Ex-gov't lawyer asks SC to stop Duterte’s emergency powers, fund disbursements under Bayanihan 2

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 30 2020 12:22 AM | Updated as of Oct 30 2020 09:21 AM

Former Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado said the effectivity of RA 11494 or Bayanihan 2 lapsed on October 12 when Congress adjourned. Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News and RTVM screengrab on composite photo

MANILA — Former Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado has asked the Supreme Court to stop, through a temporary restraining order (TRO), President Rodrigo Duterte’s exercise of emergency powers and the disbursement of funds under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Bayanihan 2).

Jurado said the effectivity of RA 11494 or Bayanihan 2 already lapsed on October 12 when Congress adjourned.

He said that although section 18 of the law mentions December 19, 2020, what controls it is the phrase “this Act shall be in full force and effect until the next adjournment of the Eighteenth Congress.”

That adjournment allegedly took place on October 12, the day before the special Congressional session Duterte called for from October 13 to 16, to break the impasse over the House Speakership row.

Amid the powerplay for House Speaker, ex-House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano suspended House sessions on Oct 6.

The presidential proclamation issued by the President, according to Jurado, automatically adjourned the regular session, also halting the effectivity of Bayanihan Act 2.

He said this meant that except for the provisions expressly allowed to continue to take effect after the lapse of Bayanihan 2’s effectivity, the President’s emergency powers and the disbursements of other funds not exempted beyond October 12 were illegal.

“Such exercise and delegation of emergency powers, to and through Respondent Budget Secretary, is done with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of its jurisdiction since the President’s emergency powers already ceased as early as 12 October 2020,” he said.

Bayanihan 2 alloted P165.5 billion worth of funds but he pointed out that only P4 billion was released, citing an October 22 article from the Philippine News Agency.

Among the allegedly illegal disbursements are the P56 billion in funds released on October 27 to 6 government agencies were:

  • P100 million - DTI (Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program)
  • P5 billion - augmentation of NDRRMF Fund
  • P8 billion - DOLE’s Camp Tupad program
  • P6 billion - DSWD assistance 
  • P11.62 billion - DA’s Plant, Plant, Plant Program
  • P20.575 billion - DOH’s COVID-19 responses
  • P5.1 billion - DOLE’s AKAP
  • P500 million - local government support

Jurado estimated around P105 billion worth of public funds are still set to be released, which he claimed would be illegal since the law prohibits release of funds from the national treasury without an appropriation law.

Earlier in the day, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the government has already released P77.98 billion, out of the P140 billion allocation for Bayanihan 2, to various agencies for their programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press statement, the DBM said P76.22 billion of the released funds were from the fund allocated by the law, while P1.75 billion are charged from this year's budget allocation of the respective government agencies, pursuant to Section 4(rr) of the same law.

Named as respondents to Jurado’s petition were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, 13 Cabinet secretaries, the national treasurer and head of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and 2 other government agencies.

He clarified he was not challenging the validity of the law but only its enforcement after October 12.

The Supreme Court had junked in June a plea questioning the constitutionality of the first Bayanihan Act, less than a month after it was filed and without requiring respondents to comment.

Legislative immunity? 

Former law Dean Jaime Ibañez claimed the law granted the President legislative authority beyond what was necessary to address the concerns brought by the coronavirus pandemic.

He also urged the high court to void other issuances imposing quarantine protocols.

Duterte appointed Jurado to head the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) in April 2017 but fired him in a televised speech on May 28, 2018 supposedly for favoring the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) in granting a 75-year casino permit.

Jurado has denied approving the permit but only issuing a legal opinion based on APECO's amended charter.

Watch more in iWantTFC