As Filipinos cry for ayuda (aid) amid stretching lockdowns, leaders of the House of Representatives convened a meeting through Zoom on the Bayanihan 3 aid and stimulus bill on Monday morning, April 12.
This was confirmed to Rappler by House Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero in a text message on Tuesday, April 13, who said that their agenda involved "fast-tracking" Bayanihan 3, and planning for a special session for its passage.
The call was presided by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, with deputy speakers, committee chairpersons, and party leaders present.
One lawmaker in the call told Rappler the House leaders also discussed the vaccination plan for House staffers, quarantine measures at the Batasan complex, and budget preparations.
Bayanihan 3 or the proposed Bayanihan to Arise as One Act is a massive aid and stimulus bill seeking to give aid to Filipinos amid the pandemic.
There are currently 6 versions filed at the House of Representatives, which are all being consolidated. One of the prominent ones is the version filed by Speaker Velasco himself, along with lawmaker and economist Marikina lawmaker Stella Quimbo.
Velasco and Quimbo's version is seeking to use P420 billion for assistance to businesses, distressed households, agriculture workers, the unemployed, teachers, students, and typhoon-affected areas.
The passage of the bill has been delayed because of reservations from the government's economic managers, who are concerned with where the money could be sourced for the funding.
In a statement on Tuesday, Speaker Velasco said the economic managers have already expressed openness and are "studying potential funding sources for Bayanihan 3." (READ: Economic team now looking to fund cash aid for areas outside 'NCR Plus')
The House of Representatives is currently on congressional recess until May. It can hold a special session if called for by President Rodrigo Duterte.
According to Romero, the House's economic team will meet with a team from Malacañang to finalize the figures for Bayanihan 3. Only then will the House call for a special session.
At the Senate, two bills have been filed proposing large-scale aid distribution: the counterpart P485-billion Bayanihan 3 bill by Senator Ralph Recto, and a P335-billion "expanded stimulus package" bill by Senator Manny Pacquiao. – Rappler.com
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.