Budget Watch

37 lawmakers seek probe into unreleased Bayanihan 2 funds

Mara Cepeda

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37 lawmakers seek probe into unreleased Bayanihan 2 funds

HOUSE IN SESSION. Speaker Lord Allan Velasco presides over the House plenary session on December 20, 2020.

File photo by the House Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Legislators say the delay in fund releases 'forego the opportunity to rescue the economy'

Thirty-seven legislators allied with President Rodrigo Duterte, among them 5 deputy speakers, want a House probe into the unreleased funds under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 law. 

The legislators filed House Resolution (HR) No. 1558 on Monday, February 8, but the media was given a copy only on Tuesday, February 9. 

Under HR 1558, the lawmakers want the House committee on public accounts  to investigate why only 73.74% of the around P165 billion worth of funds under Bayanihan 2 has been disbursed to help address the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The legislators said most of the unutilized appropriations are primarily composed of equity infusion meant for government financial institutions to provide loans for Filipinos during the public health crisis. 

They said government agencies have not properly reported the utilization rates of funds given to them under Bayanihan 2, and that some of their constituents complained about the alleged slow implementation of various forms of direct relief mandated under the law.

The legislators said this is worrisome, arguing that the “slow government relief” could keep 420,000 Filipinos who lost their jobs during the pandemic, from finding secure jobs this year. 

“The delays in releases forego the opportunity to rescue the economy and correlate with actual economic losses, as evidenced by the dramatic decline in lending amid the delays in infusing capital to government financial institutions,” said the lawmakers in HR  1558.

They also said the speedy implementation of Bayanihan 2 is a “fiscally prudent approach to economic recovery.”

The Bayanihan 2 funds were initially valid only until December 19, 2020, but President Rodrigo Duterte signed the law extending the availability of the appropriations until June 30, 2021. 

Lawmakers had decided to extend the Bayanihan 2 after observing the slow disbursement of the emergency funds last year, despite the urgency of implementing government programs to address joblessness, hunger, and COVID-19 testing and contact tracing needs, among others.

The 37 co-authors of HR 1558 are the following:

  1. Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District
  2. Deputy Speaker Kristine Singson Meehan, Ilocos Sur 2nd District
  3. Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez, South Cotabato 2nd District
  4. Deputy Speaker Deogracias Savellano, Ilocos Sur 1st District
  5. Deputy Speaker Conrado Estrella III, Abono
  6. Sharon Garin, AAMBIS-OWA
  7. Joey Salceda, Albay 2nd District
  8. Rosanna Vergara, Nueva Ecija 3rd District
  9. Christopher de Venecia, Pangasinan 4th District
  10. Julienne Baronda, Iloilo City
  11. Horacio Suansing Jr, Sultan Kudarat 2nd District
  12. Estrellita Suansing, Nueva Ecija 1st District
  13. Stella Quimbo, Marikina City 2nd District
  14. Antonio Albano, Isabela 1st District
  15. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte 1st District
  16. Victor Yap, Tarlac 2nd District
  17. Amihilda Sangcopan, Anak Mindanao
  18. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, Samar 1st District
  19. Alfredo Garbin Jr, Ako Bicol
  20. Francisco Benitez, Negros Occidental 3rd District
  21. Jose Gay Padiernos, GP
  22. Robert Ace Barbers, Surgiao del Norte 2nd District
  23. Raneo Abu, Batangas 2nd District
  24. Angelica Natasha Co, BHW
  25. Edward Maceda, Manila 4th District
  26. Ronnie Ong, Ang Probinsyano
  27. Claudine Bautista, Dumper PTDA
  28. Michael Gorriceta, Iloilo 2nd District
  29. John Rey Tiangco, Navotas City
  30. Lorenz Defensor, Iloilo 3rd District
  31. Jesus Suntay, Quezon City 4th District
  32. Braeden John Biron, Iloilo 4th District
  33. Sol Aragones, Laguna 3rd District
  34. Cristal Bagatsing, Manila 5th District
  35. Erico Aumentado, Bohol 2nd District
  36. Cheryl Deloso Montalla, Zambales 2nd District
  37. Romeo Momo, CWS

– Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.