Article 33. There shall be a Commission on Fourth reading to examine and study the format, style, and obvious errors of bills approved on third reading before they are ordered for voting on fourth reading. No bill shall become an Act of Parliament unless it shall have been printed and copies thereof in its final form are furnished to its members at least five calendar days prior to its fourth reading.
QUESTION: Can the bill be amended by Congress even on a matter of style once it is submitted for the approval of the Parliament on Fourth Reading?
ANSWER: If the Parliament finds it necessary to correct the bill as printed for fourth reading, the correction can be made under such rules and regulations as may be provided by the rules of Parliament, but then the bill as corrected on the floor of Parliament has to be printed again and re-submitted to Parliament for final approval. The present system is to authorize the chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over the bill and the presiding officers of the two houses to approve the bill for final printing and in many cases the bill as approved by the printing Committee is changed from the actual bill approved by the Congress.
Article 34. At the beginning of the fourth year of the Parliament’s session of an administration, the first item on its agenda shall be the performance of the President and the Prime Minister and only at this time may a vote of confidence be introduced. A vote of lack of confidence shall be considered approved if Parliament by a vote of a majority of all its members elect a Member of Parliament to replace the President or the Prime Minister whose performance has been ineffective. The newly-elected President or Prime Minister shall serve the unexpired term of six years.
In a purely parliamentary system, Parliament may withdraw confidence from the Prime Minister at any time by a vote of the majority of all its members. A Prime Minister might be elected and in a few months the Parliament could withdraw confidence from the Prime Minister and elect a new one. This does not provide for stability in the government.
In this Article, the withdrawal of confidence from the President and/ or the Prime Minister can only be taken once during an administration of six years and this Article provides that the said vote will be the first item on the agenda at the beginning of the fourth year of an administration, that is midway the term of six years of every administration.
Thus, we introduce in our Constitution a feature of the parliamentary system, but we limit the withdrawal of confidence after granting the President and the Prime Minister a chance to perform during the period of three years, giving them ample time to prove themselves. But at any time, they can be expelled from the office by impeachment proceedings which has the nature of a judicial proceeding based on an action that could be filed either by the Blue Ribbon Commissions (Article 58), the Finance Commission of Parliament (Article 58), or by the Tribune of the People (Article 59). The decision in all cases is vested in the Constitutional Tribunal (Article 52) which is a nonpolitical body.
- Matters affecting the State for a period not to exceed five years may be the subject of an Executive Agreement which the Troika is empowered to approve. Treaties relating matters binding for five years or more will require the approval of 60% of the Commission on External Affairs composed of fifty members of Parliament, ten for each state.
- The creation of the position of ambassador will require an Act of Parliament and all appointees with an ambassadorial rank will require the approval of its Commission on Appointments and Commission on External Affairs.
- An Act of Parliament shall require the question and answer period, and the privilege of Ministers who are not members of Parliament to make statements and provide information to Parliament.
- The Troika shall submit to Parliament during the second week of February its recommendations for the annual expenditures, separating the capital investments, which shall constitute the budget. Operating expenses in the budget shall not exceed 80% of the actual receipts of the Government for the preceding year.
- The Parliament from time to time shall define the annual reports that the Troika, the Ministries and other instrumentalities of the Government shall submit to Parliament.
- The organization of the executive department into ministries is the prerogative of the Troika, subject to the control of Parliament over the budget.
This provision defines what are executive agreements and what are foreign treaties.
The Article covers the subject of the budget and it provides that the budget shall distinguish the capital investments from the operating expenses. The latter expenses are limited to 80 percent of the actual receipts of the Government for the preceding year. This provision does away with the need of estimating the future revenues of the Government, an exercise mostly in futility, which can be manipulated by the Budget Commissioner to justify greater expenditures.
Before the Martial Law regime, annual income of the Government was generally overestimated and it was the practice of Congress to authorize the President of the Philippines to transfer funds from one item of the budget to another item, in some years as much as 75 percent of the appropriation of one item.
Since the actual income of the Government was generally overestimated in some years as much as more than 75 percent of the authorized expenditures, the result was that it was the President and not Congress who finally decided which items of the budget were to be implemented. This was another source of great political power vested in the President.
Under this Article, operating expenses in the budget shall not exceed 80 percent of the actual receipts of the Government during the preceding year. This amount will not entail an estimate for it refers to actual receipts for the preceding year. The balance of 20 percent of those actual receipts is to be saved by the Government and used for capital expenditures. With this provision, the budget will always be a balanced budget.
To increase the expenditure of the Government for more rapid development, recourse to the income and borrowing capacity granted to the different Authorities of the Federal and State Governments would provide the needed resource to create full employment and rapid economic growth without forgetting to promote the democratization of wealth or popular capitalism as provided in Chapter VII of this Constitution. (To be continued/PN)