This week, the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) came up with 13 priority measures it wants passed for Congress’ second session. The measures are supposed to embody the President’s legislative agenda for the year, culminating in his third SONA in 2012.
The LEDAC is a unique and potentially powerful body, one of the few institutions where the two Houses of Congress come to a meeting of the minds with the Executive, which it is supposed to keep in check. The measures that it agrees on, therefore, reflect the common denominators that the Executive and Legislative branch have when it comes to legislation. Legislators from both houses of Congress look to the LEDAC for the “proper signals” as far as which bills will most likely be pushed.
Thus, a LEDAC imprimatur is a potentially powerful tool especially for social legislation and other game-changing bills. It can and should be used for those especially difficult measures that require extra effort from both branches of government to enact.
It disappoints us, therefore, to learn that the LEDAC’s list of 13 priority measures for 2011-2012 are mostly minor, non-controversial bills that are sure to pass with little effort. Except for the RH bill and the proposed increase in liquor taxes, the said measures are not radical or bold enough to require the joint forces of the Executive and Legislative, through LEDAC, to have approved. I’d say these are the kind of bills that will pass by the very nature of the legislative mill. Bills that we can pass in three months if we really want to.
The bills include the following: – a measure delineating the country’s final forest line; the Kasambahay Bill; amendments to PTV-4’s charter; increased penalties for the theft and destruction of disaster monitoring equipment and early warning devices; a measure consolidating the Philippine Statistical System; expansion of the Department of Science and Technology’s scholarship program; amending the charter of the National Electrification Administration; amendments to the Urban Development and Housing Act; the individual information and data privacy bill; amendments to the anti-terrorism bill; and amendments to the Consumer Protection Act.
Again, these are hardly the measures that would address the country’s basic problems and will not lead to social change. Rather, it appears to be a “segurista list” of sure-ball measures not requiring much effort, perhaps typical of the President’s laid back management style.
In fact, there is nothing in the list to address the problems of rising electricity rates, toll fees, the ailing health care system, cartelization of the economy, the deterioration of the manufacturing sector, or even the President’s pet issue – the fight against corruption.
It is truly disappointing that the President is wasting the LEDAC’s clout and influence on bills that are sure to pass. I can mention at least five difficult measures that we urgently need but which are not on the list – amendments to EPIRA, the universal health care bill, the rice industry development bill, amendments to the BOT law, the anti-trust bill, the freedom of information bill and the whistleblowers protection bill.
I am particularly concerned that two key measures to boost the fight against graft and corruption – the FOI bill and whistleblowers protection and rewards bill – was left out of the list. These measures would have institutionalized the reforms needed for greater transparency and accountability. The message we get now is that transparency and accountability have ceased to be among the Aquino administration’s priority. In any case, I hope the House leadership will still pursue passage of these two measures despite the President’s reversal of his campaign promise.
Worse, he now wants to amend the anti-terrorism bill to remove the safeguards against its abuse put in by human rights advocates in the House and Senate. This is something we would expect from former Pres. Gloria Arroyo and not a supposed democratic rights advocate like Aquino.
But if this is all there is to it, if these 13 bills comprise what the new administration considers its priorities, then I say goodbye to change. Goodbye to the straight path. Welcome to the same old world.#