‘Where did the budget go?’ Duterte asked a week after he signed anti-COVID ‘Bayanihan’ act

March 30, 2020 - 6:24 PM
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34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok
President Rodrigo Duterte attends a plenary session during the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, June 22, 2019. (Reuters/Jorge Silva)

Questions were raised regarding the financial aid supposed to be provided to the health sector almost a week after the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act (RA 11469) was signed into law.

The Philippine government allotted P275 billion worth of public funds which will used for the novel coronavirus response efforts as part of the new law, which also placed the country under a state of emergency effective for three months unless extended.

It was signed into law last March 24. Nearly a week later, the government has yet to provide breakdown on how this hefty budget will be utilized by the government.

Hazard pay and other benefits for the health workers, financial aid to the urban poor affected by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine and procurement of medical necessities are among the benefits stated in the provisions of the law.

Several Filipinos, however, perceived that nothing came out of it several days after it was signed into law.

“Can someone remind the president what he has are emergency powers and not emergency power naps,” author and film critic Richard Bolisay tweeted.

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, meanwhile, shared a graphic checklist online to monitor if the government was able to allocate the budget properly based on the provisions of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

“Trabaho natin maging maalam para protektahan ang ating pamilya at komunidad. I-share ang checklist at alamin kung alin dito ang natapos na, gamit ang #Tanongngtaongbayan,” Diokno said.

He also cited a provision in the law requiring Duterte to submit a report to Congress every Monday on how the budget was utilized.

In Section 5 of the new law, it is stated that:

“The President, during Monday of every week, shall submit a weekly report to Congress of all acts performed pursuant to this Act during the immediately preceding week. The report shall likewise include the amount and corresponding utilization of the funds used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated and realigned pursuant to this act.”

Another user quipped that Duterte used the money to celebrate his 75th birthday last March 28.

When the Palace first introduced the draft of the law, some Filipinos and members of the legal community expressed worry on the provisions that indicated a take over of private establishments and public utilities, and realigning funds from the 2020 national budget.

After the 17-hour special Congress session and the passage of the law, however, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Sherwin Gatchalian assured the public that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act is compliant with the Constitution and contains amendments that would benefit the general public, including the COVID-19 frontliners.

People power

Prior to the passage of the law, Filipinos have already practiced “bayanihan” via online charity campaigns to help those affected by the large-scale confinement.

Some local personalities from the entertainment and music industry such as vlogger Mimiyuuuh and indie band Ben&Ben initiated online fundraising events and campaigns to support vulnerable sectors of the society and provide medical equipment for the health workers during the duration of the quarantine.

A group of content creators, alumni of universities and non-government organizations such as Young Filipino Advocates of Critical Thinking and Rock Ed Philippines also previously launched donation drives to procure personal protective equipment, face masks, alcohol and hand sanitizers.

Vice President Leni Robredo and other local government units such as the city governments of Marikina and in Pasig have also provided PPEs, test kits, temporary residences and food to various hospitals.

[A] UPDATE: PPE sets deliveries (as of 27 March) | Narito po ang updated list ng mga ospital at komunidad kung saan…

Posted by VP Leni Robredo on Friday, March 27, 2020