A comparative rundown of the affirmative and negative votes in the House of the Representatives cast in the second and third readings relative to the highly controversial reproductive health bill cannot but reveal a mouthful about the kind of congressmen and congresswomen we have in our midst and times.
Consider these numbers: In the second reading, there were 113 who voted yes and 104 who voted no. Meaning, there were more than 60 lawmakers who were not present during the voting. The anti-RH sector, the Roman Catholic Church in particular, had every reason to pin their last hopes on “these absent 60+” for a reversal of vote in the third and final reading. But in the third reading, 133 voted yes and 79 voted no, with three abstentions. Meaning, the lawmakers who participated in the third reading were 19 fewer than those who attended the second reading—that is, 215 versus 224, respectively, indicating that virtually none of the lawmakers absent in the second reading were responsible enough to participate in the final reading. Worse, 32 representatives who voted no in the second reading turned out to be equally irresponsible to absent themselves for the final count.
Worse, one congressman I otherwise very highly respect, who had once been quoted as saying, “I would rather die than vote for the RH bill,” chose to merely abstain during the third reading. Indeed, there is reason to believe that these lawmakers voted as their respective personal interests salivated, not as their consciences dictated.
The administration will surely deny it, but these manifestations of brazen irresponsibility on the part of our so-called “honorable” congressmen and congresswomen can only be attributed to undue presidential intrusion into purely legislative affairs. Methinks this might be the first time ever that Cabinet officials, at least four of them, were present in a House session—well, quite ostensibly for no other reason than to take some notes and names on how the lawmakers were voting, for President Aquino to act on accordingly.
Whether we like it or not, the plain truth remains: After more than a decade of rough sailing in several past Congresses, the RH bill has divided the whole nation virtually in the middle as to call for relatively deeper and less politically motivated national discernment. Instead, the President certified the bill as “urgent”—and so lately in the year’s dying days, at that, not in his State of the Nation Address, which is normally where “urgent” legislation is announced by the country’s chief executive. Indeed, this is another incomprehensible “first” in this country’s governance.
—RUDY L. CORONEL,