One week after ‘Bayanihan Act’, Senate expects Duterte to report on COVID-19 expenditures

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Tito Sotto

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday said his office expects to receive President Rodrigo Duterte’s first report on how the executive department used the additional funds and powers approved by Congress to boost the government’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Under the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”, the President must submit a weekly report to Congress, detailing how the government utilized public funds to send aid to indigent families and health workers battling COVID-19.

“I expect to receive a report on [the] distribution of financial aid to the 18 million families of the informal sector, mass testing specially in urban areas, [and] prioritization of the safety and welfare of the frontline health workers,” Sotto said in a message to the media.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and senators Pia Cayetano, Christopher “Bong” Go, and Panfilo Lacson were assigned to represent the Senate in the Congress’ joint oversight committee, he said.

Malacañang has yet to transmit its first weekly report to Congress.

While the law exempts coronavirus-related purchases from the procurement process, the executive branch will still have to subject itself to state audit, Drilon earlier said.

“I want to emphasize that the rules of the Commission on Audit and the law on anti-graft are not being waived in so far as the execution of this law is concerned,” Drilon said.

“Ito ay extraordinary times at siguro sa 3 buwan, bigyan natin ng enough leeway ang executive branch to do the job… Kapag hindi natin sinunod ito ay may pananagutan pa rin tayo,” he said.

Passed by Congress following a marathon special session on March 23, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act 11469) declared a state of national emergency effective for three months unless extended by the legislature.

The measure gave Duterte the power to realign funds for COVID-19 response, provide emergency subsidy to 18 million low income families in the country and facilitate prompt testing of suspected cases, among other provisions.

The new law also mandated the President to submit a weekly report to Congress of “all acts performed” in relation to the measure “during the immediately preceding week.”

Its enactment came while Luzon is under enhanced community quarantine that led to the closure of schools and most businesses as well as suspension of mass transportation services in a bid to force people to stay home./Stacy Ang

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