Duterte may realign funds vs COVID-19, says Drilon
President Rodrigo Duterte may still reallocate public funds for the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic despite the failure of Congress to pass the measure that would have replaced the law that granted him special fiscal powers, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Friday.
Drilon issued the statement after Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, expired on Friday as both the Senate and House of Representatives adjourned the first regular session of the 18th Congress without passing a new law.
On Wednesday, the senators approved on second reading Senate Bill No. 1564, or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, that contained a P140-billion economic stimulus package for various sectors deflated by the contagion.
The chamber, however, failed to pass it on third reading after Malacañang opted not to certify it as urgent, which would have allowed the Senate to skip the three-day period of approving a pending bill on third and last reading.
Drilon, a veteran legislator and a former executive secretary, said the 1987 Constitution and various existing laws recognized the President’s authority to realign the budget to buy medical supplies and provide cash subsidies to those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
He said even the Supreme Court ruling on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program gave “enough leeway for the President to realign the budget, augment funding and act on a crisis and emergency of this magnitude.”
“The non-passage of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act should not prevent the President from continuing to implement programs, projects and activities… that have corresponding appropriations in the General Appropriations Act,” Drilon said.
“The President is authorized to suspend the expenditure of appropriations, declare savings and realign the same under the… Constitution… [and other laws],” he said.
“He can exercise all these powers in order to respond to COVID-19 pandemic,” the Senate leader added.
Sen. Sonny Angara, who defended the proposed measure during the lengthy plenary debates as chair of the Senate finance committee, said he did not regret the President’s decision.
“We did it so we can help our people,” Angara said in a Viber message.
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