By Cathy C. Yamsuan, Tarra Quismundo | Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Senate is likely to approve the reproductive health (RH) bill on Monday.
But senators would wait whether the House of Representatives would approve the measure on third and final reading on Wednesday night before they call a “special” session on Thursday to do the same, according to Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto.
But the session Sotto referred to would not be like the special session that Malacañang calls when Congress is no longer in session and the President still wants a specific bill passed.
The session that the Senate planned to hold on Thursday next week so it could accommodate the RH bill would be considered only a resumption of the session suspended on Wednesday night.
Senators no longer hold sessions during Thursday mornings, unlike during previous Congresses when they used this schedule to pass local bills.
“I’m sure (the pro-RH senators) will insist on voting for a second reading on Monday,” Sotto said in a text message to Philippine Daily Inquirer Thursday.
In case the RH bill is approved that day, the chamber would “play it by ear” and wait for the House’s next step before proceeding, Sotto said.
In a casual conversation hours before House members approved the bill on second reading early Thursday, Sotto said, “it would be a waste of time if we go ahead and approve it on final reading (next week) but the House fails to do just that.”
Sotto and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile are regarded as the most rabid anti-RH members of the chamber.
Congressmen voted 113-104 after Wednesday midnight when they passed the bill on second reading.
The Senate is still in the process of accepting individual amendments being proposed by members who want changes in some provisions of the RH bill.
Also on Wednesday, Sen. Ralph Recto proposed several amendments, most of which were rejected by other members after the RH bill’s principal sponsor, Sen. Pia Cayetano, called for a nominal vote on each.
One of Recto’s suggestions was a provision requiring minors to get parental consent before they availed themselves of artificial methods of birth control from health centers or government hospitals.
Cayetano initially rejected the proposal, saying it would be unrealistic for sexually active youngsters to ask for permission from their parents, in case these minors see their parents at all, before procuring artificial birth control and engaging in sex.
Senators, however, voted 9-7 to include Recto’s amendment in the bill.
Sotto asked for a clean copy of the Senate version of the RH bill that already included Recto’s amendments and said he would go over this draft so he could prepare his set of individual amendments in time for Monday.
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said the House vote on second reading could be a “very good indication” of how things would go among congressmen when they go back to the session hall for the final vote on the RH bill next week.
At the Kapihan sa Senado, Marcos said that in the case of the Senate, “parang matibay-tibay ang lagay ng RH bill dito.”
“Once the House approves the bill on third reading, the Senate will hold a ‘special’ session on Thursday,” he told reporters.
“But if nothing happens to the RH bill in the House, it would be pointless to approve the bill here. The whole point is to have the bill passed before Christmas,” Marcos added.