Magna Carta for the Poor authors lament veto

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Authors of the proposed Magna Carta for the Poor are aghast that President Benigno Aquino III vetoed the measure intended to guarantee that the downtrodden and impoverished would get opportunities to improve their plight, believing there was no reason to deny them any kind of help they could get.

Alagad Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, one of the main proponents of the bill, said he was disheartened by the President’s decision, which came at a time when many candidates were trying to focus on the concerns of the poor.

Marcoleta said Mr. Aquino could just have vetoed certain provisions of the bill instead of rejecting it wholesale, so that Congress would have the chance to improve the measure later.

Other sections could still have provided relief to the poor. With the veto, a new bill would have to be filed and Congress would have to start anew.

Marcoleta noted that the proposed Magna Carta for the Poor had been pending since the 13th Congress and that it took two more Congresses before it was sent to the Chief Executive for signature.

“The Pope in Rome is talking about helping the poor and the weak, and this could have been the instrument and could have provided the mechanism [for it],” he said in a phone interview.

He said he was laying the blame for the veto on Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate’s committee on social justice.

The House of Representatives, which approved its version of the bill about four months before the Senate did, had adopted the Senate version last December.

With the adoption, there was no need for a bicameral conference committee before the bill could be sent to the President for his signature.

According to Marcoleta, Pangilinan had insisted on his version of the measure, which the party-list lawmaker thought had lacked pertinent details.

He said he would have wanted to push his version of the bill, which would impose administrative penalties on government officials liable for the violation of the bill, but the House had to defer to the Senate’s wishes.

Another coauthor, Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, said Mr. Aquino’s elite background had apparently numbed him to the needs of the destitute.

“I believe a President who comes from an elite landed family would be unable to see the merits of a propoor legislation,” Ilagan said.

She said the veto had deprived the poor of additional opportunities they could have seized to uplift their conditions.

“We have the saying that ‘those who have less in life should have more in law.’ With the veto, the poor will not be able to seek succor even in law,” she said.

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