THE 62 members of the House of Representatives who either did not show up or did not participate during the second reading approval of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill Thursday can still change the fate of the controversial measure.
“The important is the third reading vote…You will only look for those who voted yes on second reading to show up on third reading, and those who did not cast their vote.
There are around 60 who did not participate,” House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said in an interview after the second reading approval of the RH bill.
With a vote of 113-104 and three abstentions, the controversial measure was approved on second reading early morning Thursday. There were 62 members of the House of Representatives who did not participate in the voting that ended Thursday dawn.
Among the Cebu’s congressmen, those who were absent or did not vote on the bill are Reps. Ramon Durano VI (5th district), Gabriel Quisumbing (6th), Arturo Radaza (Lapu-Lapu City) and Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district).
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama yesterday hit Osmeña for not casting his vote on the bill.
“I’m appalled. It (RH bill) is a very important (piece of legislation) and it needs their presence. They should be there,” he said.
Rama, who is against the measure, won’t comment yet though on the passage of House Bill 4424 or “The Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, Population Development, and for Other Purposes” before the Congress.
Osmeña was in Cebu City when members of Congress voted on the controversial bill.
Although he favors the passage of the measure, the congressman did not vote for it to accommodate the request of his ally, former north district congressman Raul del Mar, who is against the proposal.
He said earlier that he would not participate in the voting because he didn’t want to “destroy” his relationship and friendship with del Mar just because of the measure.
He said his alliance with del Mar is more important than the RH Bill.
Quisumbing, who confirmed that he did not cast his vote, said he is against the passage of the bill but after hearing the President’s sentiment on the issue during a gathering in Malacañang, he decided to abstain.
“I’m against the RH bill but last week in Malacañang, the President said the RH Bill was an integral part of his reform agenda… I support the President and we have seen that the reform agenda has already yielded positive results in many economic indicators so I decided to abstain,” he said.
Following the bill’s approval on second reading, a church official asked the faithful to remain vigilant “in the face of a threat to morality.”
“Should the bill be passed into law, God will have another design for us, with the Church being more awake this time,” Binghay said.
He said the failure of anti-RH bill legislators to stop the bill’s passage will serve as a challenge to every Catholic in the country.
Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu, 1st), though, remains positive that the odds will still be in favor of anti-RH bill congressmen.
Gullas said one factor that contributed to the passage of the bill on its second reading was the absence of some congressmen.
Although three Cebu congressmen were not present during the voting, Gullas assured that representatives from Cebu will remain critics of the bill.
Deputy Minority Leader Mitos Magsaysay also hopes that the second reading vote in favor of the pro-RH legislators can still change in the final reading vote.
“The vote was very close, only nine votes. That is equivalent to only five representatives changing their vote to no. This means there is no clear verdict. There are still so many doubts on the soundness of this bill,” said Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, an anti-RH bill lawmaker.
The House leadership will put the RH bill to a third reading vote on Monday, December 17.
“As long as we have a quorum, we will vote on third reading on Monday,” Gonzales told reporters.
The Senate is expected to vote on its version of the bill on second reading also on Monday.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, who was present when the House voted on the RH bill, said the Senate could vote on its version on third and final reading by Thursday.
Gonzales expressed doubt that the Senate can vote on it by Thursday unless President Aquino certifies the bill as urgent.
Congress will go on a Christmas break starting December 22.
Meanwhile, President Aquino denied using pork barrel to pressure lawmakers to vote for the RH Bill.
In an interview after his keynote address at the 79th Founding Anniversary of the Department of Labor and Employment in Pasay City, the President dismissed the accusation of RH critics.
He said the priority development assistance funds (PDAF) of lawmakers have long been released before the House put the bill to vote.
“I will invite them to look at all of the websites and see when all of the releases had been done, and my understanding is everybody’s PDAF had been released long before the vote. And please observe also those who voted against it if they have not been given their PDAF,” Aquino said.
Several Catholic Church bishops allegedly accused the President of dangling pork barrel to gather enough votes to pass the RH bill.
President Aquino asked anti-RH bill supporters to check their facts first before making accusations against the administration. (Sun Star)