Press Release
September 15, 2020

Tolentino calls out 'deformed and unrecognizable' IRRs of some gov't agencies

MANILA -- Senator Francis "Tol" Tolentino has called out the supposed practice of crafting "deformed and unrecognizable" implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) for the laws by concerned government agencies, thereby going beyond or even against the intention behind the legislation, which ultimately defied the sovereign will of the people.

"The spring cannot rise higher than the source," the lawmaker stressed, referring to the legal maxim in describing the IRRs as going beyond what is provided for in the law, during his privilege speech on Monday.

"The spring is not just rising higher, but it threatens to overflow and spill from the source and drown us all. The IRRs have not only misinterpreted our laws, but ultimately defied the will of the people as the real sovereign imbibed in our laws," he stated.

Pointing out the hard work of his fellow legislators behind the passage of every law, Tolentino expressed, "I rise today out of fear and apprehension that the very laws that my colleagues are working on, lahat po nang ginagawa nilang batas may be twisted, deformed, mutilated and become unrecognizable IRRs."

Based on his initial research, the Supreme Court (SC) had already shed light on the clash between the law and IRR in estimatedly around fifty or sixty cases.

To address this conflict, Tolentino said, "Without overstepping the finely drawn lines between the three branches of government, I propose a few actions that can help bridge the gaps between future laws and their respective IRRs. We can study and amend the Senate rules of procedure to allow legislators to craft with the government agency concerned a draft of the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed bill prior to it becoming signed into law."

He also proposed that succeeding laws and its corresponding IRRs be submitted to an oversight committee composed of the concerned Senate committee which prepared the bills.

Among the cases cited by Sen. Tolentino was Pharmaceutical and Health Care Association of the Philippines versus Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III (GR No. 173034) in 2007, wherein the High Court tackled the validity of the IRR of Executive Order No. 51, otherwise known as the Milk Code.

"The Milk Code limited its coverage to infants 0-12 months old but the IRR extended it to young children up to 3 years. The Milk Code allowed advertisements as long as they were approved by the agency, but the IRR prohibited them totally," said Tolentino, adding that it was as if DOH made a new law by itself.

Also cited was GMA-7 versus the Commission on Elections (G.R. No. 205357) in 2014 wherein the High Court struck down as unconstitutional a provision in the IRR of the poll body for being contrary to the Fair Elections Act.

"Under the law, each candidate for national and local elective office shall be entitled to not more than 120 minutes and 60 minutes of television advertisement and 180 and 90 minutes of radio advertisement, respectively, without distinguishing whether the time limits were aggregate or on a per station basis," Tolentino explained.

"However, COMELEC went beyond the authority granted to it by law when it adopted the 'aggregate' basis in determining the allowable airtime and not in a per station basis, drastically reducing the air-time allotted to the candidates," he added.

Furthermore, In Imbong v. Ochoa (G.R. No. 204819) back in 2014, the IRR of the Reproductive Health Law redefined the meaning of "abortifacient" and "contraceptive" as found in the law.

Following his public address in the Senate, several lawmakers -Senate President Tito Sotto, Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Joel Villanueva, Pia Cayetano, Manny Pacquiao and Richard Gordon - backed Tolentino's call.

Senate President Sotto vowed to act quickly on resolving the issue of the conflict between the laws and IRRs.

"Tama po sinabi ni Sen. Tolentino. It's about time we review our rules and procedure," added Senator Zubiri.

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