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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.

Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey

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.

Occupy for RH bill banner (credits: www.rhbill.org)

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

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11 thoughts on “Will Philippine lawmakers show courage and vote on the RH bill?”

  1. allaroundbacolod says:

    It will be interesting to see what happens. The RH Bill is still pending and so is House Bill No 1799, Divorce in Philippines. I don’t think both will pass the same session if ever at all on both accounts.

    A friend of ours is in a fix. His wife is an OFW in Israel and she informed him last year that she had married another guy! And she is never coming back to Philippines. He is still young at age 34 and he is raising their 7 years old son alone. He does not have P100,000 to file an annulment.

    More than one of my wife’s friends has been long abandoned by their husbands and they don’t even know where they are. Some are OFWs and some just hit the road with no forwarding address. So, these things happen to both men and women.

    The Divorce Bill is not like the liberal Divorce laws of most States in USA and only contain 5 grounds for divorce. In the States, one does not need grounds for a divorce other than they want out. I am, not saying that is better or even good. Moderation is always best in my opinion. I respect all the laws of the Philippines and I don’t make negative comments since I am not a citizen.

    I am blessed that I am happily married and know I will never need a divorce or an annulment and my wife and I practice the one child policy in our marriage by choice.

  2. markpere2010 says:

    Hi there! Thanks as always for your insights. Please allow me to share mine. I am in favor of having a divorce law in the Philippines, though I am not privy of the contents of HB 1799. The situations you mentioned above are not uncommon, especially among overseas Filipinos. Annulments are not only very costly (as you mentioned above) – the proceedings can also last for many years, effectively denying both parties the chance to move on fast.

    In the absence of a divorce law, the only alternative for estranged couples is to force themselves into each other’s life for as long as they can. That, in my view, is not right.

    1. allaroundbacolod says:

      That is true about an annulment may take many years. One of our friends told us that her annulment has been pending for 6 years and she is pushing age 40 now. Not so fast for her to move on.

      1. markpere2010 says:

        And we know for sure that she isn’t the only one with that problem, right? This has to stop.

  3. tess says:

    I go for divorce in the Philippines. I was a divorcee and happily married now .Thank God!.Annulment cost a lot of money and only those with money can afford it.But for same sex marriage ,no ,I don’t support it just like most of the legislature .They keep this on hold for obvious reason .If they vote on it whether yes or no ,it might affect their political ambitions so they just shut up and let the bill be forgotten .

  4. Sony Fugaban says:

    I’m not the person to talk to, definitely, when it comes to politics but I’m with the RH Bill. Ecumenical reasons are a few of those something-true-before-now-no-more stories. Let’s leave it that way. I know how provoking this topic is. 😉

    1. markpere2010 says:

      They call issues like these as hot-button topics. You can not post a comment on this issue on Facebook without expecting someone to react with passion. LOL

  5. allaroundbacolod says:

    Right, we know many are stuck in limbo about annulment, and women play a very important role in the Philippines.

    Just today, I read on Yahoo News that the Philippines ranks 2nd Globally in ratio to women in senior management positions, with only Russia ranking higher. USA was not even in the Top 5.

    Elsewhere, on a global scale, the proportion of women holding senior management posts has been on a steady decline since 2009. In the Philippines, it has been increasing, which is good news for Filipinas!

    During most of my work career in the States, my boss was a woman, however, and I always got along very well with them. I actually preferred a lady boss.

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