MANILA - Senators on Wednesday agreed to pass a law that would "carve out" the billions of pesos lodged in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) before the emergency spending measure expires in mid-December.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto initially wanted to extend the Bayanihan 2's validity, but Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that may be deemed unconstitutional.
"Just to avoid the legal issues, maybe we can quickly pass a law which will carve out the unreleased funds and pass it quickly," Drilon said during budget deliberations in the Senate.
"I think that is the faster and safer route legally than extending Bayanihan 2," he said.
Under the law, emergency measures automatically expire once Congress adjourns session.
Recto agreed with Drilon's proposal.
Opposition Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan nixed proposals to craft a third Bayanihan Act.
"Are we condoning delays? Kasi ie-extend naman [ng Congress], so pabayaan na lang [na delayed ang release ng funds]?" he said.
(Are we condoning delays? If Congress will extend it, should we just let them delay the release of funds?)
Drilon also downplayed the need for a third Bayanihan law, saying additional funding for typhoon victims and COVID-19 related programs may just be included in the 2021 budget which is being tackled in the Senate.
"The executive should be able to cooperate by releasing funds under Bayanihan 2," he said.
"Why do we have to crack our head on this issue when in fact the solution is... by having these money released," he added.
As of October 29, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released P78 billion, about half of the P165-billion funding the government is authorized to spend under the Bayanihan 2.
If Congress fails to either extend the validity of the Bayanihan 2 beyond Dec. 19 or pass a law to save the funds from expiring, the unspent sum would be reverted back to the National Treasury.