MANILA — The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on final reading the proposed Bayanihan to Arise As One Act or Bayanihan 3, a P401-billion stimulus package aimed to provide "direct emergency and social amelioration" to Filipinos badly hit by the pandemic.
Voting 238-0-1, lawmakers approved House Bill 9411 amid fears that it would become an unfunded law with cash being reserved for the 2022 national election campaign.
"This P401-billion lifeline measure outlines additional interventions to ensure that our kababayans are provided direct emergency and social amelioration, have sustainable sources of income, and have stable access to affordable food and quality health services despite the impact of the COVID-19 crisis," Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said.
The centerpiece of the proposed legislation is the P216-billion funding for two rounds of cash aid worth P2,000 to be given to each of the 108 million Filipinos regardless of age and economic status, Velasco said.
The bill also contains allocations for the following:
- wage subsidies
- emergency assistance to quarantine-affected households
- assistance to displaced workers
- national nutrition
- financial assistance to agri-fishery sector and cooperatives
- medical assistance to indigents
- local government support
- free COVID-testing for seafarers and other overseas Filipino workers
- pension and gratuity fund for retired military and uniformed personnel
- support to basic and higher education
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.
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.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman cast the lone abstention, explaining it "suffers" constitutional infirmity.
"Since an appropriation entails the allocation of funds, it stands to reason that funds must be available or a corresponding revenue measure be proposed in the special or supplemental measure to ensure the implementation of the appropriation law," he said.
Lagman fears the the absence of a certification of fund availability may be connected to the 2022 national election campaign.
"Is the utilization of available funds being reserved by the Duterte administration for purposes other than the COVID-19 response considering the proximity of the 2022 elections?" he asked.
The Makabayan bloc, meanwhile, voted for the measure, despite having opposed the previous Bayanihan law.
The measure is now at the hands of the Senate.
However, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Monday the Bayanihan 3 is unlikely to be approved at the Senate before it adjourns at the end of this week.