Bill extending Bayanihan law for 3 months filed at Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   May 28, 2020   •   732

MANILA, Philippines – A bill seeking to extend for three months the validity of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act amid the ongoing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has been filed at the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri introduced Senate Bill No. 1546, proposing the extension of the Republic Act No. 1168 to allow the government to continue its response in addressing the threat and impact of COVID-19 in the country.

The law allows President Rodrigo Duterte to realign items in the national budget for the government’s COVID-19 response. It also grants him the authority to provide emergency support for vulnerable groups and individuals, expand medical resources to fight COVID-19, and finance emergency initiatives to keep the country afloat.

The Bayanihan law, which was signed last March 24, is only valid until June 24.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, assured that the bill will be approved before the Congress adjourns its session next week.

SAP cash aid will continue despite Bayanihan Law expiration – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   June 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The expiration of Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act will not affect the release and distribution of the cash assistance intended for low-income households gravely affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, Malacañang said on Thursday.

“Sa ngayon, wala namang epekto,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said during a virtual presser. “Hindi naman po sakop iyan ng Bayanihan Act. It’s a physical act of disbursing what has been allotted by Congress. So wala pong problema iyan.”

Under Bayanihan Law, the government is mandated to provide emergency subsidies ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 under the Social Amelioration Program to 18 million poor households who are heavily affected by the community quarantine.

In the first tranche of the program, family beneficiaries living in enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) have already received cash aid. In the second tranche, additional five million families living in ECQ areas will receive subsidy from the government.

Roque expressed his belief that the government did its job when it came to distributing financial assistance to the program’s intended beneficiaries and other sectors affected by the pandemic.

He also believes that the government has implemented the necessary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country, such as the procurement of test kits, personal protective equipment, ventilators and other medical supplies.

“Bagaman tumaas, kung ikukumpara sa buong daigdig, di naman po ganuon ka-grabe, third in ASEAN but worldwide, I think we’ve done a very good job, lalong lalo na po sa paglimit ng mortality,” he said.

Roque, however, admits that the Bayanihan Law’s expiration will affect the country’s further needs if the public health crisis continues and more people will become infected with the virus.

“Makakaapekto po yan sa future needs natin, kita ninyo naman ang nangyari sa Cebu… Ang istorya ng Cebu ay istorya ng buong Pilipinas. Kapag sumipa po ang numero ng COVID-19, napakarami pong pangangailangan,” he said, referring to Cebu City which appears to be an emerging virus hotspot after recording a spike in the number of infections.

Meanwhile, Roque said the chief executive may call for a special session of Congress once the proposed economic stimulus program to help ride out the coronavirus pandemic is finalized.

“Magpapatawag po ang presidente ng special session kung mayroon na pong nabuong concensus kung magkano ang nabuong stimulus package dahil napasama na po sa isang panukalang batas yung extension ng emergency powers at stimulus package,” he said.

The Congress adjourned sine die its first regular session early this month without passing the proposed second Bayanihan Act.

The Palace earlier said the government prefers a proposed economic stimulus that it can afford and will not require too much borrowing.

Congress will resume its session in July. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Senate adjourns session sans passage of ‘Bayanihan Law 2’

Robie de Guzman   •   June 5, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has adjourned sine die its first regular session in the 18th Congress without passing the proposed “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III adjourned the session on Thursday afternoon, without approving on final reading the Senate Bill No. 1564 that would provide for the Philippines’ coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response and recovery plan.

Before adjourning the session, senators held a caucus as they waited for the urgent certification from Malacañang to allow the swift approval of the measure.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte did not certify the bill as urgent as announced later by his spokesperson, Harry Roque.

Senate Bill 1564 seeks to extend until September the validity of the Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which grants the president special powers to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act is an emergency measure which will expire once the Congress adjourns sine die.

Under the law, all provisions under an emergency measure cease to be valid upon the next adjournment of Congress.

According to Senator Panfilo Lacson, once the Bayanihan to Heal as One law lapses and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act is not passed, the national government will no longer be compelled to give cash aid.

“Mawawala ang emergency powers. Lahat ng provision sa Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, balewala na ‘yan kasi time bound ‘yan,” he said during an online interview with reporters before the resumption of Thursday’s session.

“Kung hindi mapapasa ito, ang mga kababayan natin na ‘di nakakatanggap ng tulong, ang maasahan lang nila kung ano ang ibibigay ng Executive Branch na available pero hindi sila mama-mandate ng batas na magbigay ng ayuda,” he added.

The Senate on Wednesday passed on second reading the proposed ‘Bayanihan to Recover as One Act but it did not reach the third and final reading due to the three-day rule in passing legislation. An urgent certification from the Palace would have expedited the passage of the measure.

Under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, the allocation of a P140-billion standby fund is proposed to help sectors and industries heavily-hit by the pandemic. It also seeks to provide funds for the procurement of additional COVID-19 testing equipment as well as the implementation of assistance programs for displaced workers, low-income households and other sectors.

Congress will open the second regular session in July. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

134 barangay execs facing criminal raps for alleged SAP anomalies – DILG

Robie de Guzman   •   May 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday reported that there are now 134 barangay officials who are facing criminal raps over the alleged anomalies in the distribution of cash aid under government’s social amelioration program (SAP).

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said the development represents a 320% increase in the number of barangay executives who are facing complaints before the Prosecutor’s Office of the Department of Justice for their alleged offenses.

Last May 20, the DILG reported that 42 barangay officials were charged by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in relation to the alleged SAP irregularities.

“Hindi ninyo matatakasan ang mga panlolokong ginawa ninyo sa pamimigay ng ayuda. Sinira ninyo ang tiwala ng gobyerno at ng inyong mga kabarangay kaya sa kalaunan, sa kulungan ang bagsak ninyo,” Año said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Año revealed that a total of 318 complainants went to the PNP-CIDG to report the alleged wrongdoings of their barangay officials during the SAP distribution.

The PNP-CIDG will file nine more cases in the next few days as it fast tracks the case build-up on 86 other cases, he added.

The DILG earlier said that “splitting” is among the top complaints leveled against erring barangay officials, in which they allegedly divide the SAP cash aid of one family to benefit other families.

Collecting “processing fees” and getting a cut from the SAP financial aid of beneficiaries also emerged as among the top complaints against some barangay officials.

DILG spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya also said that politics was sometimes at play in the distribution of SAP in some areas where local executives allegedly deprived residents from receiving cash assistance because they are not among their political supporters.

“Ilang beses na naming inuulit. Hindi criteria ang pagiging kamag-anak o kakampi sa politika sa pamimigay ng SAP. Para ito sa mga kapus-palad ano man ang katayuan,” Malaya stressed.

Cases for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act were filed by the PNP-CIDG against these barangay officials, the DILG said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento earlier directed all prosecutors in the country to set the preliminary investigations, as soon as possible, to monitor the progress of such cases which have taken on “a sinister and disgraceful character, considering that money intended for poor hungry people is unlawfully taken away from them.”

“We are grateful to the DOJ and the Prosecutor General for prioritizing these cases. We need to send a strong message to corrupt barangay officials that their criminal activities will not be tolerated,” the DILG said.

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