Congress can still hold special session after Bayanihan 2 expires — Rodriguez
MANILA, Philippines — Congress can still hold a special session even after the expiration of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Bayanihan 2) so that the unused funds from the measure can still be utilized, Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez said Wednesday.
Initially, lawmakers are calling for a special session to extend the validity of Bayanihan 2. However, President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to call for a special session for the extension of the measure which will expire today, June 30.
Nonetheless, Rodriguez said a special session can still be held —this time, to tackle new legislation that seeks to re-appropriate the unused funds from Bayanihan 2.
“The special session that we petition the President to call will be for the re-appropriation of the amount not spent in the Bayanihan 2 appropriations because of the deadline,” Rodriguez told INQUIRER.net.
“So a new appropriations bill will be able to have this unspent amount—still be allowed to be spent until December 31, 2021,” he added.
Rodriguez said he will file the measure to re-appropriate the unused funds.
On Monday, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said the possibility of extending Bayanihan 2 “is becoming dimmer at this point.”
What happens to the unused funds?
Once Bayanihan 2 expires, Rodriguez said all unused funds—which according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque amounts to around P9 billion—will be returned to the National Treasury.
Rodriguez said this is unfortunate, especially as the amount can still be used to help public utility drivers, displaced workers, contact tracers, and those in the agriculture sector, among others.
Congress is currently on break until July 26. Since Congress is on break, both the Senate and the House of Representatives can only hold committee hearings and not plenary sessions where measures are approved for final reading.
The special session, Rodriguez said, will also allow the Senate to tackle the proposed Bayanihan to Arise as One or Bayanihan 3 which has already been approved by the House.
“Let them decide, do they want to approve that? Do they want to reduce that? Do they want to deny that? That is the call of the House,” Rodriguez said.
“The point is, in the House, we want to work before July 26. Because July 26, after a week’s time, it’s already budget season,” he added.
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