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RH Bill edges towards decisive vote

Senate ends drawn out debate to speed up process for final decision

Miriam Defensor-Santiago, left, is a main sponsor of the bill Miriam Defensor-Santiago, left, is a main sponsor of the bill
  • by ucanews.com reporters, Manila
  • Philippines
  • June 7, 2012
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A divisive piece of legislation fiercely opposed by the Church took a step closer to a final vote yesterday after the Senate ended a long, drawn out debate that has involved years of wrangling.

Advocates for the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill today hailed the move, saying it paves the way for last amendments to be made before a final vote in August.

The bill aims to provide access to methods and information on birth control and maternal care. However, the Church says the bill will introduce artificial family planning measures, which go against its pro-life beliefs and undermine the premise of responsible parenting, which it advocates.

Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the main sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said the bill will likely pass in August or before year's end.

“I will be very happy if this happens because the RH bill has been pending for decades in Congress,” she said in a posting on her Facebook page.

Another leading proponent, Romeo Dongeto, said the end of the struggle was now in sight.

“This measure has been subjected to debates for more than 10 years already and all possible questions have been raised and answered by the contending parties within and outside the halls of Congress,” the executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation said.

The House of Representatives, meanwhile, closed its session today without examining the RH bill, but Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said it would be high on the Lower House’s priority list when they return next month.

Belmonte, who supports the bill, said they will try to push for an early vote.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines responded by saying it will maintain its campaign against the bill.

“Our prayer is for the senators not to amend but rather reject the RH bill,” said Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the bishop’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.

“We will not only pray for them but even fast for them if need be,” he said.

“We will also continue to explain to the public and the lawmakers that we don’t need this kind of law in order to address the health concerns of mothers and women.”

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