Bayanihan Act funds’ audit sought over ‘failure’ to meet relief targets
MANILA, Philippines—Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said that the government has failed to meet its health and economic relief targets to fight the COVID-19 pandemic despite the passage of the Bayanihan Act or Republic Act No. 11469.
With the government receiving truckloads of money from both foreign aid and local taxpayers’ money, Hontiveros sought an audit to look into how the funds are being used.
It was through the Bayanihan Act that the Philippine Congress granted emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte and realigned P275 billion pesos that would be used in COVID-19 relief.
“Dahil sa Bayanihan Act ay isinuko ng Kongreso ang kanyang ‘power of the purse.’ Kaya kailangang bantayang maigi kung saan napupunta ang pera,” said Hontiveros in a statement.
The power of the purse is the ability of Congress to dictate how funds are to be used.
(It’s because of the Bayanihan Act that the Congress surrendered its “power of the purse.” We should clearly look into this so we can see where the money is going.)
“We should have established sufficient infrastructure and mustered enough human resources to adequately respond to this health crisis. However, this is clearly not the case.”
In a privilege speech, Hontiveros pointed out that the government has failed to meet its relief targets with backlogs, slow contact tracing efforts, and delays in the release of test results plaguing the development.
The government has promised 30,000 tests a day but, Hontiveros said, it’s only done minimally in terms of detecting the virus.
Apart from the billions of pesos that the Congress relayed to Malacañang, the government also secured international loans that have reached an astounding total of $4.86 billion and those transactions pushed the country’s debt a new high of P8.6 trillion.
“Apat na buwan na ang nakakaraan. Bilyon-bilyon ang pondo na nasa kamay ng pamahalaan at malawak ang kapangyarihan na ibinigay natin sa Pangulo. Pero hanggang ngayon, wala pa rin tayong pinangako nilang 30,000 tests per day. Hindi rin malinaw kung naflatten na ba ang curve ng pandemiya,” said Hontiveros.
(It’s been four months now, billions worth of funds are in the hands of the government and the president has this broadened power but until the promised 30,000 tests per day have yet to be done. It’s still unclear if the curve has indeed been flattened.)
The legislator also called out the Department of Health for purchasing overpriced personal protective equipment and presenting problematic data with the use of new terms such as “fresh cases” when tallying the COVID-19 infections.
As of Tuesday, there have been 18,997 total COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.
Hontiveros also questioned the logic behind the transition from enhanced community quarantine to general community quarantine despite cases still piling up.
“Now that we have shifted to GCQ and asked them to go back to work without mass testing and mandatory and demandable safety at work protocols, we are putting their lives at risk.”
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.