MANILA -- Malacanang did not seem to have time to convene a meeting of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), but maintained it was still able to set a legislative agenda.
This, after the Senate passed the freedom of information (FOI) bill on the same day the lower House approved on 3rd reading a bill declaring malunggay as the national vegetable.
Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said there is no aversion on the part of the President to convene the LEDAC, wherein he would have to sit with leaders of Congress as well as some members of the opposition blocs of both chambers.
"Wala pong pag-iwas yan. Sa kongkreto, magbalik-tanaw tayo. Paano ito hindi naganap noong 2013? Napakalimitado nung window before the start of the campaign. February may campaign na, pagkatapos yung eleksyon hanggang Mayo. Nag-reconvene ang Congress, July, last week of July. Yung buong pre-occupation naman ng Congress during the post-SONA period was for the enactment of the national budget 2014. Sa kalagitnaan nun, sumiklab yung isyu ng PDAF, at pagkatapos sunud-sunod yung kalamidad, na Zamboanga, Bohol, Santi, Yolanda," he said.
"So it was not for lack of effort or lack of willingness. Mayroon pong mga kongkretong mga supervening events that did not make it easy for the convening of that meeting," he added.
Asked if the Palace still does not see a need to call the LEDAC to harmonize and give directions to the legislative mill, Coloma maintained that they have been liaising with the legislative and setting the agenda even without the LEDAC.
"Mahirap yatang kalabanin yung malunggay. Hindi -- unawain lang natin, ano, yung dynamics ng lawmaking in a bicameral system. Ang mahalaga diyan sa bicameral system, kung ano mang panukalang batas ang naipasa sa isang Kamara, kinakailangan mayroong counterpart version yon, di ba? At pagkatapos magkaroon ng dalawang bersyon ng iisang batas, magpupulong ang dalawang Kamara at sisikapin nilang magkaroon ng harmonized version, at yung harmonized version yon yung ipapa-ratify muli nila sa bawat Kamara."
"Ang napansin ko nitong nakaraang tatlong taon, sinisikap naman ng Senado at ng Kamara na pagtugmain. Nagkakaroon naman ng coordination between the Senate and the House to harmonize their legislative agenda. At naalala ko nung bago mag-recess for the election campaign earlier (last) year, nag-meeting yung mga leaders of the Senate and the House; and as a result of that meeting, marami naman silang naipasang batas na importante sa bansa," he said.
Coloma also maintained there is no failure on the part of the executive to liaise effectively with the legislative, despite the President's veto of some bills passed by Congress.
"Ngayon, yung pangalawang question mo, nais ko lang ipaliwanag muli na buhay na buhay yung legislative liaison process between the executive and the legislative; such that even without the formal convening of a LEDAC meeting -- that we were not able to see for the whole of 2013 and you are still awaiting for 2014 -- hindi naman nangangahulugan na tumigil ang proseso ng pakikipag-ugnayan. We have in every department and in every major national government agency a legislative liaison office that constantly works with Congress para i-shepherd yung pagpasa ng batas. Marami kasing nangyayari diyan na away from the glare of the spotlight. Yung mga committees ng House and Senate perform background studies, nagre-research sila, kino-convene nila yung mga stakeholders for each issue," he said.
He added that the executive already has its own legislative priorities. "So gusto ko lang magbigay ng assurance na patuloy naman yung masinsin na pakikipag-ugnayan ng ehekutibo sa lehislatura. Yung mga Cabinet clusters nakapag-identify na ng mga priority measures for each cluster. Even in advance of any LEDAC meeting, conveyed na ito sa mga mambabatas natin at nag-umpisa na, ano. Yung marami sa mga priority measures na ito, meron nang mga naka-file na bill."
Coloma explained that previous presidential vetoes of some measures are not due to any failed liaison between the 2 branches of government.
"I've gone over it and I am convinced na wala namang pagkukulang yung ating PLLO kasi kung tutunghayan natin yung mga batas na na-veto, karamihan po nun ay yung mga tungkol sa conversion of local roads to national roads. I think out of 70 plus, mga 60, ganoon. Kasi bawat isang kalsada, halimbawa ay Paul Atienza road ginawang national road, ay separate na batas yon. Hinadlangan yan ng administrasyon sapagkat mayroong patakaran ang ating Department of Public Works (and Highways) tungkol sa proper maintenance of highways. So kung pinayagan yon madidiskaril yung programa kasi walang rhyme and reason, basta pinagbigyan yung mga posturing of local government units; gusto na nilang i-convert yung mga local roads into national roads."
"Meron pang isang halimbawa, yung Centenarian's Act. Di ba? Yung pumasa sa House tapos yung sa bicam version, vineto ng Presidente dahil may version doon, merong provision doon na 75 percent discount ibibigay, na sa taya ng ating Pangulo ay hindi naman reasonable at ito ay resulta ng kanilang bicam discussions. Tapos yung magna carta for the poor, na sa tingin naman ng Pangulo ill-advised dahil nagpapangako ng napakaraming benepisyo na magcre-create ng permanenteng obligasyon na hindi naman reyalistiko o hindi naman kayang panagutan ng pamahalaan," Coloma said.