Aquino Vetoes Bill On Internally Displaced Persons

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AFTER killing a measure that seeks to provide benefits for centenarians, President Benigno Aquino 3rd has vetoed yet another bill that aims to give protection to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

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The bill, which Congress passed in February, would have been called “An Act Protecting the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof and for Other Purposes.”

It would have mandated government to, among others, protect refugees from armed conflict, human rights violations and natural disasters, including their resettlement, relocation and reintegration.

In his veto message, the President said that while the objectives of the measure is “laudable,” some of the bill’s provisions are in “conflict with the Constitution.”

Mr. Aquino particularly cited the bill’s provision on damages which he said “unlawfully differentiates between displacements caused by security agents of the state and other entities.”

He also cited a provision allowing individuals to claim financial assistance and compensation from the government.

“[This] opens the door to a slew of claims or cases against the government and goes against the non-suability character of the State,” he added

The President also objected to the provision granting the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) the power to determine damages incurred against IDPs, which he said is a power that belongs exclusively to the judiciary.

”The additional powers that [the bill]grants to the CHR exceed those which the Constitution intended to give as it was conceived as an investigative and recommendatory agency exercising limited powers,” he said.

Word war
The veto of the bill that would have granted special benefits to centenarians sparked a vicious word war between Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Senator Francis Pangilinan, who blamed each other for the veto, principally due to the proposed 75 percent discount to centenarians on the sales of goods and services from all establishments.

Lagman first attacked Pangilinan on Tuesday, accusing the senator of being a “bill grabber” and for inserting the controversial provision.

Lagman, who authored of House Bill 834 or “An Act Honoring and Granting Additional Benefits and Privileges to Filipino Centenarians,” said it was Pangilinan who introduced his amendment increasing to 75 percent the discount for centenarian citizens.
Lagman’s bill originally proposed a lower 50 percent discount.

The Albay lawmaker also claimed that Pangilinan merely copied HB 834 and came up with Senate Bill 3328.

For his part, Pangilinan criticized Lagman for resorting to “name-calling” and “flip-flopping” as he claimed that the latter agreed to the proposals and it was he who requested that a counterpart bill be filed in the Senate.

“It is on record. Now with this veto he flip-flops, does a 180-degree turn, and resorts to name-calling and finger-pointing. What a shame. I expected better from a seasoned legislator. His actuation is saddening and pitiful,” Pangilinan said.

According to the President’s veto letter, “the 75 percent discount exceeds the usual mark-up rate of most businesses and will obliterate profit margins and result in capital loss because the proposed measure does not provide for a tax deduction to recover the said discount.”
As for the decision of the President to veto the bill, Pangilinan said that he disagrees with Executive Branch and maintained that giving discounts to some 5,000 centenarians in the country would not have an impact on the affected sectors.

“The discounts, in my view, are negligible while the effect on the weak, feeble, and aged needing government care would be considerable,” he explained.

Malacanang has defended the decision of the President to veto the centenarian bill by saying that the issue is not about the population of the centenarians but on the burden it will impose on business establishments.

”The 75 percent discounts exceeds the usual mark up rate of most businesses and result in capital loss. The measure [as amended by the Senate]does not provide for a tax deduction to recover the said discount,” deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said.

Jefferson Antiporda And Catherine S. Valente

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