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MANILA, Philippines -- One of the main proponents of the Reproductive Health bill maintained on Wednesday that there is still plenty of time to pass the measure if the leadership of the House of Representatives has the political will.
House Bill 4244 (An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population Development) is awaiting passage on second reading, but prolonged debates have kept it on the floor for months.
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman again urged his colleagues to act on the controversial bill, which the Catholic church vigorously rejects, saying it was endorsed by President Benigno Aquino III as a priority measure during the meeting of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council.
"The House leadership must take the bull by its horns and schedule the resumption of debates, amendments and voting within an expeditious timeframe," Lagman said.
“Lack of time should not be made the scapegoat for lack of political will in failing to enact the long pending reproductive health bill," he added.
On Tuesday, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the possibility of the RH bill’s passage was getting smaller, citing the lack of session days to tackle the measure.
While the third regular session of the 15th Congress is scheduled from July 2012 to June 2013, Gonzales said in reality, sessions will only be until December because of the early adjournment to give way for the campaign for next year’s midterm elections.
But Lagman refuted Gonzales’ assertion, noting that leaders of the House have always found ways to fast track the approval of measures even with a few weeks remaining in the session.
He cited pet measures of Malacanang such as House Bill 4146 cancelling the elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and authorizing the President to appoint officers-in-charge, which breezed through the House.
"Another is the passage with alacrity of the Government-Owned and -Controlled Corporations Governance Act, which is ostensibly intended to streamline appointments in and operations of GOCCs even as the innovations violate the security of tenure of incumbents and derogate the power of the Civil Service Commission, which is a constitutional body," he said.
Unlike the ARMM and the GOCC bills, Lagman said the RH bill has been extensively debated on the floor and outside the Congress halls, since it was filed 15 years ago.
In the Senate, the RH bill has hurdled second reading.
"If the Senate has the time to vote on its counterpart RH bill, why should the House find time elusive and running out on an allied measure which has been principally nurtured in the House?" Lagman asked.
“If there is a will, there is a way is a truism in lawmaking," he said.
"There is sufficient time from late July up to the full month of August 2012 to vote on the RH bill before the General Appropriations Bill is set for plenary consideration in September," he said.
Lagman cited surveys that showed Filipinos favoring the passage of the RH bill.