Wary of Aquino’s veto, legislators won’t rush bills
MANILA, Philippines—Apparently bothered by President Aquino’s recent veto of several measures, senators and representatives won’t be rushing approval of five priority bills in the last two session days of the 15th Congress, Malacañang said on Sunday.
Both Sen. Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. balked at hastily approving the bills on Tuesday and Wednesday, lest these also come under presidential veto.
Drilon, the presumptive Senate President in the coming 16th Congress, is Aquino’s point man in the upper chamber.
“They won’t rush it, they’re apprehensive they would be vetoed by the President. They know the President is very meticulous,” said Secretary Manuel Mamba, recalling his meeting with Drilon and Belmonte, two stalwarts of the administration Liberal Party, last Friday.
Besides, added Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) in Malacañang, there were pending questions from senators about most of the bills.
Originally lined up for Congress’ approval were five measures respectively delineating forest limits; reorganizing the Philippine Statistical System; providing science and technology scholarships; strengthening the witness protection program; and protecting whistle-blowers.
Of the five, only the bill proposing the reorganization of the Philippine Statistical System would likely be approved by the Senate this week, months after the House approved its version, said Mamba in a phone interview.
At the senators’ request, the President issued a certificate of urgency for approval on second and third reading of the bill on the same day. The House will adopt the Senate version to avoid going to the bicameral conference committee, he added.
“That’s fine by us if they can pass only one priority bill,” said Mamba. “We’re not after quantity but quality.”
The four other bills would have to be refiled in the 16th Congress which opens on July 22.
The President last week vetoed the proposed Centenarian Act that gives incentives to an estimated 7,000 centenarians, and the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Act of 2013 which protects the rights of internal refugees, and last month, the proposed Magna Carta of the Poor.
The first bill gives a 75-percent discount on goods and services to centenarians that, however, is not tax deductible for business owners. The second measure grants powers to the Commission on Human Rights that belong to the judiciary. The third bill requires a P3-trillion budget to implement.
With the PLLO being blamed for the disconnect between Malacañang and Congress, Mamba proposed that the department legislative liaison officers (DLLOs) who keep tabs on bill deliberations be headed by either a secretary or assistant secretary.
“We can’t do the monitoring alone. They’re the experts. So monitoring should be their main task, instead of just an adjunct function,” he said.
Malacañang meanwhile would rather focus on the legislative agenda of the 16th Congress.
To sustain the robust 7.8-percent economic growth in the first quarter, the President has directed the Cabinet to prepare a legislative agenda for the 16th Congress that would be heavy on jobs generation, Mamba said.
The President was concerned about economists’ observations that the high economic growth rate has not trickled down to the people.
“His instruction to them was to come up with legislation that would sustain the economic growth and, at the same time, create jobs for our people. He said the trickle-down effect was not being felt. The solution is jobs creation,” said Mamba.
He said the Cabinet clusters went on to draw up 61 bills along the lines of jobs creation. These would be trimmed for presentation to the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council, he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.