MANILA, Philippines - Do only married women and men have exclusive reproductive health (RH) rights?
Congressmen answered the question Monday during the intense deliberations on the RH bill amid marching orders from President Benigno Aquino to finally vote on the proposed measure.
Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, who is against the bill, raised a proposal to limit reproductive health services to married couples.
Garcia wanted to amend a provision in the measure that says "human right to reproductive health by all persons, particularly parents and women" to just "married couples."
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a proponent of the measure, rejected Garcia's proposal.
The Cebu lawmaker managed to have the lower House vote on his proposal.
A total of 75 were in favor of Garcia's amendment while 91 were against it, shooting down the measure.
The lower House then suspended proceedings that announced that deliberations will continue Tuesday.
"Quorum is going to be the first challenge," said Rep. Miro Quimbo, amid allegations that some lawmakers were filibustering to delay delay the RH bill.
The question on quorum was raised several times during Monday's deliberations of the bill.
Nominal voting was also made several times on amendments being proposed by those against the bill.
Several lawmakers such as Rep. Kimi Cojuangco vented their frustration on Twitter over the delay.
A total of 210 out of 286 congressmen attended the session but it took several hours before they finally took up the actual measure.
The RH bill is going through the period of individual amendments at the House of Representatives.
Earlier in the day, congressmen had lunch with President Aquino, who urged the lawmakers to act on the RH bill this week.
There are only 9 session days left before Congress goes on Christmas break.
"He wants the debates to end so it can be put to a vote," deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said after Aquino met with members of the House of Representatives to call for a final decision.
"It's one of the most divisive issues that have confronted us. There has to be an end to the debate," she said.
Valte said the President himself was for "responsible parenthood," but he prefers to leave it to the legislators to vote on the measure based on their conscience.
Women's groups and the United Nations have been pushing for the law to be passed, saying it would help to bring down poverty as well as the Philippines' high rate of deaths in childbirth.
However, the measure is opposed by the politically influential Catholic church, which is against the use of contraceptives, including condoms and birth control pills. - with reports from ANC, Agence France-Presse