DBM sees no problem if Congress opens inquiry over unused Bayanihan funds

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2022 04:23 PM | Updated as of Mar 23 2022 04:35 PM

Maintenance workers clean the House of Representatives ABS-CBN News
Maintenance workers clean the House of Representatives in Quezon City, in preparation for President Rodrigo Duterte's last State of the Nation Address on July 26, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Wednesday said it is up to lawmakers whether or not they would launch a probe regarding the unused funds for COVID-19 response under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2). 

Acting Budget Secretary Tina Canda said the restrictions caused by the pandemic might have contributed to the budget use delays, noting government processes. 

"Prerogative naman po iyan ng Kongreso ‘no, na kasama ho iyan sa inherent powers niya na imbestigahan iyan. So siguro po, maghahanda ang mga ahensiya para i-explain nila kung ano ang nangyari, kasi marami talagang mga limitasyon eh itong pandemic na ito," Canda explained in a public briefing. 

(That's the Congress' prerogative since that is within their powers to investigate. Maybe the agencies could prepare to answer questions why these were unused. There are a lot of limitations in this pandemic.)

"Iyong mga dating magagawa ng mga ahensiya na face-to-face kasi, ginagawa via another platform. So medyo mahirap iyon. So baka kaya nagkaroon ng delay. Pero tama naman na talagang tanungin nila kung ano ang nangyari," she added. 

(What agencies previously did face-to-face have shifted to other platforms. That's difficult and maybe that is the reason for the delay. It is correct though to ask them what really happened.) 

President Rodrigo Duterte this week said that unused funds in the measure have already been returned to the Bureau of Treasury. He did not disclose though the amount and from which agencies, but he asked Congress to not use the money for now.

The budget chief said while the President could appeal to lawmakers to hold the money in cases of pandemic emergency, a process must still be followed. 

"Kaya nga hindi agad-agad ginagawa ni Presidente ito dahil dapat bigyan siya ng kapangyarihan ng Kongreso na, kumbaga, i-pool ano, pagsama-samahin iyong mga unutilized na mga allotments... Kailangan talaga ng act of Congress iyan," she said.

(That's the reason why the President did not do this immediately since he must be given the power by Congress to authorize pooling the unused allotments. An act of Congress is needed.)

"Siguro ito iyong mga 2021 releases for Bayanihan na hindi pa nasa ano, varying stages ng pag-bid out. So kaya siguro sinabi ito ni Pangulo, ayaw niya munang ma-revert ito kasi ongoing na iyong mga proyekto na ito," she added. 

(Maybe these were the 2021 releases for Bayanihan that are still in the varying stages of bidding out. Maybe that's why the President ordered it because the projects are still ongoing.)

The Commission on Audit earlier reported that some P5 billion for loans to micro, small and medium enterprises remain unused under Bayanihan 2 as of mid-2021. 

The Bayanihan 2 is the government's second relief response to address to the country's health and economic problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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