Senators not sure why Cayetano, Defensor criticized but still adopted Senate's COVID-19 aid bill

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2020 07:38 PM

MANILA--Senators on Tuesday said they wondered why House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and another congressman criticized but at the same time adopted the Senate's version of a bill that would grant special powers to the President, and cash aid for health workers and indigent families during the coronavirus crisis.

Cayetano and Anak Kalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor earlier said that the Senate bill -- which placed parameters around special powers that would be granted to President Rodrigo Duterte -- diluted the House version. The House, however, still approved the Senate version.

"I do not understand how they can say that . . . They should not have adopted it," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters in a text message.

Under the Senate version, the President can only "direct" instead of "take over" private businesses if the need arises. The executive's authorization to reallocate funds from other agencies was also limited to 3 months, unless Congress extends it. The Senate also required the President to report how funds were realigned and spent every week, instead of every month.

Other senators noted that several Cabinet members who were present during the Senate's 17-hour deliberation of Senate Bill 1418 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act had no qualms about the measure.

Cabinet members who were present in the March 23 to 24 special session were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevara and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista.

The Cabinet secretaries were "constantly consulted about the proposed amendments by senators and the overall direction of the bill," acting Senate majority leader Sherwin Gatchalian said.

"The executive team made sure the amendments will not dilute the essences of the bill but instead, strengthen powers the given to the president," he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he also wondered why Cayetano and Defensor blasted the Senate version after adopting it.

"I do not know where the criticism is coming from," Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.

"The cabinet members who joined us in caucus, all the way to approval of the bill on final reading went home tired and sleepy but satisfied and very grateful."

ABS-CBN News tried to get a statement from Sen. Pia Cayetano, the Speaker's sister who sponsored the Senate bill, but she has yet to respond.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the story was simple: "They (House) approved it for the president to sign. End of story."