Senators lament wrongful or non-implementation of laws over IRR issues with executive agencies

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2020 09:01 PM

Senators attend the opening of the 18th Congress' second regular sessions on July 27, 2020. Henzberg Austria, Senate PRIB

MANILA - The Senate on Monday took issue with how some laws have either been wrongly or not implemented at all by agencies in the executive branch due to their implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) or the lack of it. 

Some senators complained that legislative measures passed have allegedly been "mangled" by bureaucrats through the IRRs.

Sen. Francis Tolentino raised the matter in a privilege speech, enumerating several laws that according to him were either wrongfully implemented or were not implemented at all due to the lack of an IRR.

"What is happening is, they make the implementing rules and at the same time they interpret their own implementing rules which is not part of the law," Tolentino said in plenary.

"In effect, we are abandoning our legislative powers to unelected bureaucrats... We should limit the power of the administrative agencies which mutilates, delays the true expression of the legislative bills of Congress," he said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III agreed with Tolentino, noting how several agencies have used the IRR to avoid implementing a bill "they do not like."

"Parang meron silang veto power e. Basta ayaw nila yung batas, hindi nila i-implement yung IRR," he said.

(It seems like they have the veto power. As long as they do not like the law, they will not implement the IRR.)

"The solution is, remove the section... Let us not place it (IRR) in the law, kasi parang dine-delegate natin yung trabaho (because it seems like we are delegating our duty)," he said.

Under the law, executive agencies are authorized to craft rules and regulations in implementing a measure crafted in Congress. 

The Supreme Court earlier ruled that lawmakers are not allowed to participate in the crafting of the IRR since this is a mandate of the executive department.

But according to senators, several provisions in the following laws were either incorrectly implemented or were never rolled out by executive agencies:

- Anti-Terror Law
- Milk Code of the Philippines
- Reproductive Health Law
- Free Legal Assistance Act
- National Internal Revenue Code

"We have passed laws that have not been implemented, and their only reason is that they are still waiting for IRR. This is unbelievable and unacceptable," Sen. Joel Villanueva said.

"The bills we pass into law get manipulated through the IRR," Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

"It's about time we review how the IRR process is being done so as not to diminish the essence of the laws that we pass," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Senate should take the issue before the Supreme Court, and urge the high court to "void" the problematic IRRs.

"The executive branch executes the law and it is part of their mandate to issue rules and regulations, whether or not we place it in the law," Drilon said.

"The remedy is we go to court and declare IRR as illegal," he said.

Zubiri said the Senate Committee on Rules will collate all laws that have yet to be implemented, or were wrongfully rolled out due to issues in the IRR.

The senators agreed to discuss these items in a caucus before elevating the issue to the SC.

"I think that would send a strong signal to the executive that we are constantly monitoring our measures," Zubiri said.