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MANILA, Philippines -- Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile predicted Friday that voting on the fate of the controversial Reproductive Health bill would be a “close fight” even as he gave assurances that he would not try to derail deliberations on the measure, which is still to enter the period of amendments.
Enrile said his analysis indicated eight senators in favor of the bill, nine against, and six undecided.
“Ang alam ko na committed na anti ay siyam. Ang committed na pro ay walo. Anim ‘yung wala pa. ‘Yun ang position ko, ‘yun ang analysis ko (What I know is that there are nine who are committed anti. The committed pro are eight. Six have not decided. That is my position, that is my analysis),” he said, adding the undecided lawmakers are “still weighing the bill.”
Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson said he saw 14 senators voting for the measure while Senate President Pro-Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada called it an even 10 for and against the bill, with three undecided.
However, Enrile acknowledged that, like the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, “‘di natin alam how it (voting) will turn.”
But, he added, a tie would doom the bill “kasi walang (because there is no) majority.”
“Hindi namin hahadlangan ‘yan (We won’t block the bill),” Enrile said. “There’s no effort to derail it but we have to consider the future of this country. Ako (Me), I’m not talking of religion or morality here. I’m talking about the long term, strategic interest of the country.”
On Wednesday, Cayetano moved that the RH bill enter the period of amendments but Enrile rejected her proposal, pointing out that a number of senators were still lined up to interpolate Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III on his turno en contra speech.
Not essential medicines
Enrile also said he would introduce more amendments on top of those suggested by Senator Pia Cayetano, which he said did not really change the nature of the bill.
“Dadagdagan pa namin ang amendments. Sinabi ko na ‘yung essential medicines, hindi ko matanggap ‘yun (We will add more amendments. I have already said that the essential medicines tag, I can never accept that),” he said.
Earlier, Cayetano had amended the bill to address Sotto’s misgivings about the measure, including clearly defining abortion as “a criminal act in accordance with existing laws.”
She also agreed to delete portions of the bill, among these the provision categorizing contraceptives as essential medicines, changing this to “family planning supplies,” and removing the phrase “population growth” in the measure’s title.
“Pareho pa rin ‘yun (It’s still the same),” Enrile said. You remove the characterization but the substance is still there.”