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Aquino vetoes bill on internally displaced persons

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III has vetoed a bill seeking to protect the rights of persons internally displaced by armed conflict, violence and natural disasters. 

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said Wednesday, May 29, Aquino vetoed Senate Bill No. 3317 and House Bill No. 5627 or the “Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Act of 2013" due to 3 key reasons.

In his veto message sent to both chambers of Congress on May 24, Aquino objected to a provision allowing internally displaced persons (IDPs) to claim financial assistance and compensation from the government. Aquino said the provision "opens the door to a slew of claims or cases against the government and goes against the 'non-suability' character of the State." 

He also said the bill's provision on damages "unlawfully differentiates between displacements caused by security agents of the State and other entities." The IDP rights act also includes displacements caused by natural disasters. 

Aquino also raised concerns over the constitutionality of additional powers that the bill provides to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).  The President said the power granted to the CHR to determine damages incurred against IDPs impinges on the judiciary's exclusive power to facilitate the award of such claims.

Aquino also said the additional powers exceed those which the Constitution intended to provide the CHR, which was "conceived as an investigative and recommendatory agency." 

This is the second bill that Aquino has vetoed in a week. On Tuesday, May 28, Aquino vetoed the "Centenarian bill" which sought to grant Filipinos who reach 100 years old various incentives. 

About 970,000 people continue to be displaced in Mindanao alone as of January 2013, according figures from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Of this number, at least 1,200 were displaced by armed conflict and clan violence in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Region XII.

Asked whether the recent vetoes reflect a failure of communication on the part of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), Valte said the PLLO "can only do so much" and that lawmaking is "up to the legislators."  

"It depends on the wisdom of the legislators on what they want to include in that particular bill before it gets transmitted to us," Valte said in a mix of English and Filipino. "Of course, that is a separate co-equal branch of government. They are entitled to put whatever they believe should be included in the laws they will transmit to us." 

The 15th Congress will hold its last plenary session on June 5. - Rappler.com