The House of Representatives recently approved, in lightning fashion, the substitution of the original Reproductive Health Bill by a heavily amended version (the “Substitute Bill”). Conscientious legislators vigorously opposed the midnight substitution on procedural and substantive grounds, only to be drowned by an avalanche of “ayes” coming from a crowd of anonymous congressmen.
It was not the first time that a crucial issue on the RH debate was decided through viva voce. A few months ago, the same drowning strategy was successfully employed by the pro-RH group to abbreviate the period of interpellations. Perhaps encouraged by its previous success, the group appears to have embraced viva voce as the strategy-of-choice when aiming to short-cut the process.
Interestingly enough, the two incidents share a common antecedent. In both instances, voting by viva voce was preceded by a meeting at Malacanang between the pro-RH group and the President. The causal connection between the meeting and the subsequent voting unavoidably invites suspicion that many of those who met with the President had been pressured to vote according to party lines and interests. Viva voce seemed to have given them the perfect cover to surrender to the wishes of party leaders while hiding under a cloak of anonymity.
No current issue is as compelling and divisive as the RH Bill. With so much at stake and the national patrimony on the line, can we afford to take short-cuts for the sake of some narrow and fleeting interests? Should we allow political expediency to ignore the call for caution and deliberate decision-making?
If we are to err, let us err on the side of caution. We cannot gamble on the future of our children and grandchildren. We cannot compromise with the heritage of our posterity. Simply put, we cannot experiment with the life of our people and the future of our country.
The swiftness with which the House of Representatives had approved the substitution of the original RH Bill deeply concerns us. We fear that it signals a malevolent conspiracy to fast-track the passage of the Substitute Bill. We worry that the ayes and nayes will continue to mute the sound of reason as congressional debates are swept aside.
Finally, we call on all legislators to heed the voice of their conscience and trust the teachings of Mother Church. We exhort them to be circumspect with their actions and discerning in their decision-making, with the nation’s long-term interest and the preservation of faith and family values as their only compass. MAY GOD BLESS US ALL!