Lately, the President has vetoed two bills filled during the 15th Congress. They are the Centenarians Bill and the Internally Displaced Persons bill. The former— because the palace argued (and rightly so!) that a 75% discount without any benefit to business was grossly unfair. The latter, hailed as an important piece of legislation that no less than the United Nations lauds its passage.
The President has argued had constitutional flaws in the Internally Displaced Persons bill that gave the Commission on Human Rights more power than it should have. Of course, Congress could fix this by going into session and with two-thirds voting separately make it into law. Congress of course isn’t in session, since we just had an election. So yes, no chance to fix the Internally Displaced Persons bill.
Another bill also opposed by the President and his men— the establishment of the Department of Information and Communications Technology on austerity grounds. That bill passed before the Senate and the House never made it to the President’s desk for a proper veto. Instead it has languished in the netherworld. A bill that made it through both houses of Congress, a bill that spent gazillions of hours and winds up as dead before it was even born.
Also two laws passed during the 15th Congress have pending questions before the Supreme Court. The unconstitutionality of both the Cybercrime Prevention Act and the Reproductive Health Law are being challenged. The former, by more than 15 petitions challenging 29 provisions of the law to be unconstitutional, which really means the law, if ever the Supreme Court strikes down all 29 means, what else is left other than words strung together to form some cohesive, but ultimately worthless sentences. On the latter, challenged before the Supreme Court by hardline conservatives led by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines who seemingly forgot to learn some reading, and some comprehension in school.
My point in bringing all this up that the 15th Congress doesn’t seem to have a good track record of bringing out decent bills. We really can’t blame coordination between the palace and the Congress. For one thing, I happen to like the fact that the President vetoes bills he thinks shouldn’t become the law of the land. How I wished he did this for the idiotic Cybercrime Prevention Act, but that’s what we have the Supreme Court for, and why we live in a democracy. It is nice to know that no one is sleeping in the Palace. It is also nice to know that Congress, while being a close ally of this President, isn’t merely a rubber stamp Congress. That they do write laws. Sometimes laws that may not sit well with the administration.
It is embarrassing that legislation like the Centenarians Bill gets passed– an extremely populist bill by the way it gives a 75% discount, and let businesses shoulder the cost that no one seem to have bothered to oppose it. Or maybe it just wasn’t so newsworthy that no one knew about it. Why wasn’t there a hardline opposition to it during deliberations. Surely, Congress would have asked the executive for some opinion? Right?
And what about the Department of Information and Communications Technology? At a time when the nation needs better policy on ICT, and to implement that roadmap it goes away for budgetary reasons. On the surface, it seem like a fair way to assess it. We do have a nation that can hardly afford anything. Why wasn’t there a greater debate on the matter? If the bill wasn’t ready why did it get passed?
I think the problem here is the leadership in both houses of Congress. It has to be smarter than this. If a bill like the Internally Displaced Persons bill is highly important— why isn’t the Congress fighting tooth and nail to get it passed? Again, they would have known when this bill would find itself on the President’s desk. So why did it fail? What then does this speak to us about the current leadership in Congress? What does this mean, moving forward? Is it really an independent body? Where is the fire in the belly, is all I am asking, especially in the Senate. Maybe old hats need to take it easy and give the younger boys and girls a seat at the table.