'No more emergency powers': Senators clarify Bayanihan 2 'not extension' of first law

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2020 09:23 PM

MANILA - The Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) bill, which will allow President Rodrigo Duterte to continue realigning funds for coronavirus projects until September 2020, is a new measure and "not an extension" of the first Bayanihan Act as it has been stripped of emergency powers for the chief executive, senators said on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1564 does not have several key provisions of the existing Bayanihan Act, including the President's power to "take over" hospitals and private establishments during the coronavirus crisis, as well as the section that penalizes quarantine violators.

"It will be a new law, not an extension," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters in a text message.

"Hindi na siya emergency powers act (It is no longer an emergency powers act.)... but in fact, it is trying to bring our country on the road to recovery," Sen. Risa Hontiveros said during plenary deliberations.

"Kung dati, nasa intensive care unit ang bansa, ngayon nasa regular room na," she said.

(If the country was in the intensive care unit before, now we are just in a regular room.)

The Bayanihan 2 gives the executive branch the authority to spend funds as follows:

 

But Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara clarified it is still up to the executive branch on how or where to source funding for the specified coronavirus-related programs under the new Bayanihan measure.

"These are wishlists and eventually we kind of have to consult with our economic managers as to what can be funded as to our cash position, our ability to borrow and all the economic numbers they have to churn out," Angara said.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Malacañang is waiting for the final version of the Bayanihan 2 to see if "it's acceptable" before certifying the bill as urgent.

"They want an extension of the bill to give them enough leeway just in case na magka-second wave. But the measures in the House and now in our floor in the Senate have additional fiscal incentives na hindi na kayang pondohan nang treasury (that the treasury can no longer fund)," Zubiri told reporters in a text message.

If the Palace certifies the Bayanihan 2 bill as urgent, the Senate can pass its version on final reading on June 4, before Congress goes on a 2-month break, Sotto said.

As of May 31, 2020, the Philippines has borrowed $4.55 billion for the government's COVID-19 response programs.

Of the amount, $1.7 billion was from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and $500 million was from the World Bank, the DOF said in a statement.