In their rush to approve the Magna Carta of the Poor, lawmakers put in funding provisions that raised questions from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday.
But what mainly cost its enactment was their failure to reflect in the magna carta a key principle, “progressive realization,” in their model, the International Covenant on Economic Culture and Social Philippines, officials said.
While the President has come under fire for vetoing it, this won’t result in a backlash against his handpicked Team PNoy senatorial candidates, they said.
Talking to reporters on the vetoed measure for a second day, Mr. Aquino said that even the PCSO and DAR had balked at the provisions identifying their earnings as major sources of funding for the magna carta’s implementation.
Funding will come from 50 percent of the national government’s share in all lotteries conducted by the PCSO; 50 percent of the national government’s share in proceeds from the sale of sequestered assets; 50 percent from the proceeds of sale of goods forfeited by the Bureau of Customs, and 20 percent of the share of the national government in the earnings of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
“The PCSO has said that 55 percent of what it takes in it pays out as prizes. How can it give 50 percent to this fund?” Mr. Aquino told reporters at the Victory Liner bus terminal in Pasay City, the final stop of his Holy Week inspection of sea ports, airports and bus depots.
The DAR, for its part, pointed out that there was an existing law specifically stating that it would be funded from the proceeds of the sale of sequestered assets, Mr. Aquino said.
“Now lawyers—and I’m not a lawyer—are saying that you can’t amend without making a reference to the law that is being amended,” he said.
P300-B administrative fee
The President vetoed the measure because the government couldn’t come up with at least P3.044 trillion to provide food, homes, jobs, quality education and health services to the country’s 25 million poor immediately. Failure to comply with this requirement could prompt suits against the government.
He said that five million social housing units alone would cost P2.320 trillion, way more than this year’s P2.006-trillion national budget.
Had the lawmakers put in the phrase “progressive realization,” it would have been a different matter, he said.
On Tuesday, Mr. Aquino said that the P3 trillion also came with a 10-percent “administrative fee” or some P300 billion to administer the projects, making the proposed law’s implementation more costly.
Then speaking on the measure’s proposed administrative sanctions on officials, Mr. Aquino said: “We should pity the government employees. You’re giving them mission impossible, then you file charges against them if they fail to do the impossible. That’s why I was obliged to veto it.”
Mr. Aquino also bristled at Alagad Rep. Rodante Marcoleta’s claim that he could have vetoed certain provisions, not the legislation in its entirety.
Holding up a copy of the Constitution, he cited provisions that state that the President could “line veto” revenue, tariff or appropriation measure, but not other types of legislation.
Poor Pangilinan staff work
“That’s nice if that’s allowed by law. But under the Constitution, which Congressman Marcoleta should know if indeed he said what he had said being a member of legislature and a third-termer, [that’s not allowed],” he said.
Marcoleta, one of the main proponents of the bill, blamed Sen. Francis Pangilinan for the veto, saying the senator had insisted on his version of the measure that he said lacked pertinent details.
A Cabinet official, who asked not to be named, also blamed poor work by the senator’s staff for the veto.
The official said Pangilinan came up with a consolidated version of the Senate bills and managed to convince his House counterparts to adopt his version.
His staff, however, forgot to insert the phrase “progressive realization” and included provisions that were questioned by funding agencies.
“Had they included the phrase ‘progressive realization,’ the President would not have found anything objectionable,” the official said.
Congress approved the measure in early February before it adjourned for the official start of the campaign period for senatorial elections.
The President directed Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman to draft a substitute measure in the hope that it would be approved by the 16th Congress.