Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Philippine politicians' vote on the RH Bill: Based on popular will, or on personal conviction?

Philippine Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri issued a call yesterday for "another survey" to "gauge the true sentiments of the people" on the proposed Reproductive Health (RH) Bill currently being debated in Congress.
“It’s too divisive an issue, and majority of our people would want to stop this fighting. We should rethink our position as legislators. There should be a survey so that we may be guided accordingly,” he said in an interview.

“As national legislators, we should listen to our constituents. We can’t be blind and deaf to what the people are saying,” he added.

While the point about listening to one's consitituents seems to be a valid one, there is also the point around critical debate over the logical and objective merits of the proposed bill. The bill's resonance in the popular public sentiment is a matter separate to its inherent logical sense. Legislators already have a popular mandate to represent their constituents. This was something they gained when they were elected to office. Once in office they then exercise this mandate to represent their constituents the way they see fit using the intellectual faculties they were presumably elected to apply.

Conducting a poll to gauge the popularity of the RH Bill sounds more like an inclination among Philippine politicians to act on the basis of popular sentiment rather than on their own personal convictions.

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