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House, Senate pass RH bill on final reading

Supporters of the reproductive health bill, holding a purple "parol," got their early Christmas gift after both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the measure on third and final reading on Monday, December 17, 2012. The bill will be tackled at the bicameral conference committee before it is passed to President Benigno Aquino III.

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives and the Senate on Monday approved the Reproductive Health (RH) bill on third and final reading, pushing the controversial bill a step closer to being signed into law.

Voting 133-79, the House of Representatives passed the RH bill on final reading. After this, the Senate, voting 13-8, also passed its version of the measure on final reading. The voting came right after senators passed the bill on second reading during its session on Monday afternoon.

Those who voted for the bill at the Senate were Francis Escudero, Panfilo Lacson, Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Loren Legarda, Pia and Alan Peter Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Joker Arroyo, Teofisto Guingona III, Ralph Recto and Edgardo Angara.

Senators Vicente Sotto III, Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada, Koko Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes IV, Manny Villar, Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Gregorio Honasan III voted against the measure.

The bills will now be tackled by the lawmakers in a bicameral conference committee and then send it to President Benigno Aquino III for its approval into law.

The hasty passage of the bill on Monday came after Aquino certified the bill as urgent last week.

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While the fate of the controversial proposed measure was being determined, spectators who mostly came in either red or purple clothing observed the proceedings while many stood waiting outside the hall.

Security staff at the lower house said RH proceedings are the most-watched sessions in recent memory.

Before the voting on second reading, the senators tackled the amendments proposed by Sotto, who had promised that he will introduce at least 30 amendments to the proposed measure.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, co-author of the bill, had said that they will just accept the proposed amendments, which may still be removed during the bicameral conference.

'Father, forgive us'

Sotto, after entering his negative vote, said: "May I ask God the father to forgive us for we do not know what we are doing."

He said that he believes that the bill not be passed if the late President Corazon Aquino were alive.

"Kawawa naman po ang Pilipinas. Kung nabubuhay man po ang aking pangulong Presidente Corazon Aquino, ni hindi naka-first base ang batas na ito," said Sotto.

Enrile, who is also against the bill, said that he is hoping that it "bring the benefit that it was sought to be accomplished" if the bill is signed into law.

House votes explained

While many congressmen considered the approval of the measure a "success," others expressed hesitation and reservations.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello called the RH bill "one of the most progressive" pieces of legislation and expressed relief that it has "finally" been welcomed.

Bello's partymate, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, is also a strong of the bill.

Gabriela women's party-list Rep. Liza Maza, meanwhile, approached the podium during the voting proceeding and said she votes "yes with reservations."

Quezon Province 1st district Rep. William Enverga also admitted that while he does not think the bill should be approved, health workers in his district wanted him to support it.

"Not a single health worker told me not to vote for the bill. So with a heavy heart, I voted yes," Enverga said.

Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, taking up the podium after the voting, expressed disappointment on the decision, saying the bill is "misleading."

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