Deciphering the appropriations acts of the United States

To be fair to RJ Nieto and similar-minded individuals, it is not that easy to decipher the appropriations acts of the United States Congress.

Unlike in the Philippines where the Congress is mandated to pass a general appropriations law which will include everything to be expended for the next fiscal year (see Sec. 22, Art. VII), the United States could pass laws for specific expenditures. More importantly, “riders” (provisions in the appropriations law which do not deal with the expenditures per se but on other things – e.g. a ban on certain personalities entering the U.S.) which are prohibited in the Philippines are perfectly fine in the U.S. legal system. They also incorporate by reference, which, simply put, makes the committee report part of the law, unless negated by the law itself.

Thus, when I first try to figure out where the actual text related to Sen. De Lima is, it took me some time. I do admit this was the first time I tried interpreting how the U.S. Congress does it. (I had planned to create my own mini-guide how to get to the actual text, but there are already guides how to do that.)

Mr. Nieto’s fault is his inability to move beyond partisanship and really try to understand if the ban is in effect, despite the reaction of the Palace which indicate that it is indeed in effect. I suspect he looked at the final text, did a string search, and realizing with glee that the text string is not there, proceeded to mislead his followers by his wrong interpretation of the law. In fact, it was only when I did the string search, and I could not find the string (“de lima” and “delima”) did I try to understand how the appropriations act was structured.

This readiness to support our stance with whatever we’ve found (or not found) is not unique to those supporting the current regime, but also those who are yearning for the good old days of human rights as fundamental concepts. I had also been guilty of this, posting some time ago that a pro-administration’s senatorial candidacy is being withdrawn because of his very low ratings in the polls, until I was corrected by someone who personally knew the relevant things that indeed it was that candidate’s health concerns that prevented him from the continuing the race.

The difference is the ability to immediately recognize when one is mistaken – something that is still to be admired from the other side.

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