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‘Ideal’ to extend Bayanihan law by 3 months – Malacañang

/ 05:40 AM May 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — For Malacañang, a three-month extension of the coronavirus response law would be “ideal,” as it would give the government some flexibility in dealing with the pandemic.

But for the progressive bloc in the House of Representatives, where the proposal for a three-month extension of Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, is pending, the law should not be allowed to remain effective even one second longer.

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The Bayanihan law allows the President to reallocate funds and resources to support the government’s programs to help the poor and to improve the health system as the country tries to suppress the spread of the new coronavirus that causes the severe respiratory disease COVID-19.

June 25 sunset

The law sunsets on June 25, but there are proposals in Congress, including a bill filed by Cagayan Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, for its extension.

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In a television interview on Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the proposed three-month extension was not a preference of the Palace.

“[B]ut I think it definitely is necessary to give us at least 90 days and we’ll see from there if, at the end of 90 days, there’s a need for emergency powers still, then it can be extended until December,” Roque said.

He noted that if the extension ends in September, Congress will still be in session then.

This means it could vote for another extension of the law at that time, he said.

The law also provides for the distribution of cash assistance for two months to low-income families who have lost their livelihood because of the coronavirus lockdowns.

Current laws

President Duterte placed Luzon on lockdown in mid-March before easing quarantine restrictions a bit in mid-May.

The Palace is expected to decide this week whether to loosen the restrictions some more in June.

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For the six-member Makabayan bloc in the House, the Bayanihan law has never been necessary.

“[There] are enough mandates under current laws for agencies under the executive branch to ensure that Filipinos, as speedily as possible, have mass testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment for COVID-19 and that they will not go hungry,” the group said in a statement on Wednesday.

“For these urgent actions, only political will and concern for the people, especially the most vulnerable, are needed,” it said.

The bloc is composed of Representatives Ferdinand Gaite, Carlos Zarate and Eufemia Cullamat of Bayan Muna, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, France Castro of ACT Teachers, and Sarah Elago of Kabataan.

They argued that the government was not short of funds for its coronavirus response, considering it could tap the President’s intelligence and confidential funds, as well as “pork and unfeasible infrastructure funds” in the budget.

Reviving economy

On Monday, Rodriguez said Congress should extend the validity of the Bayanihan law as the crisis was far from over.

“Unfortunately, two months after the effectivity of the law, the end to the pandemic is not yet in sight,” said Rodriguez, chair of the House constitutional amendments committee.

The government has eased lockdown measures to allow some movement and business reopenings to revive the devastated economy.

On Wednesday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III filed a proposal for a P628-billion economic stimulus package to help the government save the economy from collapsing.

Sotto said he was confident that the Bayanihan law would be renewed before Congress’ adjournment on June 3.

He said the extension would come faster if the Senate and the House would agree to adopt the version of either of them.

—With reports from DJ Yap and Marlon Ramos

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TAGS: Bayanihan Law, coronanvirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, House of Representatives, Republic Act No. 11469, Rufus Rodriguez
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