By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:37:00 09/26/2008
MANILA, Philippines—The row in the House over the reproductive health bill pending before the plenary appears to have extended to the budget panel’s subcommittee hearings on the proposed P1.4-trillion budget for 2009.
Taking the same tack as the opposing camp that caused the adjournment of the session and delayed deliberations on the bill, the majority and minority lawmakers backing the measure questioned the quorum of the subcommittee hearing the budget proposal of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Environment Secretary Lito Atienza is incidentally an ardent opponent of any form of artificial family planning.
“If we are going to question the quorum in the plenary, we should also do the same at the committee level. We have to be consistent,” said Iloilo Rep. Janet Garin, a deputy majority leader and one of the sponsors of the reproductive health bill.
Garin moved for the deferment of further consideration of the DENR’s P9-billion budget after noting that only three of the 16 members of the budget panel’s subcommittee on Atienza’s department were present.
“No, it’s not about the reproductive health bill. It’s about being consistent with how we apply our rules,” said Garin, a physician by profession.
Garin’s motion to defer the DENR budget was seconded by Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, a deputy minority floor leader.
“We are giving them a dose of their own medicine,” said Baraquel.
With the penchant of many lawmakers of leaving the session hall in the middle of long-drawn debates, questioning the quorum has become a time-tested tactic to derail the passage of a certain measure.
But Garin and Baraquel were ultimately prevailed upon by other lawmakers to allow the continued questioning of Atienza.
“We just allowed the congressmen present to raise their questions, with the understanding that the budget of the DENR was deferred,” Garin said.
She indicated that even if the lawmakers continued raising their concerns about the DENR budget, there was no way it was going to be passed by the subcommittee Thursday.
“That was the agreement,” she said.
In questioning Atienza, Baraquel also raised pointed reproductive health issues. She asked him what his stand on the debate was, and whether this would affect the policies of the DENR.
“The question is relevant because it might affect the department’s policy on the use of its gender and development find,” she said.
Atienza, however, appeared unfazed by the setback.
“A principle is a principle. It is beyond politics and beyond budget,” he told reporters. “I will stand by this fight.”
Meanwhile, Buhay party-list Rep. Carissa Coscuella warned that future generations would be “devoid of values” once the reproductive health bill was passed.
“Pro-RH advocates have said that this is all about informed choice. But if a child as young as nine is preconditioned for the next five or six years to take sex and procreation so casually, then that ‘choice’ is effectively taken away from them,” Coscuella said in a statement.
“Future generations will be devoid of values, where casual sex is as common as watching a movie, where having children is no longer a blessing but a curse, and where contraception is as easy as buying eye drops at your local drugstore,” she said.
Garin, however, raised the serious economic and survival implications of uncontrolled population growth.
“It’s not a mortal sin to make sure that your children will have enough to eat,” she said.