Apply transparency, democracy in RH House proceedings?concerned citizens

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MANILA, August 13, 2012—Due to the manner in which the reproductive health (RH) bill was handled in the Lower Chamber last week, concerned citizens are dismayed and doubtful as to whether or not the House of Representatives is really acting on behalf of the people  whom its members are supposedly  representing.

“Why is the Congress so afraid of nominal voting? I think it is right and proper that our representatives explain to the Filipino people out in the open why they would vote a yes or a no,” said Dr. Juvy Anne Agravante of Cebu.

“This bill has been pending for so long and has divided our people. We who have voted them into office have a right to know whether they are really representing the sentiments of their constituents,” the physician added.

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. Viva voce (live voice) voting refers to voting by speech – saying “aye” or “nay” (yes or no) instead of by written or printed ballot.

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.

Some 180 solons attended the meeting held in Malacanang.

“I have always given the government the benefit of the doubt that they are being democratic about the processes, but what happened during the eventful week is inexcusable,” said educator Trish Castro of Laguna.

As news of last week’s activity in the House spread all over the media, even Filipinos overseas expressed distaste for the manner in which the controversial measure was being handled by lawmakers who seemed unwilling to honor previously scheduled and agreed-on procedures and who demonstrated an obvious desire to rush the bill’s passage.

“If this is the way they work in the Congress, I won’t be surprised if indeed this RH bill will pass into law soon, by hook or by crook. Actually, more by crook the way they’re doing it. I really hope and pray the Filipino people and other anti-RH congressmen will not allow such unfair play to go on,” said Rowena Mendoza De Guzman, who is part of the large Filipino community in California, USA.

“The Filipino people’s future and lives are at stake here. It is really dismaying to see that this is the way politics is done in the Philippines. People have no respect whatsoever for due process and democracy. We need to pray a lot for these people, that they may be enlightened to do the right thing.”

“Obviously there’s vested interest in all this pushing for the RH bill. It’s all about the money. It’s no longer because of principles or to really help the Filipinos towards development,” Apple Suemith, a Filipina teacher in Indonesia, pointed out.

“The United Nations promises a lot of money to those who will institutionalize population control. If they read the population control holocaust, and the damage it has done to many lives, they will think twice about voting for this bill,” Suemith added.

Some, such as Ochie Bumanglag-Dinoso, point to senseless claims  that the population control bill as necessary given the problem of overpopulation – a “problem” which has been repeatedly debunked by demographers.

“I am already shocked to find out that the Philippines’ birth rate as it is, is below the replacement level – as set by the UN – meaning we are no longer replacing our own people,” said Dinoso, who resides in Maryland, USA.

“This endangers the positive economic projections that are based on a huge and young workforce. Given this, I do not see the logic for the RH bill. It is like committing suicide. We will end up becoming extinct as a people!”

“For sure, a lot has already been said about the RH bill going against the values and belief of our people, and how it is against morals and that this bill is intrinsically evil — I agree with all that,” she added.

Some 230 members of the Lower House were present to vote for the termination of the debates on the measure Monday last week.

Those who objected to the termination of debates and stood up to push for sticking to the original August 7 schedule were Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas, and Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay.

With the end of interpellations comes the start of the period of amendments.

Fr. Melvin Castro of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (CBCP-ECFL), who was present during the August 6 proceedings, was saddened over the turn of events.

“They break their own rules. They really forced it… It’s railroading. They’re destroying the very essence of democracy,” he said after the plenary session.

At the Senate, where interpellations on the bill were terminated ahead of the House, Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III is scheduled to deliver his turno en contra today. (CBCP for Life)

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