Senate adjourns ‘sine die’ its 1st regular session sans ‘Bayanihan 2’ okay
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.”
Earlier, senators were optimistic that President Rodrigo Duterte would certify as urgent Senate Bill No. 1564 dubbed as “Bayanihan 2.”
Before Sotto adjourned the session at around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, senators held a caucus as they waited for the urgent certification from Malacañang to allow the chamber to swiftly approve the measure.
But the certification never came and the Senate will go on break without approving the measure that would provide for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response and recovery plan, and a P140- billion standby fund.
Congress will open the second regular session in July.
Senate Bill No. 1564 was seen to replace Republic Act 11469 or Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which grants the President additional powers, for a limited time, to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
According to finance committee chair Senator Sonny Angara, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act will expire once the House of Representatives adjourns sine die tomorrow, June 5, since it is considered as an emergency measure.
‘Emergency powers’ no more
“Upon adjournment of the House (we, having adjourned) because of the Constitutional provision that emergency powers cease upon the next adjournment of Congress,” Angara said in a message.
Lacson shared the same view and said all provisions under the Bayanihan law will no longer be valid come Friday. He also pointed out that the national government will no longer be compelled to give cash aid if the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act lapses and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act will not be passed.
“Mawawala emergency powers. Lahat na provision sa Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, balewala na ‘yan kasi time bound ‘yan,” he told reporters in an online interview before the resumption of Thursday’s session.
(The emergency powers will no longer be valid. Every provision under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, it will be invalid because the law is time-bound).
“Kung ‘di mapapasa ito, ang mga kababayan natin na ‘di nakakatanggap ng tulong, maasahan na lang nila kung anong ibibigay ng Executive Branch na available pero ‘di na sila mama-mandate ng batas magbigay ng ayuda,” he added.
(If this will not be passed, the Filipino public can no longer receive aid, they can just count on the assistance that will be given by the Executive Branch but it will not be mandated by law).
But Lacson said President Rodrigo Duterte calling on Congress to convene in a special session “is always an option.”
“That (special session) is always an option. Kung inaakala ng Malacañang na kailangan nila ng batas para ipagpatuloy ang pag-ayuda o exemption sa Government Procurement Act, magtatawag ang Pangulo ng special session sa Kongreso. It’s always an option,” he added.
(Special session is always an option. If Malacañang would see the need for the measure to be passed to continue the provision of subsidy or the exemption from the Government Procurement Act, the President could ask Congress to convene in a special session. It’s always an option).
After the Senate adjourned sine die, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte will not certify the proposed “Bayanihan 2” as urgent “for now.”
Legislative work amid pandemic
In his closing speech, Sotto expressed gratitude for the cooperation of his colleagues in shepherding and shaping the chamber’s legislative outputs and for their participation, either physical or virtual, during the sessions amid restrictions triggered by the pandemic.
“I stand with the Senate in the creation of a legislative agenda that is committed to saving lives; maintaining growth in the economy; and—for as long as the Coronavirus poses a threat to the world—by unifying government policy in anticipation for living in a new world,” Sotto said in his speech.
Amid the health crisis, Sotto said the Senate was able to perform their legislative work and passed several measures that would benefit the people, particularly the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which was signed into law in March.
The Senate, during its “hybrid” plenary session, also approved on third reading Senate Bill No. 1541, which authorizes the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education, to move the start of the school year beyond August during a state of emergency or calamity.
Prior to the government-imposed lockdown, the upper chamber, through different committees, held various investigations on several issues.
These included the controversial early release of heinous crime convicts under the Good Conduct Time Allowance; the so-called “ninja-cops” involved in the recycling of confiscated illegal drugs; the fraudulent medical claims with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth); and the crimes linked to the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) industry.
The Senate also convened into a committee of the whole in May to get updates from top executive officials on the status of the government’s COVID-19 response.
Before closing the session Thursday, Sotto also paid tribute to the country’s COVID-19 frontliners and civil servants across different sectors.
“Let me assure the Filipino people that the Senate is here to ensure that the government continues to serve the public’s interest. But let me also say that as dutiful citizens, the Filipino, must likewise, contribute to this endeavor,” he added.
“There is no challenge greater than this—to wean away from our old and familiar ways and see the old world wither behind us. With the Filipino nation, I am ready to face the challenge of being reborn in a new world with you—as new men and women invigorated with the mission of working together for a better and safer future,” he added.
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