Unused Bayanihan 2 funds a ‘serious indictment’ of gov’t ‘failure’ amid pandemic — Lagman
MANILA, Philippines — The billions-worth of unutilized funds in the Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan 2 is a “serious indictment” of the Duterte administration’s “failure” to respond to and address the coronavirus pandemic, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Wednesday.
Lagman made the remark as Bayanihan 2 expires today, June 30, with billions of pesos appropriated in the measure still unused.
“This is the tragedy of Bayanihan 2 or [Republic Act] No. 11494 which expires today with P18.4-B billion for the COVID-19 contagion still unutilized as admitted by Malacañang,” Lagman said in a statement.
“This is a serious indictment of the failure of the Duterte administration to rescue Filipinos from health complications and bail out the economy consequent to the onslaught of COVID-19,” the lawmaker added.
Further, Lagman said that the “paucity in appropriation is aggravated by ineptness in fund utilization for the pandemic response.”
“This ineffectiveness accounts for the projection that the Philippines will be the last to recover in late 2022 from the pandemic-induced recession among the countries in the Asia-Pacific Region which has outpaced the country in the amount and alacrity in responding to the pandemic,” Lagman said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday said that only P9 billion worth of funds are still unutilized under Bayanihan 2. This is lower than Lagman’s figures of P18.4 billion.
Nonetheless, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate demands a “full accounting,” not only of Bayanihan 2, but also the Bayanihan to Heal as One or Bayanihan 1.
“Just the other day the [Department of Budget and Management] said that only P9 billion remains to be obligated under Bayanihan 2 but with the government’s low capacity to disburse and obligate, and a persistent showing of such absorptive capacity, we want to know how an amount of more than P200 billion was used in less than three months,” Zarate said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The people must know where these public funds go,” he added.
Zarate said that without proper accounting, “we cannot blame the people for thinking that this administration is trying to create an enormous war chest in the run up for the 2022 elections.”
Special session pushed
A special session can still be conducted even after the expiration of the Bayanihan 2 so that the unused funds from the measure can still be utilized, according to Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez.
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.
Nonetheless, Rodriguez said a special session can still be conducted—this time, to tackle a 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.
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