Duterte veto: Coconut trust fund bill may be unconstitutional

Pia Ranada

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Duterte veto: Coconut trust fund bill may be unconstitutional

Malacañang Photo

President Rodrigo Duterte also argues that the current bill's proposed coconut trust fund may benefit wealthy coconut farmer owners more than smallholder farmers

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the much-awaited Coconut Farmers and Industry Development bill because he thinks it could be unconstitutional and it lacked safeguards against abuses.

Duterte’s message was sent to media on Monday, February 18, 3 days after Malacañang confirmed the veto.

“After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that the bill may be violative of the Constitution and is lacking in vital safeguards to avoid the repetition of painful mistakes committed in the past,” he said in his veto message.

A presidential veto means Duterte has returned to Congress a ratified bill without his signature. Both houses will then have to work on the bill again and send another version to Duterte for his signature, a requirement to make it into a law.

The President said that creating a trust fund for coconut farmers and the coconut industry violates this specific line in the 1987 Constitution:

“[All] money collected on any tax levied for a special purpose shall be treated as a special fund and paid out for such purpose only. If the purpose for which the special fund was created has been fulfilled or abandoned, the balance if any shall be transferred to the general fund of the Government.”

The bill also supposed lacked a “limit on a covered land area for the entitlement to the benefits of the Trust Fund.”

This, said Duterte, might lead wealthy coconut farm owners to benefit “disproportionately” from the trust fund compared to the smallholder farmers who need the assistance more.

Duterte had previously vetoed the coconut trust fund bill’s twin bill, a proposed law that would have reconstituted the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

This other bill was necessary as the PCA is the entity tasked with managing the coconut trust fund.

Duterte had vetoed this PCA reconstitution bill saying it also lacked safeguards, placed public funds in the hands of civilians (specifically coconut farmers and coconut industry representatives), and undermined powers of other government agencies like the Department of Justice. – Rappler.com


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.