Philippine Star - Aquino confirms veto: I won’t fool the people

26 March 2013

President Aquino confirmed yesterday he vetoed the Magna Carta for the Poor, explaining the national government has no means to provide mass housing, food, employment, health services, and education to the poorest of the poor as stated in the law.

“I could have signed this law, and made myself cute to the public, and earned more brownie points in the process. But I know for a fact that the government cannot meet this demand,” he admitted to Palace reporters in a chance interview.

What made him balk was the possibility that the government - like the National Housing Authority - would be sued if unable to fulfill its duties of providing mass housing to Filipinos living below the poverty line, or 26 percent of 95 million Filipinos.

In mass housing alone, around P600 billion is needed out of the P2 trillion annual national budget, which does not include the poor’s right to food, health services, education, and employment.

“If I sign this into law, even if I know that government cannot meet its target, then I only fooled the people who are my real boss. I can never do that to them,” Aquino explained, referring to the five million social housing units target of the government.

“Now if we get sued, the problems of government will be compounded even more. We even have to pay their rent in case they have no house yet, not to mention annual interests, and so on and so forth,” the President pointed out.

“I would have adopted a delaying tactic, like in the implementing rules and regulations, but I will not,” Aquino added. “I could have decided to make this pending until the end of my term, and let the next administration inherit the problem. But I will not do it because the next government will be at the losing end, and will be pitiful.”

The President pointed out that another problem was that the phrase “progressive realization” was not included in the covenant, which could have removed the burden on the part of the government.

He also said he was turned off by two provisions in Section 4 which state that the poor shall enjoy the right to food, employment and livelihood, quality education, shelter, and basic health services and medicines; and that “the government shall, as a matter of duty and obligation, provide the requirements, conditions, and opportunities for the full enjoyment of these rights... which the poor can demand as a matter of right.”

Aquino said he instructed the social cluster staff, as a “corrective action,” to draw up a “substitute measure” that will be given to the next Congress and “hopefully, that they will act upon with haste.”

Pangilinan laments veto

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, author of the Senate version of the Magna Carta for the Poor, lamented yesterday the President’s decision to veto law, saying that the intent of the measure did not include lawsuits that may come from the state’s failure to improve the lives of the poor.

Pangilinan also said there were “consultations” prior to President Aquino’s decision to veto the measure.

“The concern of the executive is that if the resources are not sufficient to fund the law in its entirety, the State may be faced with lawsuits. It was not the intent of the measure to open the State to lawsuits but the executive sees it otherwise,” Pangilinan told The STAR in a text message.

Noting that 27 percent of Filipinos live in poverty and without access to food and shelter, employment, education and health care, Pangilinan also said if the measure was not vetoed, the state would ensure the protection of the basic rights of Filipinos.

He added that farmers and fishermen are the most affected with 37 percent of farmers and 35 percent of fisherfolk living in poverty.

The Magna Carta for the Poor was approved by the House of Representatives in June 2012 and passed by the Senate last December. Trade Union Congress Party Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza authored the House version of the bill.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada and Senators Antonio Trillanes and Pia Cayetano introduced Senate Bill 3309, also known as the Magna Carta of the Poor.

Pangilinan conducted hearings as chairman of the Senate committee on social justice and as a sponsor of the measure.