against President Aquino's certified-as-urgent RH bill as sanctions may be slapped against them.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali ''Boyet'' Gonzales II, a stalwart of LP who has been advocating RH bill's passage, made the stern warning as the House is set to put to vote the measure on third and final reading on Monday.

''The Liberal Party has made a stand after President Aquino certified the RH bill as an urgent measure. The message is very clear and the President is very serious on this advocacy to teach Filipinos to be responsible parents. It would not look good if you go against the party position,'' he said, hinting that LP members who would run against the party stand may be ''disciplined.''

The House leader expressed optimism that their 26 party members, led by Deputy Speaker and Zamboanga City Ma. Isabelle Climaco, who rejected the second reading approval of the RH measure last week would vote in favor of House Bill 4244 today.

''I believe that those who voted against the passage of the measure will have a change of heart,'' Gonzales said.

He did not elaborate on the sanctions that may be faced by their members once they vote against the bill, but he assured that LP ''will face that at proper time.''

Gonzales' fellow staunch supporter of RH bill, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. expressed confidence that they would remain victorious, anticipating a wider margin during the voting in favor of the bill.

''I am very confident that we will muster more yes votes. Definitely there will be a bigger margin when the voting ends in favor of RH bill's passage,'' Belmonte said.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a staunch oppositor of the RH measure, maintained his bloc's stand that they could muster the votes in today's voting.

''We expect to overcome the difference. The battleground is the 60-plus who did not come to the voting,'' he said.

Voting 113-104 with three abstentions, the House approved on second reading HB 4244 Thursday.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the principal author of HB 4244, branded as ''inordinate intransigence'' the continuing resistance of a few Catholic bishops and their lay allies after a clear majority in the

House has spoken in accord with the overriding resolve of the Filipino people in favor of the RH bill.

''It is not a surprise for Cabinet members of President Aquino to monitor developments in the approval of the controversial measure which has been endorsed by the President,'' he said. (With reports from Leslie Ann Aquino and Charissa Luci)