MANILA - The House of Representatives gave the Duterte administration at least 6 more months to spend funds for pandemic response under Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2.
The approval came after interpellations and opposition from the Makabayan bloc, which also opposed the extension of the 2020 national budget to December 31, 2021 in an earlier vote.
Voting 179-6-0, House Bill 8063 was approved on 2nd, 3rd and final reading in a matter of minutes due to President Rodrigo Duterte's certification of bill as necessary.
Makabayan bloc members questioned government’s use of the Bayanihan 2 funds and the need to extend the funds' availability. Without the extension, all funds under the Bayanihan 2 will revert to the National Treasury after December 19, 2020.
The approval came with some hitches. When the plenary session began Monday, the plenary had to return to the Committee on Appropriations the report on H.B. No. 8217, entitled: “An Act Extending The Availability Of Appropriations Under Republic Act No. 11494, Otherwise Known As The 'Bayanihan To Recover As One Act'” which was approved last Friday.
The panel reconvened at 7 p.m. to amend House Bill 8603, filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, appropriations committee chair Eric Go Yap and Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, to make it identical to HB 8217.
Quezon Rep. David JayJay Suarez, who presided over the panel hearing Monday as vice chair, said Duterte certified HB 8063 and HB 8217 as urgent, allowing the bill to be approved on 2nd, 3rd and final reading on the same day.
“We basically adopted 8217 to 8063 and these were the House bills that were filed....nothing drastic was changed it’s technically quite the same we just had to agree in the details as to that which was included in the letter sent to us from the executive because the letter they certified urgent 8063 so therefore we just wanted to be in line with the request of the executive so that we can see congruent action from the House of Representatives.” Suarez said after Northern Samar Rep. Paul Ruiz Daza inquired why the panel was tackling the bill even after it was already approved by the committee last Friday.
The certification, addressed to Velasco, was received by the House also on Monday. The President certified both HB 8603, which extends the life of the Bayanihan 2 funds to June 30, 2021, and HB 6656 which extends the life of the 2020 Budget to December 31, 2021 as urgent.
The lower House has also approved the extension of the 2020 budget. The appropriations committee then approved the amended House Bill 8063 and Committee Report which was then submitted to the full House.
Once this becomes law, this will extend the life of the budget under RA 11494 by 6 months as it was originally meant to expire by December 19, 2020 or when Congress adjourns for its Christmas vacation.
The substitute bill was approved in substitution of 5 bills that all propose an extension of Bayanihan 2. The approval today paves the way for plenary action by next week.
Section 1 of the substitute bill provides that the the availability of funds under Bayanihan 2 must be extended only if funds from projects in the 2020 Budget that were discontinued and realigned to COVID 19 response are likewise extended. The House already approved on 2nd reading a bill extending the validity of the 2020 Budget to December 31, 2021 on Wednesday.
The bill likewise extends for the same period the availability of unreleased appropriations.
However the approved substitute bill does not extend the emergency powers of the president to discontinue and realign projects and programs. That power will expire by December 19, 2020 as scheduled.