Senate adjourns session sans passage of ‘Bayanihan Law 2’
Robie de Guzman • June 5, 2020 • 295
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)
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday said that the scheduled investigation into allegations of “widespread corruption” in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will still push through despite a possible lockdown of the Senate building.
The Senate is set to convene as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, August 4 to delve into reports of alleged corruption in PhilHealth.
“Hearings will not be covered by our ‘ECQ’. Tuloy [ang] PhilHealth [probe] tomorrow,” Sotto said in a message to reporters.
Earlier, sources said that the Senate will be placed on a two-week lockdown in support of the medical workers’ plea for timeout.
The Senate leader said the hearing will be conducted in a “hybrid” setup, which means that senators’ physical and virtual attendance will be acknowledged.
Resource persons invited to the hearing, however, will be required to physically appear in the Senate.
Among those invited to face in the probe is PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales.
“We seek to get the answers to the questions of how and where these funds were spent. The important thing, the bottom line is we need to amend the law. Apparently, we need to amend the law creating PhilHealth to prevent similar occurrences in the future,” Sotto said.
Also invited to the hearing are PhilHealth Board Member Alejandro Cabading, former Head Executive Assistant Estrobal Laborte, and resigned Atty. Thorsson Montes Kieth, who claimed there is widespread corruption in the agency. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Tuesday approved on third and final reading the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) bill which seeks to extend the powers granted to the Duterte administration to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
Twenty-two senators voted to pass the measure while Senator Francis Pangilinan was the lone dissenter.
The upper chamber passed the bill a day after President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to legislators to expedite its passage during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Under the Bayanihan 2 bill, 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. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday, July 27 opened its second regular session of the 18th Congress ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address set to be delivered later in the afternoon.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III opened the session around 10 a.m. with 17 senators physically present at the session hall while six others participated through video conference.
“I open the second regular session of the 18th Congress of the Senate with a sense of urgency and a purpose. As long as we share the burden of the COVID pandemic with other countries of the world, we must continue to work towards saving lives and easing our common anxiety. This truth is unavoidable,” Sotto said in his speech.
“The Senate has promptly responded to the needs of our nation. Still, the Senate is ready to do more,” he added.
He also vowed that the Senate will continue to work on several priority measures in response to the crisis brought about by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
These measures include the strengthening of the country’s public transport system, digital landscape as it transitions to new normal, distance learning for students amid the public health crisis and initiatives to help distressed enterprises to recover from the economic fallout brought about by the pandemic.
In a separate statement, Sotto said the Senate is also expected to pass the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which was passed on second reading before the sine die adjournment last month.
The measure seeks to extend the powers granted to President Rodrigo Duterte under Republic Act No. 11469 to carry out national policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate is also expected to pass the repackaged Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE), formerly the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA), to help businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises badly hit by the pandemic, rebuild, recover and retain jobs for their employees.
Other priority measures the Senate President is pushing are the Medical Scholarship Act, Presidential Drug Enforcement Authority Act, Hybrid Election Act, Anti-False Content Act and the 14th Month Pay law. The Senate will also tackle the Expanded Solo Parents Act, the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience, amendments to Public Service Act and the Agrarian or Agriculture Credit Cooperative Condonation Act, among others.
In previous years, senators would open their session at the Senate Building in Pasay in the morning before travelling to the Batasang Pambansa, the headquarters of the House of Representatives in Quezon City in the afternoon to attend the president’s SONA.
But due to the pandemic, only eight of the 24 senators will be physically witnessing this year’s SONA. These are Sotto, Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Francis Tolentino, Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Sherwin Gatchalian, Pia Cayetano, and Ramon Bong Revilla.
The Senate and House of Representatives will hold a joint session at 4 p.m. Monday at the Batasang Pambansa to hear the president’s address. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)
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