House leader insists need for special session to extend Bayanihan 2

Published June 29, 2021, 10:50 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

A day before the law’s expiry, House Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Representative Rufus Rodriguez has still urged President Duterte to call Congress to a special session to extend the validity of the Bayanihan 2.

House of Representatives (Alvin Kasiban/MANILA BULLETIN File photo)

“We have to extend the effectivity of the law again so that the government can spend whatever remains of the millions of funds we have appropriated for pandemic response,” Rodriguez said in a statement on Tuesday, June 29.

“Unless we pass another extension bill, the unspent funds would no longer be available,” he raised.

The availability of funds under the Bayanihan to Recover as One or Republic Act No. 11494 is set to expire on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Under the law, appropriations will be returned to the national treasury if not obligated on or before the said date.

Rodriguez said a special session would also give Congress the opportunity to approve the proposed Bayanihan 3 law which seeks to allocate ₱401 billion for another round of financial assistance and stimulus to the poor and other sectors affected by the pandemic.

The House of Representatives already approved the bill on third and final reading before the legislative department adjourned sine die early June.

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, however, doubted that Congress will be able to convene a special session soon, or even extend the Bayanihan 2. He explained that besides the call from the President, the House must also get the concurrence of its counterpart, the Senate, on the matter.

“Medyo gipit na tayo sa oras, kaya parang lumalabo na ang ating paghohold ng special session (We quite are pressed for time, that’s why the chances of holding a special session is getting dimmer),” Romualdez told reporters in an online interview Monday, June 28.

“There was no clarity in moving forward…So it’s looking quite tight and the likelihood of an extension is becoming dimmer at this point,” he admitted.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque last June 21 confirmed that the government has yet to obligate and utilize ₱18.4 billon or 13 percent of the ₱165-billion appropriation under the Bayanihan 2.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Congress could just wait for the opening of the third regular session after Duterte State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July to take this up.

“₱18 billion lang ito, pwede namang hintayin ng July 27. Pwede namang gamitin ulit (This is just ₱18 billion, we can wait until July 27. This can still be used, anyway),” Sotto said in a previous interview.