House of Representatives

House’s economists want bigger role for Congress in Duterte’s recovery plan

Rambo Talabong
House’s economists want bigger role for Congress in Duterte’s recovery plan

ECONOMISTS. House economic affairs panel chair Sharon Garin (left), and deputy minority leader Stella Quimbo (right)

Rappler photo, PHCC photo

Deputy minority leader Stella Quimbo and economic affairs panel chair Sharon Garin propose creation of 'an executive and legislative joint task force'

Deputy Minority Leader Stella Quimbo and House economic affairs panel chair Sharon Garin, the ranking economists at the House of Representatives, want Congress to oversee the economic recovery plan of the Duterte government.

The two congresswomen formalized the call through a resolution filed on Monday, September 15, after they each gave speeches that illustrated the bleak economic and health conditions of the Philippines.

“At this point, we need to recalibrate our strategy in this war against COVID. Paulit-ulit na po ang karanasan natin: tataas ang kaso ng COVID-19, ipapatupad ang malawakang lockdown, bababa ang mga kaso, tapos sa susunod na mga buwan, aakyat ulit, lockdown ulit. Rinse and repeat,” said Quimbo, who represents the 2nd District of Marikina City.

(Our experience keeps repeating: COVID-19 cases rise, a wide lockdown is enforced, cases go down, the next month, cases rise again, we have another lockdown.)

“Evidently, no matter how many laws we legislate to respond to the lockdowns, to give ayudas (aid) to our struggling countrymen, this only leads to draining the government’s coffers,” said Garin, who represents the AAMBIS-OWA party list.

The pair of lawmakers called for two things in their resolution,

They first urged the government to stop using widespread lockdowns, because it was too damaging to the economy and was ineffective in bringing down cases, they said. The government has heeded this feedback, responding with planned “granular lockdowns” to be piloted in Metro Manila.

Of more interest, their second call was for Congress to form an ad hoc committee “to review the powers, composition, and functions of the IATF, as well as oversee its economic recovery programs and policies.”

Why does this matter?

Establishing an ad hoc oversight committee would mean that Congress will form a panel of lawmakers that the Duterte government would report to. By law, there is already a joint Congressional oversight committee to which the Duterte government regularly reports to.

What Quimbo and Garin want is a committee that will focus more on scrutinizing the government’s economic response. They want the panel called the “Bayanihan Para Sa Pagbangon” ad hoc committee.

In her speech, Garin expounded on the proposed committee as a possible lead towards creating an executive-legislative joint task force, where members of Congress and Duterte government officials sit together for the country’s response to COVID.

“The ad hoc committee may execute policy reforms to review and enhance the powers, composition, and performance of IATF, including the revision of the enabling law creating IATF, by possibly converting it from an executive task force to an executive and legislative joint task force,” Garin said.

Quimbo and Garin – who usually collaborate in bills and resolutions – have been the most vocal lawmakers when it came to calling out the Duterte government’s economic response, particularly in declaring lockdowns that paralyzed businesses.

They are also the lead proponents of the P401-billion proposed Bayanihan 3 aid bill, which is currently in limbo because the Duterte government could not find sources of funding. This has left the duo and their colleagues in frustration.

Being ranking economists in the House and being the authors of the resolution, Quimbo and Garin would be among the top prospective members of the proposed committee. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.