Will Philippine lawmakers show courage and vote on the RH bill?
International Women’s Day special
Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey (NJ) in the United States, last month vetoed a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriages in the said state. According to him, the issue should be up to the people of NJ to decide through a referendum. He described the set-up as a “bargain” for gay marriage advocates. Christie’s indecisiveness on the matter is understandable.
Supporting the initiative means alienating himself toward his party’s base – something he certainly wouldn’t want to happen since he is considered a Republican star. Many Republicans had earlier urged him to run in this year’s presidential elections against Barack Obama (he ultimately decided not to). On the other hand, coming out against the measure would mean being out-of-step with the majority of his constituents. A January 2012 poll by Quinnipiac revealed that 52% of NJ voters are supportive of gay marriages. Faced with such a dilemma, Christie chose the side of political caution.
Philippine lawmakers are also confronted by a similar predicament, particularly vis-à-vis the long-pending Reproductive Health (RH) bill. The proposed RH bill has been around since the 1990s but has gotten no clear traction toward passage for many years. The dillydallying of lawmakers on the subject is quite understandable.
The Catholic hierarchy remains steadfast in their opposition to the bill. One of their allies, ex Senator Francisco Tatad, even claimed that “no true Catholic can support the RH bill.” However, a survey conducted by Social Weather Stations last August 2011 found out that almost three-fourths of Filipinos agree that the government should disseminate information on all legal family planning methods, which is a key goal of the bill. Notably, only 29% of the respondents agreed with the proposition that using birth control means like condoms, pills, and IUDs is tantamount to abortion.
Not willing to lose the mythical “Catholic vote” come election time, many solons must have believed that it will be better for them not to remain noncommittal about the bill altogether. This evident lack of political will pushed the bill’s advocates to launch “Occupy for RH” late last year, with the goal of urging solons to put the bill to a vote before 2011 ends. The impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Renato Corona as well as other legislative roadblocks further delayed a possible plenary vote on the bill.
Two days ago, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales Jr. outlined a possible path toward approval for the RH bill by mid-2012. Gonzales has already proposed to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to terminate the debates on the measure before the Congress goes on a five-week break come March 23. “At some point, we have to put an end to the interminable discussions. This bill cannot continue to be in a state of suspended animation,” Gonzales told The Philippine Star.
At least, the good solon from Mandaluyong has acknowledged that the ball is in their hands and that they must do something about it. The 1987 Constitution bestows upon the House of Representatives and the Senate the power to legislate. Will our legislators pass the RH bill once and for all, or will they do a Chris Christie and make the people decide on the issue through a referendum come 2013, as Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone proposed last year? Will they display political courage and not cowardice? Abangan.
“(President Benigno Aquino III) should show the same zeal in pushing for (the RH bill) as in getting impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona convicted,” – unnamed lawmaker