Lawyers group dares Aquino to veto P353-M Apeco budget

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A GROUP of lawyers serving as legal counsel of rural based groups who questioned the constitutionality of laws that created the ambitious Aurora Pacific Economic and Free port Authority (Apeco) project in Casiguran, Aurora today asked President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to veto the P 353-million budget allocated for Apeco next year.

“If President Aquino really recognizes the justness of the cause against Apeco, he will use his constitutional power to veto the budget. The President can make use of his line item veto prerogative as a constitutional mean to stop the proponents of Apeco from pushing this hard sell project in the town of Casiguran,” said Atty. Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC).

Atty. Pastores is the legal counsel of several groups led by Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Panlalawigang Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Aurora (Pamana), Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and Anakpawis party list who filed a petition before the Supreme Court on October 2011 questioning the constitutionality of laws that led to the creation of Apeco.

Atty Pastores told some 100 participants to the People’s Forum on Apeco last December 8 in Casiguran that the President can make a difference by scrapping the budget through exercise of veto power as guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution. The forum was sponsored by Pamana group and other non-government organizations (NGOs) in cooperation with parishes of Casiguran.

The PILC lawyer said the House of Representatives, Philippine Senate and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) had already commented on the petition filed last year questioning the constitutionality of Apeco.  She said the Apeco board had also submitted its comment to the Supreme Court.

“A consolidated reply to the comments of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the OSG had been sent to the high tribunal. We hope the Supreme Court will decide on the merits of the case and on the collective sentiment of the Aurora people,” said Atty. Pastores.

In their 110-page petition filed on October 11, 2011  Pamalakaya chairperson Fernando Hicap, Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Resist Apeco, Defend Aurora Movement convener Salvador France, AMGL chairperson Joseph Canlas and Pamana vice president Elmer Dayson asserted that laws which created Apeco– namely Republic Act 9490 or the Aurora Special Economic Zone Authority (AZESA act of 2007) and the amendatory law RA 10083 or the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Free Port Act of 2010 were unconstitutional.

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