(UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines - What the President wants, the President gets.
In a historic vote, the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday, December 17, separately approved the controversial Reproductive Health bill (RH bill) on third and final reading.
It was a blowout for the RH bill, a measure that was rabidly opposed by the Catholic Church.
In the Senate, 13 voted in favor and 8 voted against the bill. In the House of Representatives, 133 voted in favor, 79 voted against, and 7 abstained.
The next step is the bicameral conference committee, where both chambers of Congress will consolidate the two different versions of RH bill.
After the bicam, the Senate and the House will need to ratify the consolidated version. Only then will the bill reach President Aquino for his signature.
Congress adjourns session this week but President Aquino earlier said he wants to sign the bill into law before the Christmas break.
The House has designated the members of the bicam. They are bill sponsor Albay Red Edcel Lagman, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, Iloilo Rep Janette Garin, Batanes Rep Henedina Abad, Western Samar Rep Mel Sarmiento, Akbayan Rep Kaka Bag-ao, ACT Teachers Rep Antonio Tinio, Paranaque Rep Roilo Golez, Catanduanes Rep Cesar Sarmiento, and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.
President Benigno Aquino III pushed hard for the RH bill, one of his priority measures. It was upon his request that the House of Representatives terminated long debates on the bill in August.
In a surprise move on Thursday, December 13, Aquino also certified the bill as urgent. It allowed the Senate to immediately proceed to third reading vote after the second reading vote. It also sent a strong message to the critics of the bill.
Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes slammed the President for his supposed dictatorial tendencies. Reyes said the Catholic Church will continue to educate people about the "evils of contraceptives."
The earlier second reading vote in the House was close, 113-104-3. It was a difference of only 9 votes. The vote happened before Aquino certified the bill as urgent.
It has been 14 years since the first version of the RH bill was filed in Congress. The measure seeks to provide reproductive health services, including free contraceptives, to the poor who cannot afford them. - Rappler.com