Pangilinan wants probe on gov’t underspending, delay in Bayanihan 2 fund release

Published February 11, 2021, 1:59 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Francis Pangilinan is calling for a legislative inquiry into the “slow” release and utilization of the funds under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or the Bayanihan 2.

Senator Francis Pangilinan (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Pangilinan filed Senate Resolution No. 647, which seeks to look into the government’s disbursement of the appropriations under the Bayanihan 2 law to address gaps in the Philippines’ COVID-19 response.

He particularly mentioned in the resolution the delays in the release of the salary of contact tracers, hazard pay and special allowances of health workers, cash subsidies to jeepney drivers.

He also cited the “lag” in the disbursement of P83-billion fund of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); as well as the underspending of the transportation, public works and agriculture departments.

“Bakit mabagal? Minadali natin sa Kongreso ang dalawang Bayanihan at ang budget para masigurong may magagamit na pondo para sa maayos na pagkontrol sa COVID. Alam natin na ito ang susi sa pagbangon ng ating ekonomiya. Pero kung from disbursement at utilization sobrang bagal, baka patay na ang kabayo, ‘ika nga (Why is it slow? Congress rushed the two Bayanihan laws and the budget to make sure that there are funds for the immediate control of COVID-19. We know that this key to our economic recovery. But if the disbursement and utilization is too slow, the horses could be dead before we can feed them with grass, as the adage says),” Pangilinan said in a statement on Thursday.

“These delays and underspending are unacceptable given that Bayanihan 2 was signed into law September 11, 2020,” Pangilinan added.

Citing a report submitted by the Office of the President to the Senate last January 4, Pangilinan said only a total of P103.24 billion of the P140 billion Bayanihan 2 funds have been released. Last December 29, President Duterte signed the law allowing the extension of the availability of the Bayanihan 2 appropriations until June 30 this year. 

In the resolution he filed on Wednesday, February 10, the opposition senator noted the country’s “insufficient” COVID-19 management and vaccine procurement. He cited the study conducted by Australian think-tank Lowy Institute placing the Philippines as 79th among 98 nations in the containment of the pandemic.

“We can’t let bureaucracy slow us down from delivering much needed aid and support. Hindi natin pwedeng pinaghihintay ang ating mga kababayan para sa ayuda na dapat ay matagal na sana nilang nakuha (We can’t keep our countrymen waiting for assistance that should have been given to them long ago). We have to know where else are we underspending and how we can unlock the funds and speed up the disbursement,” Pangilinan said.

 As of February 10, 541,560 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the Philippines, 30,188 of which remain active cases while 11,401 died.

Meanwhile 499,971 COVID-19 positive patients have already recovered from the disease.