Even after the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act expires, President Rodrigo Duterte will still be allowed to “judiciously” realign government budget to address the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said.
“The Constitution, our laws and the ruling of the Supreme Court on the Disbursement Acceleration Program, Araullo v. Aquino (G.R. No. 209287, July 1, 2014), have provided enough leeway for the President to realign the budget, augment funding and act on a crisis and emergency of this magnitude like COVID-19 pandemic,” Drilon said in a statement Friday.
Drilon notes that Article 6, Section 25 of the Constitution; Section 38 and 39 of the Revised Administrative Code; and Section 66 of the 2020 General Appropriations Act authorize the President to suspend the expenditure of appropriations, declare savings and realign them.
Senator Panfilo Lacson also agreed that the Constitution allows Duterte to exercise realignment of funds.
“Ang sinasabi roon, basta within the executive branch puwede mag-realign ang Pangulo na gagamitin niya ang savings,” Lacson said.
The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which took effect in March, will be deemed repealed after the first regular session of the 18th Congress adjourns.
The Senate adjourned on Thursday afternoon without passing the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act due to lack of certification as urgent from the Palace.
Drilon said the expiration of the first Bayanihan law should not prevent Duterte from implementing the necessary pandemic response initiatives such as augmenting operational funds of government hospitals, implementing cash-for-work programs and livelihood assistance, and distributing relief to affected families.
“While the President is no longer mandated to provide emergency subsidy to around 18 million low income households in the amount of P5,000 to P8,000, as provided under Section 3(c) of RA No 11469, the President should and can still continue to provide the necessary relief,” he said.
Over P353 billion has already been released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to various government agencies to fund COVID-19 response activities as of May 28, 2020./Stacy Ang