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MANILA, Philippines - Groups and individuals pushing for the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill on Tuesday alleged that four veteran congressmen are trying to delay the voting on the proposed measure.
The Occupy for RH movement claims that deputy speakers Raul Daza and Pablo Garcia, Leyte Rep. Sergio Apostol, and Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing are delying the passage of the bill by prolonging the debates on the floor.
Two of the lawmakers, however, denied the allegation.
"It's not true (that I'm causing its delay). There are still congressmen registered for interpellation. Why would they want to finish the interpellation right away? Why do they want to abort it? All these are part of the legislative mill," Bagatsing told InterAksyon.com in a text message on Tuesday.
Apostol said the RH advocates "are just looking for someone to blame."
"There are about 30 more interpellators in the list, they should not rush things. I will not ask questions that have been asked. I'm keeping tab of things," said Apostol in a phone interveiw with InterAksyon.com on Tuesday.
"My focus is on freedom of choice. The bill is no longer needed because the matter involves freedom of choice. A law regulates, dictates and imposes penalty, this contravenes with the freedom of choice," added Apostol.
But The Occupy for RH movement insists that the anti-RH lawmakers whom they collectively called "Team Delay," are afraid to put the contorversial measure to a vote because they know that they will lose.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Minority Leader Edcel Lagman urged the leadership of the House to implement the “rules on engagement” thatwould prohibit interpellators from raising questions that have been previously tackled during the RH debates.
According to Lagman, the rules that are now with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. will also limit to one hour the interpellation of each congressman.
Close to 20 congressmen are still listed as interpellators.
With this number, it is impossible to end the debates in the remaining six days of session before Congress goes on a holiday break, according to Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II.
He also said that it was “difficult” to impose the rules on the debates because some lawmakers could interpret it as curtailing their right to ask.
Gonzales said that termination of the debates would come “at the right time, maybe in January or early February.”
Akbayan partylist Rep. Walden Bello also called on the leadership of the chamber to rein in his colleagues who are delaying the discussions.
“The only weapon left when the anti-RH advocates don’t have history and rationality on their side is to delay. Apparently, the delaying tactics is working, here is where the leadership should come in,” Bello said.