“Pwede kong pinirmahan itong batas na ‘to, pogi tayo, pero alam ko hindi mami-meet ng gobyerno. (I can sign this law. I’d look good but I know that the government cannot meet this).”
Such was Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s honesty when he was asked yesterday on why he vetoed (or “voted against”) the Magna Carta for the Poor. He straightforwardly told us reporters that the law sounded good, but the government still does not have the means to meet its demands.
I’ve appreciated his stand on why he vetoed it. As he said, he did not do it because he was anti-poor. He cleared that the law was good, as it is his administration’s priority to look at the welfare of the poor. Only, he said, this law lacked “progressive realization.” Let me explain his take.
As the Philippines is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic Culture and Social Rights of the United Nations, this treaty realizes that the government, if it can have the ability, to meet all the rights of the poor.
While leering over his copy of the Magna Carta of the Poor, the president read to us Section 4, which states:
“The poor shall have the following rights, the enjoyment of which is an essential step towards poverty alleviation:
a) the right to food
b) the right to employment and livelihood
c) the right to quality education
d) the right to shelter
e) the right to basic health services and medicines.
The government shall, as a matter of duty and obligation, provide the requirements, conditions, and opportunities for the full enjoyment of these rights of the poor and which the poor can demand as a matter of right.”
In order to meet the right to housing and shelter alone, the president cleared that the government would need P2.320 trillion pesos to build housing units to every poor families.
This estimate is larger than the very national budget itself, which is at P2.006 trillion.
The president added that if he had signed it, it might end up government agencies being sued due to lack.
As I read and reread the transcript of his ambush interview, I appreciated how he had saved our fellowmen from another felony and from dire consequences.
Talking with fellow palace reporters, we agreed how this law would have been another burden to both government and the people. One of them said that government should not just give away “perks” to the poor easily to spoon feed them — it’s better to teach them to work for it.
And so, the saying goes, “Give a man to fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
This is not just said in schools. This should be true in our society. It’s easy to give to please anybody, but it doesn’t help all the time. Giving out these basic rights sounds good. Yet, there are setbacks in just distributing them without teaching society how to be good stewards of these rights. My fellow reporter even said that it would have better if the government uses the funds to focus on the education of every men. I agreed, adding that the mindset of many today is to depend on the feeder without getting off the table to get his own food.
Besides, what are your rights if you do not know how to use them? It’s like giving an extremely expensive, brand new toy to a reckless little kid who would just wreck it completely after a few hours. It would be a waste. Until all in society is ready to be responsible to these rights meant for them, the government should not succumb to the thought of giving it away.
After the vetoing of the law, the president ordered a social cluster group to study and come up with a substitute law for the poor.
A law may sound good, but it should be balanced with the realization of the targeted needs. The law is not meant to label one a hero, without realizing it would be a liability to many.
I just hope that the substitute law would be realistic and would be more strategic in meeting the needs of the poor without plunging anybody to the gutter. To make such a law is complex, and it would take a thorough study for an absolute poverty alleviation in our society.