With only two weeks of plenary sessions left, some senators are skeptical if there is time for Congress to pass the proposed third economic stimulus measure that seeks to cushion the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Senator Francis Tolentino noted the Senate has a fully loaded schedule for the next two weeks before the sine die adjournment on June 4, so there might not be enough time to pass the proposed Bayanihan 3.
“I don’t know what the leadership will do because our schedule is loaded…I don’t know how the Senate would be able to insert it (Bayanihan 3) in the schedule,” Tolentino said in Filipino in an interview on Radio DZRH.
“Because if you look at our schedule, we really have fully packed sessions,” he said.
Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, and who sponsored the passage of the Bayanihan 1 and 2, said the Senate will wait for the House of Representatives to finish deliberations and approve the Bayanihan 3 before they tackle the measure at the committee level.
Angara said there is one proposed Bayanihan 3 bill that is pending in his committee, and another that has been filed under the Senate Economic Affairs panel, chaired by Sen. Imelda “Imee” Marcos.
“Let’s wait for the House to pass their version of the Bayanihan 3 first. If they are able to pass it, then we will start discussing the measure here in the Senate at the committee level,” said Angara in Filipino in an interview on Radio DZBB.
Angara, however, stressed the need for the Senate to losely coordinate with Malacanang to check if there is ample sources to fund the programs under the Bayanihan measure.
“We will definitely coordinate because what is important here is to know where are we getting the funds?…Why do we need to pass a law when we know we can’t find a source to fund the programs?” he pointed out.
“We will also heed the advise of the Department of Finance (DOF), our Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Customs (BOC), and Bureau of Treasury because they are the government agencies in charge of collecting revenues,” added Angara.
But both senators say they prefer a special audit of the funds under the Bayanihan 1 and 2, which were extended for a few months, first before starting deliberations on Bayanihan 3.
“So maybe we can start talking about Bayanihan 3 once the effectivity of the two laws we passed have been exhausted,” Angara said.
Tolentino agreed: “That’s right, there should be a special audit, and that’s for the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct.”
“It’s necessary to be transparent and check whether the funds go to the intended recipients before we pursue the passage of this Bayanihan 3,” Tolentino said.