Senate Legal Counsel resigns citing lack of support
One of the Senate legal counsels who wrote a memorandum in March stating that the appropriation of the Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Fund was “not proper” resigned on Wednesday.
Amanda Ledford tendered her resignation amid House Speaker Sabino Anastacio’s demand that the memorandum be withdrawn and that the legal counsels issue a public apology on their “error.” [restrict]
Ledford in her resignation letter, April 19, addressed to Senate President Hokkons Baules , stated that as Legal Counsel, her job is to “provide objective legal advice to any and all members of the Senate.”
“The past few days have shown me that I do not have the support of the Senate. I feel that my hands have been tied, and I am not willing to compromise my integrity,” Ledford said in the resignation letter provided to Island Times.
On April 18, Anastacio said the Senate Legal Counsel’s memo “ has caused confusion and concern regarding the bedrock of our democratic system.”
In a March 20 legal opinion, Senate Legal Counsels Ledford and Lance Seibenhener stated that the NCD fund, under the existing law, could only be used for the purpose of preventing NCD. The law ensures 10 percent of alcohol and tobacco taxes are used to fund efforts to prevent NCDs.
RPPL 9-57 Section 4 (a) states, “There is established with the National Treasury a permanent Non-Communicable Diseases Fund (“Fund”). The purpose of this fund is to support the efforts of the National Coordinating Mechanism for Non-Communicable Diseases, established by Executive Order 379, to prevent non-communicable diseases. The Fund is reserved for programs selected by the National Coordinating Mechanism for non-communicable diseases and may only be appropriated and disbursed with subsection (b) and (c).” Subsections (b) and (c) refer to application processes.
The legal opinion was rendered upon the request of Sen. Rukebai Inabo on March 20, days before the president signed the Fiscal Year 2017 budget into law.
The FY 2017 budget included the provision that a part of the NCD fund will be earmarked to purchase a medical referral housing in Manila.
Anastacio however did not agree with the Senate legal counsels opinion and requested the House Legal Counsel to come up with their own assessment of the issue.
He said the opinion from the Senate put the OEK in a bad light and “damages the reputations of the legislature and executive branch unjustly.”
The House Legal Counsel opinion stated that the appropriation of the NCD fund is within the authority of Palau Congress.
Anastacio in his letter to the Senate urged “the Senate to withdraw the memorandum in question and issue a public apology that properly clarifies the lawmaking powers and procedures of the Olbiil Era Kelulau.” [/restrict]