Press Release
January 3, 2011

Pia: RH Bill hearings to push through in 2011

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is determined to push through with more public hearings this year on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill even if the measure doesn't figure in the priority legislative agenda of the current Senate leadership.

Cayetano, a member of the three-person minority bloc in the Upper Chamber, chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Demography which is overseeing public deliberations on Senate Bill No. 2378, the Senate version of the RH Bill which is authored by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

"There is a legislative process that must be observed and as Chair of the primary committee that is hearing the RH Bill, it is my duty to take the proposed measure through said process, whether or not it falls under the priorities of the current Senate majority," she stressed.

"We have already conducted our initial public hearing last year and we intend to set the succeeding hearings early this year," added Cayetano, referring to the committee's first public hearing held in October 2010 where resource persons from the so-called 'Pro-life' and 'Pro-choice' groups were invited, as well as experts from the medical community, women's groups and key government agencies.

"There are many components of the RH Bill, including the urgency to address the country's high maternal death rate and the need to lay down a national policy on family planning," she added. "The inputs of all stakeholders will be heard during said hearings."

Cayetano says there is a "good number" of senators who are either openly or discreetly supporting the measure, although she maintains that it is still too early to go into the "numbers game" at this stage.

"It is premature and pointless to start counting how many senators are for or against the bill when it hasn't even reached the plenary yet."

Aside from the RH Bill, Cayetano said the health committee will continue its work on other important measures, including on proposals to expand the coverage and benefits of PhilHealth and monitoring government efforts to meet its public health targets under the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

It may be recalled that the very first measure approved on third and final reading by the Senate in the 15th Congress came from the health committee: the bill seeking to expand the national immunization program to include mandatory vaccination against Hepatitis-B for infants within 24 hours from birth.

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