House OKs P401-B Bayanihan 3 bill

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2021 11:29 PM | Updated as of May 26 2021 11:28 AM

MANILA - The House of Representatives has approved House Bill 9411 or the proposed Bayanihan 3 bill which is now worth P401 billion instead of the P405 billion originally proposed.

The bill was approved on 2nd reading in an ayes and nayes vote after 2 days of plenary deliberations and months of committe deliberations. The House will give final approval next week.

The approved bill has 3 phases. The first phase will be worth P165.9 billion funds, divided into the following: "ayuda" for all (P108 billion), emergency assistance to affected households (P12 billion), wage subsidies (P8 billion), assistance to displaced/disadvantaged workers (P10 billion), medical assistance program (P3 billion), RT PCR testing for seafarers and OFWS (P500 million), Pension and Gratuity Fund (P20 billion) and Support to Basic Education (P4 billion) and Support to Higher Education (P500 million).

Phase 2 will be worth P186 billion and will be used for the following: "ayuda" for all (P108 billion), emergency assistance to affected households (P12 billion), wage subsidies (P8 billion), Assistance to Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (P10 billion), National Nutrition (P6 billion), Assistance to Agri Fisher Sector (P15 billion), assistance to cooperatives (P1 billion) medical assistance to indigents (P3 billion), Local Government Support Fund (P3 billion) and Pension and Gratuitiy Fund (P20 billion).

The third phase, worth P48.6 billion, will be used to fund the following: emergency assistance to households (P6 billion), wage subsidies (P4 billion), assistance to displaced/disadvantaged workers (P5 billion), Assistance to Agri-Fishery Sector (P15 billion), Assistance to Cooperatives (P1 billion), Medical Assistance to Indigents (P3 billion) and Pension and Gratuity Fund (P14.6 billion).

Suffering cuts from an earlier proposal were provisions on National Nutrition (from P10 billion to P6 billion), Local Government Support Fund (from P5 billion to P3 billion), Support to Basic Education went from P5.6 billion to P4 billion but a new item for support to higher education worth P500 million was created. 

Three billion pesos will be used to provide tablets for students and P1 billion will provide mobile and internet allowance to Department of Education personnel.

The amount of P500 million is appropriated for subsidies, allowances, and other assistance for displaced or adversely affected teaching and non-teaching personnel, including part-time faculty and contractual employees, in public and private higher education institutions. 

Meanwhile, RT-PCR testing for seafarers and OFW increased from P400 million to P500 million.

Under the bill, the Department of Social Welfare and Development will implement a social amelioration program for food security through a one-time cash subsidy program of P5,000 to P10,000 for every affected household in areas declared under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) or any other type of COVID-19 quarantine that may be of the same or stricter level of restrictions as an ECQ. The DSWD shall utilize the General Appropriations Act 2021 budget for Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) for the implementation of the aid package.

The bill will be funded and sourced primarily from the unprogrammed funds and savings realized from modified, realigned, or reprogrammed allocations for operational expense of any government agency or instrumentality under the Executive Department, including, but not limited to, traveling expenses, supplies and materials, expenses, professional services, general services, advertising expenses, printing and publication expenses, and other maintenance and operating expenses in the 2021 GAA.

It will also tap savings from the First 2 Bayanihan Laws and excess revenue collections in any one of the identified tax or non tax revenue sources as well as new revenue collections, among other fund sources.

House Deputy Speaker, Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab earlier warned proponents of bill that it needs to have a certificate of actual cash availability of else it may go the way of other unfunded laws that Congress has passed. 

Proponents of the Bayanihan 3 bill have maintained it is a special appropriations bill. 

Ungab also took exception with the bill’s identification of unprogrammed funds from the 2021 budget as a source of funding.

House Ways and Means Committee chair Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda had maintained that the Constitution is silent about the extent to which the special appropriations are to be funded by a certification of availability of funds, or by revenue. 

Salceda defended the constitutionality of the measure even as it lacks a crucial constitutional requirement—that the government certifies there are available funds. 

“Bayanihan 3 already meets the constitutional requirement that the proposal be supported by funds to be raised by revenue proposed in the same bill," he said.

He added that the constitutional condition does not specify whether the revenue proposed in the same measure must be equivalent to the spending proposed during the same fiscal year. 

"We can pay for this over time. The Constitution is clear that 'funds ... to be raised by a corresponding revenue' need not be met by immediate collections," he said.

Salceda also argued that the Constitution does not specify any restrictions on the source of funds certified to be available by the National Treasurer.