President Rodrigo Duterte took a swipe at lawmakers for lamenting the loss of billions of pesos worth of unused Bayanihan 2 funds, and even singled out two senators who were planning to run for president and vice president in 2022.
“I’ve been hearing from senators [Panfilo] Lacson and, I forgot the other, [Vicente] Sotto [III], that we are underspending in Bayanihan. Is this true?” Duterte asked Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III during his televised meeting with government officials on Saturday, July 26.
Sotto and Lacson were not publicly vocal about the unused coronavirus relief funds, but some opposition lawmakers have indeed expressed frustration over the Congress and the President’s failure to pass a law to extend its validity.
Dominguez, replying to Duterte, downplayed the unspent budget.
“According to the [Department of Budget and Management], we have already released P660 billion. What they are referring to as ‘underspending’ is P6 billion, or 1% of the total,” Dominguez said.
“The one thing very wrong with Congress is that they are not listening when you are talking,” Duterte replied.
The P6 billion mentioned by Dominguez on Saturday was lower than the P9 billion announced by Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on June 30, and much lower than the computation of P18.4 billion released by lawmakers.
That P18.4 billion budget was allocated for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and for health workers, among others, lawmakers said.
Unspent Bayanihan 2 funds woul be returned to the national treasury.