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Abante: Guard use of Bayanihan 2 funds

WITH the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) now signed into law, House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr. has reiterated the need for Congress to create an oversight committee to guard the use of Bayanihan 2 funds to ensure that the 165 billion pesos allocated by Congress is “utilized properly, prudently, and expeditiously.”

“Hindi pa po tapos ang trabaho ng Kongreso. In the President’s address last Tuesday, the President urged Congress to create an oversight committee to monitor the implementation of Bayanihan 2, particularly the use of the funds allocated for the government’s various COVID-19 response programs, and I this proposal makes sense,” said Abante.

Abante stressed that “kailangan po natin bantayan ang pondong ito.”

“We literally cannot afford the misuse of these funds. Una, dahil sa COVID-19 bagsak po ang revenue collections natin. Bumaba ang tax collections natin, kaya binaba ang 2020 tax collection goal to 1.74 trillion pesos mula sa 2.26 trillion-peso target ng BIR na itinakda noong Marso. Funds are scarce, and we must make the most of what we have,” Abante said.

“Second, we cannot allow these funds to gather dust because of slow or delayed implementation,” according to Abante. “Sabi nila, justice delayed is justice denied. Ganyan din po pagdating sa ayuda o proyekto: assistance delayed is assistance denied. For example, each day that government fails to procure and provide PPEs for our healthcare workers is another day our frontliners are exposed to the dangers of COVID-19. This is unacceptable.”

Bienvenido "Benny" Abante Jr.
House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr.

“Third, we cannot lose funds meant to for our kababayan to corruption. Now, more than ever, we have to be vigilant against corruption because our experience the past few months has shown us that there are still unscrupulous individuals who will take advantage of this pandemic to line their pockets,” lamented Abante.

“May overpricing, may ghost recipients o ghost projects, at kung anu-ano pang mga raket. Lives are on the line here, and more funds are lost to corruption means less funds for the people, the frontliners, the sick, and the struggling MSMEs that need them.”

The Manila representative emphasized that the Minority will do its part “to make sure that Bayanihan 2 does what it is supposed to do: help our kababayan overcome the challenges of this pandemic.”

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Bayanihan 2 law late Friday, September 11. The funds allocated by the law are expected to help various sectors cope with the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which as caused the country’s first recession in three decades and resulted in record-high unemployment.

Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte has welcomed President Duterte’s enactment of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) as he expressed the hope that Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado would make good on his earlier commitment to release P140 billion in economic stimulus funds as soon as Bayanihan 2 is signed into law.

Villafuerte, who is lead author in the House of both Bayanihan 1 (Bayanihan to Heal as One Act) and Bayanihan 2, said the President’s signing of Bayanihan 2 would let Malacañang scale up its COVID-19 response while extending immediate financial aid to distressed companies—especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs)—and hopefully reverse the alarming trend of increasing business shutdowns and mass layoff of workers.

For Villafuerte, Bayanihan 2 would vest President Duterte anew with special powers to realign state resources and carry out urgent programs to scale up COVID-19 active response at both the national and local government levels while providing immediate succor to businesses, most especially MSMEs that employ the majority of Filipino workers, devastated by the unprecedented economic crisis bedeviling the domestic and global economies.”

“The prompt release of Bayanihan 2 stimulus funds for the pandemic-hit businesses would hasten economic recovery as the continued, calibrated easing of the mobility restrictions nationwide is likely to boost business and consumer confidence in the domestic economy,” said Villafuerte.

The Camarines Sur lawmaker voiced optimism that Bayanihan 2’s P165.5-billion budget—comprising a P140-billion regular outlay and a P25.5 billion standby fund—“would just be an initial stimulus package, considering the immense resources required to spell a strong and early recovery for the sectors reeling from the global economic fallout unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic.”

“We are hoping that Malacañang would be able to raise more resources in the months ahead to bankroll further stimulus packages needed for an early and strong economic rebound,” he said in pointing to the House-approved proposals on the P1.5-trillion COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus Act (CURES) and P1.3-trillion Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy Act (ARISE), which both call for aggressive spending to rev up the economy and ease the pandemic’s impact on its worst-hit sectors.