Zarate wants gov’t to first explain COVID-19 spending before Bayanihan 2 passage
MANILA, Philippines — The executive department should first explain how the P3.7 trillion in the 2020 national budget was spent before it is entrusted the P162 billion fund under the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) bill.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate asserted this Friday, as various lawmakers expressed support to the passage of Bayanihan 2 – an offshoot of Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1) that gave President Rodrigo Duterte extra powers, among others, to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bayanihan 1 specifically granted Duterte the authority to realign, reallocate, and reprogram items in the current year’s budget or the 2020 General Appropriations Act, to programs that will address the public health crisis.
But according to Zarate, it is wrong to label Bayanihan 2 as a recovery fund when Filipinos have not yet recovered from impacts of the virus outbreak.
“Bayanihan 2 was being mislabeled as a ‘recovery’ fund although Filipinos have not even ‘healed’ under the first Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, as found by our own research,” Zarate said.
Worse, he claimed, there are still no provisions in the bill that calls for mass testing.
However, Malacañang has insisted as early as March that there would be no mass testing – only targeted testing which would be more cost-efficient.
“Bayanihan 2 still does not guarantee full funding for free mass testing to all vulnerable members of our population, especially our frontline healthcare workers and those who got in contact with people positive of COVID-19 infection,” Zarate pointed out.
“Until now, the government has not yet put in place an effective contact tracing strategy, and our entire health-care system is on the brink of collapse. So, why enact another version of a law when the first one has not been fully used or utilized for its intended purposes?” he then asked.
Last July, the Senate passed their version of Bayanihan 2, which places P140 billion worth of standby funds that will be used for the country’s recovery from the crisis. On the part of the House of Representatives, they are proposing to grant P162 billion for Bayanihan 2.
Zarate believes that the measure would only centralize funds even further to Malacañang, as Duterte repeatedly said the government is running out of funds.
Previously, Bayan Muna has called on the government to stop securing loans as it would only bury the people under even more debt. Also, the party-list group questioned Duterte’s lack of budget claim, insinuating that the administration has been inefficient in managing the country’s coffers.
“This will just concentrate more power and funds to Malacañang,” Zarate claimed.
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.