MANILA - The Senate on Thursday adjourned session without final approval of a bill that would extend the validity of some provisions of a law that allows the government to disburse cash aid during the coronavirus crisis.
While the existing Bayanihan Law is expected to expire on June 24, 2020, the measure guarantees emergency powers allowing President Rodrigo Duterte to take over hospitals and other private infrastructure if needed.
"If the Constitution is interpreted strictly, where it says that emergency powers cease upon the next adjournment of Congress (both House and Senate), then yes, it would expire," Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara told the reporters when asked if the Bayanihan Act would expire on June 5 without the approval of the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill.
The Bayanihan to Recover as One bill (Bayanihan 2) strips the existing law of emergency powers granted to the president and a provision that penalizes quarantine violators. The new bill retains the executive's prerogative to grant cash aid for poor families, and proposes a P140-billion standby fund for several sectors.
The Senate approved the Bayanihan 2 on second reading on June 3, and has been waiting for Malacañang to certify it as urgent as a Congressional rule mandates that there should be at least 3 days between the passing of a bill on second and third reading.
Malacañang said it would not certify the Bayanihan 2 as urgent, but has yet to give details on why the bill was not deemed a priority.
Congress has to go on a nearly 2-month break as the Constitution prohibits the legislative body from holding session 30 days before the President's State of the Nation Address.
ACHIEVEMENTS UNDER FIRST REGULAR SESSION OF 18TH CONGRESS
The Senate also adjourned without passing a counterpart measure for House Bill 6815 or the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines, which is expected to provide a P1.3-trillion economic stimulus package that would help cushion the country's economy from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III assured the public that the Senate has been working to craft "a legislative agenda that is committed to saving lives; maintaining growth in the economy; and—for as long as the Corona virus poses a threat to the world—by unifying government policy in anticipation for living in a new world."
"With the people’s interest in mind, your Senate deemed it appropriate to respond to this pandemic within our mandate and in the best and most efficient way possible," he said.
Sotto said the Senate has achieved the following during the first regular session of the 18th Congress:
- 8 bills have been signed into law
- 2 bills are pending approval of the President
- 1 Senate Joint Resolution
- 21 bills have been passed on Third Reading
- 10 bills have been approved on Second Reading
- 52 resolutions have been adopted
The bills signed into law between July 2019 and June 2020 are as follows:
- Act Postponing the May 2020 Barangay And Sangguniang Kabataan Elections
- Act Establishing Malasakit Centers In All Department Of Health (DOH) Hospitals In The Country
- Act Extending Availability Of the 2019 Appropriations To December 31, 2020
- Act Appropriating Funds for the Operation of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines From January 1- December 31, 2020
- Act Modifying The Salary Schedule For Civilian Government Personnel And Authorizing The Grant Of Additional Benefits
- Act Increasing Excise Taxes on Alcohol and E-cigarettes
- Act Designating The Third Sunday Of November Every Year As The National Day Of Remembrance For Road Crash Victims, Survivors, And Their Families
- Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
Congress will open its second regular session on July 27, 2020, the same day President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address.