Senators vent exasperation with IRRs ‘mangling’ laws
MANILA, Philippines — Senators vented their displeasure with the implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) issued by the executive branch which tend to “mangle” laws they were crafted for, with one lawmaker eyeing to seek help from the Supreme Court to declare clashing IRRs as void.
A “Pandora’s box” was opened during Monday’s plenary session after Senator Francis Tolentino criticized agencies and departments under the executive department for crafting seemingly confusing IRRs.
“The spring cannot rise higher than the source, as the old legal maxim goes. But this humble representation believes that the spring is not just rising higher, but it threatens to overflow and spill from the source and drown us all,” Tolentino said in his privilege speech.
“The IRRs have not only misinterpreted our laws, but ultimately defied the will of the people as the real sovereign imbibed in our laws,” he added.
The senator said there are a “plethora” of Supreme Court cases where it struck down IRRs crafted by various agencies for “usurping the power of Congress.”
He said these cases show that Congress should take “a proactive stance in addressing this to avoid future conflicts between the law and the IRR that will precipitate further controversy.”
He noted that there are up to 60 laws with “confusing” IRRs.
“Despite the Supreme Court’s pronouncements (on unconstitutional IRRs), there remain laws with the implementing rules and regulations that are at odds with each other, leaving the public in confusion, diluting the impact of the well-meaning laws that this Congress strived hard to create,” he said.
“This humble representation takes it upon himself to open this Pandora’s Box, to bring to light the impending crisis brought about by a large number of the IRRs that are at odds with our laws and to propose actions addressing this need,” he said.
“This begs the question of whether there is some way, within the powers of this highly respected body, to prevent our future laws from being mangled by its IRR and to prevent the IRR from straying far from the laws,” he added.
Tolentino proposed that the Senate rules of procedure be studied and amended to allow senators—without “overstepping the finely drawn line” between the three branches of government—help concerned government agencies to draft the IRR of a proposed bill prior to it becoming signed into law or the lapse of the thirty day period from the President’s receipt of the measure.
Further, he said laws and its corresponding IRRs be submitted to an oversight committee composed of the concerned Senate committee which prepared the bills.
“The oversight committee will be tasked to study the law and its IRR for any incongruencies and is limited only in making recommendations on how to harmonize the IRR with the law, without any authority to revoke or disapprove the same,” Tolentino explained.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was glad that Tolentino brought up the IRR issue.
He said the IRR has also been used as an excuse not to immediately implement a certain law.
“That’s nothing new. The anti-terror law…naririnig ko na hinihintay yung IRR (the word was they’re waiting for the IRR ), that’s BS. It’s already a law, it’s been signed by the President. Anong (What) IRR? It’s not necessary, they have to implement a law,” Sotto said.
He added that the entire executive branch seems to have the power to veto a law by not completing its IRR.
Other senators also shared Tolentino and Sotto’s views.
Senator Joel Villanueva as well as Senator Lito Lapid said numerous laws have yet to be implemented due to the absence of its IRR.
“About two to three years ago we passed the Philippine Qualifications Framework and the only reason why they are not implementing it. According to them, they are still waiting for the IRR, so this is unbelievable and unacceptable,” Villanueva said.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri also raised concerns that some laws tend to be “manipulated” once its IRR is crafted.
“It’s been happening, ” Zubiri said, citing as an example the agriculture bills.
He said many agriculture bills when they reached the IRR stage, “iba na yung pinag-uusapan dun” (things have gotten off the point.)
“It’s about time we review how the IRR process is being done so as to not diminish the true essence of the law,” Zubiri added.
Pointing to the recommendations made by Tolentino, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Pia Cayetano said legislators are not allowed to participate in the crafting of IRRs.
“It’s difficult that we are prevented,” Cayetano said.
While Drilon agreed that IRR should follow the law, he said the only remedy that senators can do would be to ask the Supreme Court to declare as void an IRR which lawmakers find to run counter with the law itself.
“That is our system of government. It is the judiciary, which interprets finally whether or not a particular act of the two other branches is consistent with the Constitution. We are operating under a system of separation of powers,” he said.
Drilon, a former justice secretary, said the role of legislators is to craft laws as well as policies and it is the mandate of the executive branch to execute them.
“It is part of their mandate to issue rules and regulations. Whether or not we place it in the law that the rules and regulations will be issued, they have the right, the prerogative to issue rules as part of their execution of the law,” the minority leader said. This, following Sotto’s suggestion that the provision under a proposed measure requiring the crafting of an IRR could just be removed.
“Our role is if the rules and regulations are not consistent with our policy…we can go to court and have that voided,” he added.
In ending the discussion, Zubiri proposed the creation of an oversight committee that would look into laws that have a conflict with their IRR.
Personnel from the Senate’s legal office can help senators look for IRRs that clash with laws for the filing of cases before the Supreme Court, according to the majority leader.
“I think that would send a strong signal to the executive that we are constantly monitoring the passage of our measures,” Zubiri said. [ac]
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