Press Release
June 5, 2020

Even without Bayanihan law, Drilon says Duterte can realign funds for COVID-19 response

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said that the President can exercise his power to realign the executive's budget to augment funds for the government's COVID-19 activities and continue to provide relief to the poor, displaced local workers and returning overseas Filipino workers, who lost their jobs abroad due to the pandemic.

Drilon issued the statement Friday following the expiration of Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and the non-passage of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.

"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 stressed.

The minority leader pointed to specific provisions of the Constitution and various laws to declare savings and realign funds in order for the government to respond to COVID-19.

"The President is authorized to suspend the expenditure of appropriations, declare savings and realign the same under the 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. He can exercise all these powers in order to respond to COVID-19 pandemic," Drilon said.

Drilon stressed that the above are sufficient legal bases for the President to realign savings within the executive branch to other items of existing appropriations or items in the 2020 General Appropriations Act to fund COVID-19 response activities.

"In view of the considerable effects of COVID-19 pandemic to the country and our fellow Filipinos, the President can exercise this power judiciously and in accordance with the Supreme Court decision on the use of savings to augment funds," he added.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Republic Act 11469 expired upon the end of the first regular session of Congress. The Senate tried to pass a new version of the law but failed after Malacanang decided not to certify the measure as urgent, which would have allowed the Senate to dispense with the thee readings requirement on separate days and approve the measure on third reading before it adjourned sine die last Thursday.

Drilon said that it is "unfortunate" that the Congress was unable to pass the new Bayanihan law. He urged the government to continuously provide for the welfare and wellbeing of Filipinos heavily affected by the pandemic.

"The non-passage of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act should not prevent the President from continuing to implement programs, projects and activities in Bayanihan to Heal as One Act that have corresponding appropriations in the General Appropriations Act," Drilon stressed.

Drilon said the 2020 General Appropriations Act, specifically Section 66 of the General Provisions, also authorized the President, as well as the Senate President, the Speaker House of Representatives and the Chief Justice among others "to declare and use savings in their respective appropriations to augment actual deficiencies incurred for the current year in any item of their respective appropriations."

Drilon said the President can just augment funding for the cash-for-work program and the TUPAD or Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers to provide livelihood assistane to millions of displaced workers including OFWs and hire barangays health workers, parent leaders, civil society organizations and 4Ps leaders as contact tracers.

Under various Department of Social Welfare and Development programs, the government can augment funding for its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program, among others, to provide food and non-food items as well as livelihood assistance grants to the poor.

Under the Department of Health, Drilon said the President may realign savings to augment funding for operational budgets of government hospitals, primarily those identified for treatment of COVID-19 and increase funding for prevention and control of other infectious diseases.

Drilon also said that the President can further augment the funding for the following programs: operational budget of the Philippine General Hospital, National Disaster Risk Reduction Fund and Calamity Fund, Livelihood Seeding Program and Negosyo Serbisyo sa Barangay of DTI and Quick Response Fund of DOH, DOLE, DSWD, DTI, DOTR.

"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.

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