By Loejan S. Anudon
I would rather not be a Rep than be there and be a part of a big LIE!… Rep. Kimi Cojuangco
The road to the signing of the RH Bill was rough one, marred by misinformation, political strife and religious fulmination; making the victory all that much sweeter for the likes of warriors like Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco who was a tireless advocate of the movement.
Prior to its second reading on December 12, 2012, the heated debates and the seemingly unending delays led to a confrontation between Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco and Majority Floor Leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales III which served to kindle the congresswoman’s resolve as to the urgency of the RH Bill.
Cojuangco disclosed on Twitter a previous conversation with Gonzales that she pleaded with the MFL to tell the truth about the status of the bill where Gonzales was quoted to have said,
“wala na yan; forget the RHBILL. If ever baka 16th congress na lang. We can just repackage it.”
The brazen admission flabbergasted the congresswoman yet she remained composed like the lady that she is; when she was ceremoniously dismissed and told to ‘shut up’, she reared up like the warrior woman and rose to the challenge. Instead of meekly retreating, she amassed her strength and geared up for the final attack that helped brought the RH Bill to pass.
Going against the grain of the status quo is nothing new to the congresswoman who went against the old political stalwarts when she was still mayor of a small town in Pangasinan despite the vilification of those inconvenienced. Repeated confrontations with those who choose to adhere to the old way of doing things had made her resilient, honing her determination and strengthening her resolve to risk the ire of her colleagues in the House of Representatives and even those of her religious leaders in order to achieve what she knows is just and rightful for her constituents whom she had sworn to serve.
The second reading is a display of Catholic dominance against the state’s push for reforms as shown by the distinct colors inside the plenary hall that posed as a strong divisive identity. Critics of the bill were clad in red along with the multitude of nuns in their white and gray outfit filled the south wing bleachers. Those in favor were conspicuous with their purple garbs seated prominently in the north wing. The center bleachers were a confusion of colors but noticeably, prominent Catholic patriarchs occupied the center seats in direct line of the Speaker’s location, a move calculated to overtly intimidate.
The second reading is history in the making as it did not pass without struggle. Its strongest critics, the Catholic Church and their representative allies stood unwavering until it was officially proclaimed “passed” at 1:54 in the morning of December 13, 2012. Even with their minds already set to vote against the bill, each opposing representative sought to dissect every word of the proposed provisions; an act that most alleged to have been a deliberate delay tactic.
Each of the honorable representatives spoke of their contention, carving a new record in Philippine history. However, while most uttered of their noble intents and honest representation of their constituents, it was a dismal comprehension that some spoke merely of their personal convictions and religious prejudices that were obvious displays of perfidious accountability with their electorates.
The ingrained practice of giving loot bags to the lawmakers particularly at times when they are summoned at the Malacaῆan Palace to discuss certain proposals that were either endorsed or discouraged by the president in the previous administrations did not happen this time. The tight margin result of the votes cast which is 113 for those who favored, 104 against and 3 abstains was a clear indication of a fair poll, a former congressman said. “Masyadong malinis ang ating presidente ngayon to do that”, he added. The variance of the rhyming words, “antis”
and “antays” never crossed Cojuangco’s mind until a colleague told her. The “antis” were those opposed to the bill while the word “antays” is a local colloquial dubbed to those that were waiting for the loot bags.
Representative Kimi Cojuangco, co-author of the bill, was engulfed with tremendous relief when the bill was pronounced “passed” in its final reading on December 17, 2012. On December 21, 2012, President Benigno Aquino III signed it into law, making the Reproductive Health Bill now known as Republic Act 10354.
“History will remember us with a smile on this day! I can say with my head held high that this was probably the cleanest vote in the HOR! In life they say choose your battles; this is one battle I will never forget! Passage of the Rh bill into law had its ups & downs. VICTORY is sweet!”
However, the ordeal she went through all over her RH campaign finally took its toll as soon as the euphoria abated. Her body craved for an extended repose which she readily yielded to but rose again the next day to campaign for the bills she had either authored or advocated.
Victory is sweet!