Enrile: Responsible lawmaking requires ‘dissecting’ controversial RH Bill

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MANILA, Sept. 6, 2012?Lawmakers have a responsibility to “dissect” a bill that will have an impact on generations to come, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said on Wednesday.

Enrile made the statement as he castigated the main sponsor of the “reproductive health” (RH) bill, Sen. Pia Cayetano, for attempting to cut him off from asking questions to Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III. Sotto had just finished a series of speeches against the measure, Senate Bill No. 2865. 

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile

“[I]t is our duty as responsible people to dissect this bill, no matter how unpopular our position is, to determine whether the policy embedded in it is a right policy or a destructive policy for this nation. And no one can lecture me about these things. I know my history. I’ve learned it by rote, it’s hard labor. And I resent being questioned about [and being asked to] state my purpose. Who are you to challenge my purpose? I tell you, I’m going to dissect it,” Enrile said.

It was the turn of the opposing side, led by Sotto, to argue against the bill after the sponsorship period of Cayetano. Under Senate rules, a senator has the right to interpellate or ask questions to a colleague who had taken the floor to deliver a speech.

Cayetano, however, wanted all questions directed to her, being the sponsor of the RH bill, despite the fact that Sotto was given the floor for his turno en contra. Cayetano wanted to cut the debates and accused her colleagues of derailing the bill, but Sotto said its passage was difficult because the measure is controversial and divisive.

Enrile said no lawmaker had a monopoly of wisdom on what constitutes the national interest.

“I have been in this Senate for a long, long time already, and I have never been asked to state the purpose of my interpellation. And I think that if they will check my record in the Senate since 1987, when I was privileged to join the Senate until today, I never used any dilatory tactics or any manner of delaying the passage of any bill. And I think the record will show that every question I asked here had relevance to the issue at hand,” Enrile said.

“[W]ith due respect to the lady senator, I know that she is eager to pass this law. But I have my own notion of what the national interest is. Nobody has a monopoly of wisdom about the national interest. I do not claim that I am the only one who considers this country his country. And I have an interest to protect, my notion of what the future if this country will be.”

He added: “I hope that I will not be shackled. And I resent any implication that I am here to derail or obstruct the passage of this measure. I challenge anyone here to show me that I have ever delayed the passage of any measure here. Nobody can dictate to me, whoever you are.”

Enrile said he wanted to discuss the experiences of other countries whose population control programs have led to economic stagnation due to aging populations and shrinking workforces.

“[F]or instance, what is the experience of Russia? What is the experience of Italy? What is the experience of Spain? What is the experience of Poland? What is the experience of China, Korea, Japan and the rest of the world? Isn’t that a pertinent question here to be asked so that we will know the impact of this bill on the lives of the people of this country? My grandchildren and their [great]-grandchildren will be affected by this bill in the future. I have arrived as anyone else to protect them. I will not be here when the impact of this bill will happen. And neither the sponsor nor any one of us,” he said.

Sotto earlier bared RH lobbyists’ connections to foreign pro-abortion groups, claiming the bill would legitimize abortion by a provision on post-abortion care (Section 3, letter i of Senate Bill No. 2865). Moreover, RH programs are already covered by 23 laws and government regulations, with nearly P8 billion in funding this year.

These render the RH bill unnecessary, Sotto said. (Dominic Francisco)

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