Belmonte: Ledac could have stopped vetoed bills
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Tuesday lamented the number of vetoed bills that could have seen passage had Congress met more with President Benigno Aquino III under the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac).
In an interview at the sidelines of the inauguration of the new congressional library and archives, Belmonte said the Ledac would have allowed for a meeting of minds between the executive and legislative branch that would have paved the way for bills to be passed instead of being vetoed by the President.
Under the Constitution, Congress passes bills that become laws upon the signature of the President. The President could also veto proposed legislation based on recommendations of the executive’s economic managers.
“Yes, I think he should have convened it more often, so that we can be more in tuned with his thinking. There are bills which are very good but which we have passed but it turns out they were not in his thinking, not in the liking of his economic managers. More Ledac meetings would have probably solved that,” Belmonte said.
Based on Republic Act 7640, which was approved by President Fidel Ramos in 1992, Ledac is the consultative and advisory body to the President as the head of the national economic and planning agency.
The President serves as Ledac chairperson.
The members are the Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, seven members of the Cabinet to be designated by the President, three members of the Senate designated by the Senate President, three members of the House of Representatives to be designated by the Speaker of the House, a representative of the Local Government Units, a representative from the youth sector and a representative from the private sector.
The National Economic Development Authority also serves as the council secretariat.
Aquino has convened the Ledac only twice since he assumed office in 2010. First was on Feb. 28, 2011 and second, on Aug.16, 2011.
The law requires Ledac to meet at least once every quarter, but may be convened by the chair for special meetings, as may be necessary.
Belmonte said though the Ledac did not convene as much, both Houses of Congress took the initiative of meeting every month to talk about the priority legislation.
“On the other hand, especially in the 16th Congress, the Senate President and I, we’re able to devise a system when we meet every month, four congressmen and four senators meet every month. It was very fruitful, putting ourselves on the same wavelength so that we’re able to pass a lot of very good bills, some of which got vetoed in the end but most of which were approved by the president,” Belmonte said.
Aquino drew flak for vetoing popular bills such as those increasing the Social Security System (SSS) pension hike and increasing the pay of nurses in the country.
Aquino vetoed the approved bill increasing the pension by P2,000 because the proposal would bankrupt the state pension fund.
Aquino said the P2,000 across-the-board pension hike for all 2.1-million pensioners would cost the SSS some P56 billion even though it only earns an annual investment income of P30 billion.
The proposed law would have increased the monthly pension by P2,000 across-the-board – to P3,200 from P1,200 for those with 10 credited years of service, and to P4,000 from P2,400 for those with 20 years.
The President also drew flak when he vetoed the bill increasing the minimum pay of nurses under a comprehensive nursing law.
Aquino said he vetoed the bill because it would undermine the existing government salary structure and cause wage distortions among medical and health-care practitioners and other professionals in the government service.
He also said the base pay for entry level nurses was already increased under the Executive Order No. 201, series of 2016. Their total guaranteed annual compensation was raised from P228,924.00 to P344,074.00.
He said the proposed increase would place the salaries of nurses above optometrists and dentists, among other similarly situated counterparts. TVJ
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