MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III admitted on Monday, March 25, that he refused to sign into law a bill which aims to protect the rights of the poor by giving them equal access to basic rights and government services.
The President told reporters he found several provisions of the proposed law unrealistic. He specifically cited the right to shelter, which, he said, would cost the government at least P2.32 trillion.
For 2013, the government has a Congress-approved budget of only P2.006 trillion.
“Ngayon, ‘yung budget natin ang pwede lang i-program of the P2-trillion (for housing) is roughly about P600-billion. Wala pa ‘yung right to food, wala pa ‘yung right to work, wala pa ‘yung right to health, wala pa ‘yung right to education,” Aquino said. (Given our existing budget, what is allowed to be spent on housing is only P600 billion, excluding provisions for the right to food, work, health, and maybe even education.)
Aquino also said he does not agree with a provision that will allow those covered by the proposed law to sue the National Housing Authority (NHA) if it fails to provide housing units.
“So, sa madaling salita, pwede akong magpa-cute. Pwede kong pinirmahan itong batas na ‘to, pogi tayo, pero alam ko hindi mami-meet ng gobyerno. Made-demanda pa, kunwari, ‘yung head ng NHA: ‘bakit wala akong bahay?’” Aquino said. (I could have signed this to gain brownie points, but I didn’t since I know we won’t be able to meet our commitments.)
Lawmakers slammed the President for the veto.
Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay, a staunch critic of the Aquino administration, said Aquino’s move to veto the Magna Carta for the Poor “just goes to show that he has no love and concern for our less fortunate brothers”.
“His elitist background is showing,” Magsaysay, an author of the House version, said.
Gabriela party-list Representative Luzviminda Ilagan said Aquino’s decision is “tragic.”
“Perhaps the President who comes from an elite family cannot relate to the concerns of the impoverished in our country. Do we not say that those who have less in life should have more in law? But with the President’s veto, even the law cannot be source of relief to the poor,” Ilagan added.
Earlier, Sen Francis Pangilinan, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said the Magna Carta for the Poor seeks to ensure the protection of 5 basic rights of every Filipino, namely, the right to food, employment, quality education, shelter and basic health services and medicines.
Not enough time
The President said he has tasked the appropriate agency to draw up a substitute measure which will be submitted to Congress immediately.
A Palace statement said he has directed the Social Cabinet Cluster (Human Development and Poverty Alleviation) to draw up a “substitute measure” that will be submitted to Congress which it may use as reference towards drafting a new Magna Carta for the Poor.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., however, doubts the present 15th Congress will be able to deliberate on the substitute measure with haste considering that they have only two session days in June before Congress adjourns sine die.
“We can’t pass it in the 15th Congress anymore. But for sure, it will be a priority in the next Congress and we can pass it the first two months of the first session,” Belmonte said in a text message.
Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec 16, 1966, the Philippines, as a signatory, joins 160 other countries in committing to work towards the granting of economic, social, and cultural rights to individuals, including labor rights and the right to health, the right to education, and the right to an adequate standard of living, according to a Palace statement. – Rappler.com
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