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Opinion

FVR legacy

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Over the weekend, two more enrolled bills that went through the legislative mills of both chambers of the past 18th Congress ended in presidential vetoes. They were the latest casualties of the veto power exercised by newly installed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. One month into office, President Marcos has vetoed a total of five enrolled bills. On the other hand, an equal number of enrolled bills approved by the previous Congress have also lapsed into law. An enrolled bill lapses into law if the President does not veto or sign a bill within 30 days from receipt in his office.

An “enrolled” bill refers to a final copy of the bill, or proposed legislation that went through the bicameral conference committee that both the Senate and the House of Representatives have ratified. The “enrolled bill” goes to printing. After which, it will be signed by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.

The enrolled bill, as printed, will still go through Malacanang review. The President may sign it into law, with or without fanfare. Or, the President may exercise outright veto and sends the bill back to Congress. A vetoed bill may still become a law if Congress overrides it by two-thirds vote.

President Marcos inherited all these enrolled bills after assuming office last June 30 and took over from his immediate predecessor, former president Rodrigo Duterte. For reasons only known to him, ex-president Duterte did not act on them before stepping down from office. Obviously, these enrolled bills were submitted to Malacanang on the last few days in power of the Duterte administration. There are still eleven other enrolled bills due to lapse into law, unless otherwise vetoed.

The five enrolled bills vetoed by President Marcos were transmitted to the new leaderships of both chambers of the 19th Congress – the immediate predecessor of the 18th Congress. Such were legislative waste of efforts, time, and resources poured into each and every bill that went through the previous Congress.

This brings to mind the prudence and virtue of how the late president Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) secured the support and cooperation of leaders of Congress during his six years watch over the country. FVR had only his late sister, Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani and provincemate from Pangasinan, former speaker Jose de Venecia among his few key supporters during the 9th and 10th Congress from 1992-1995 and 1995-1998, respectively.

Yet, FVR mustered the passage and implementation of major structural reforms that have been institutionalized in laws of the land passed by Congress.

Unlike the 64-year-old President Marcos who won by “majority votes” last May elections this year, FVR did not enjoy such huge base of support when he first took office. FVR was regarded as “minority president” after he won the May, 1992 presidential elections by slim margin of victory over six other rivals who included the mother of the present Chief Executive, former First Lady, Mrs.Imelda Marcos.

He immediately reached out to all his presidential rivals upon assumption in office. Then went out his way to forge a common legislative agenda by convincing leaders of Congress on the passage into law creating the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC). In his first state of the nation address (SONA) at the 9th Congress in July, 1992, FVR included the proposed creation of LEDAC among his priority legislative bills.

The LEDAC was established by Republic Act (RA) No. 7640 that FVR signed it on December 9, 1992. Among other things, the LEDAC law empowered the President to convene a regular meeting at least once every quarter to discuss common and vital bills in Congress. As provided by RA 7640, the LEDAC have 20 members consisting of the Senate president, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, key leaders of Congress, selected Cabinet members, local government officials and a representative each from the youth and private sector.

Thus, FVR convened initially the LEDAC meetings at Malacanang Palace, with him as host. Subsequently, FVR convinced the late Senate president Edgardo Angara and ex-Speaker De Venecia to host the LEDAC meetings alternately. All of them agreed to a sort of contest on the lowest cost of hosting the breakfast meetings of LEDAC.

During the past two administrations, however, the two former presidents delegated the task of convening the LEDAC to their respective Executive Secretary. Presided by the so-called “little president,” it earned the monicker as “mini-LEDAC” meeting.

A day after the first SONA of President Marcos last July 25, several lawmakers already sounded out Malacanang to reactivate and convene LEDAC. But an intervening event with magnitude 7.0 earthquake distracted focus on the SONA. President Marcos listed at least 21 proposed bills he asked the 19th Congress to consider for immediate passage into law.

A “mini-LEDAC” meeting of sort virtually took place when President Marcos flew to Abra a day after the July 27 earthquake. Presidential sister Senator Imee Marcos, along with their maternal first cousin House Speaker, Leyte Rep. Martin Ferdinand Romualdez, several Cabinet officials and some Ilocos Region Congressmen were also in attendance.

At the meeting, Sen. Marcos called attention to her pending bill in the 18th Congress that sought to create a disaster response body patterned after the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the United States. Presumably, this would replace a pending bill on the proposed creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR). With his “rightsizing the government” policy direction, President Marcos agreed with his sister.

Instead of just listening to the presidential sister, the LEDAC would be the best venue to thresh out the best and the brightest ideas.

This is the legacy of FVR’s unity, solidarity and teamwork that he espoused. He walked the talk and lived up to his self-imposed vision to be a reformer, a peacemaker, a consensus-builder. But most of all, he was a genuine nation builder. Thumbs up for you, my President FVR.

FIDEL RAMOS

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