Senators are looking at approving the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill on second and third reading on Monday now that President Benigno Aquino III has certified it urgent, effectively fast-tracking its enactment. RH bill author Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Aquino's certification "means that, as early as Monday, the Senate can already proceed to third and final reading.” “The same can be said of the House of Representatives," she said in a statement Friday. Sen. Ralph Recto, in a text message to GMA News Online, said he also expects the Senate to put the RH bill to a vote on Monday. In a separate text message, however, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said they will probably follow the schedule agreed upon by the senators earlier in the week. "Most likely we will follow the same process, but pass the measure on third reading before we go on recess,” he said. “Often times we accomplish more by being patient." Asked on what he thinks those opposed to the measure may do, Pangilinan said: "Let's just wait for Monday. I would rather not dwell on the speculative." Sen. Francis Escudero, for his part, said that even if they don't push through with the vote on Monday, the Senate will still have time to pass it before they go on recess next Friday, December 21. The Senate had earlier scheduled voting on RH bill, which has the Catholic Church among its most vocal critics, on second reading on Monday and on third reading on Thursday, taking into consideration the three-day rule for measures to be approved between readings. But on Thursday night, in a move that surprised even those in favor of RH bill, Aquino announced that he has certified the bill as urgent, effectively removing the three-day waiting period. Santiago expressed jubiliation over Aquino's decision to certify the RH bill as urgent. "President Aquino is my hero! He has cut the Gordian knot! I am very enthused with him.
This is manifest proof of executive leadership.
By one stroke, he has ended the time-wasting prevarication of the last 13 years over the RH bill. Other presidents shirked their duty, but Pres. Aquino rose to meet the challenge, and he has slain the monster," she said. Aquino had earlier explained that while he is fully aware of the powers that come with the “urgent” certification, he is using it sparingly for national emergencies. Santiago said the emergency here is the "mounting deaths every single day of Filipino mothers, from the poor, owing to childbirth complications, brought about by sheer ignorance of RH." She even cited surveys saying 13 to 15 such mothers die everyday. Some senators had earlier predicted at least 14 votes for the RH measure in the Senate. The House of Representatives has already approved the RH bill on second reading with a 113-104 vote on Thursday morning. If the bill is approved by the House and Senate on third reading on Monday, Santiago said the two chambers can hold a bicameral conference committee meeting on Tuesday and ratify it by Wednesday before they go on Holiday break. She said Aquino can then sign the bill starting Thursday, December 20, or at any time within 30 days after he receives the final copy of the bill. — KBK, GMA News