I cast an abstention on House Bill No. 9411, and the following is my explanation:
It is perplexing and embarrassing that while the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic is overwhelmingly disastrous to the Filipinos’ health and the country’s economy, the Duterte administration’s response is by inadequate phases and insufficient installments.
Other ASEAN countries have outpaced the Philippines in the immediacy and amount of response, so much so that the Philippines is projected to be the last in the ASEAN and Pacific regions to recover from the pandemic-induced recession.
Due to paucity of funding support, the House of Representatives has initiated the passage of Bayanihan 3 under House Bill No. 9411 which is cited as “Bayanihan to Arise as One Act” proposing a total appropriation of P401-B. Bayanihan 3 has not been endorsed by the economic managers of President Rodrigo Duterte, and the National Treasurer has not issued a certification of fund availability.
Although Bayanihan 3 is necessary to help buttress the country’s response to the pandemic, I cannot at the moment vote for the bill, which I have not co-authored, for the following reasons:
- It suffers a constitutional infirmity because it fails to comply with Sec. 25(4) of Art. VI of the Constitution which provides that “A special appropriations bill … shall be supported by funds actually availableas certified by the National Treasurer, or to be raised by a corresponding revenue proposal therein.”; and
- There are certain nebulous or questionable provisions which were not clarified because the period of interpellation was limited to one session day. An example is the creation of an elite class of beneficiaries consisting of the military and uniformed personnel who are proposed to receive P54.6-B, which is bigger than the combined appropriations for assistance to displaced/disadvantaged workers (P25.0-B), medical assistance to indigents (P9.0-B), local government support fund (P3.0-B), support to basic education and higher education (P4.5-B), national nutrition (P6.0-B), and assistance to cooperatives (P2.0-B). It must be recalled that millions of pesos are already appropriated in the 2020 and 2021 GAA under the pension and gratuity fund for the pension and other benefits of military and uniformed personnel.
Since an appropriation entails the allocation of funds, it stands to reason that funds must be available or a corresponding revenue measure be proposed in the special or supplemental measure to ensure the implementation of the appropriation law. Absence of available funds or a source of revenue funding would make the supplemental or special appropriation measure illusory and a mockery of a promise to intended beneficiaries. Even the annual General Appropriations Bill must have a funding source as enumerated and detailed in the Budget of Expenditure and Sources of Financing (BESF).
Bayanihan 3 does not comply with the mandatory requirement of the Constitution. Upon verification from National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon, she said that there has been no formal request from the House of Representatives for the issuance of a certificate of availability of funds for Bayanihan 3. She added, however, that during discussions with the proponents of Bayanihan 3, she verbally informed them that presently there are no funds available.
Neither does Bayanihan 3 propose a corresponding revenue measure. The fiscal measures like utilization of programmed and unprogrammed funds in the 2021 GAA; savings pooled under Bayanihan 1 and 2; excess revenue collections; unutilized or unreleased balances in Special Purpose Funds; cash, funds and investments held by the GOCC; and unused appropriations for debt service do not qualify as the corresponding revenue measure required by the Constitution. Moreover, there is even no certitude that the revenues expected from these fiscal measures will be generated and realized.
Is the absence of a certification of fund availability an admission that the country is cash-strapped? Is it really true that the country is destitute of funds? What happened to the total of $15.49-B from foreign loans and grants for Covid-19 response received by the government or the equivalent of approximately P743.52-B? Has the P3.160 trillion generated by the Bureau of Treasury in its domestic fund-raising activities for 2020 and from January to March 2021 been completely spent for budgetary support?
Or is the utilization of available funds being reserved by the Duterte administration for purposes other than the Covid-19 response considering the proximity of the 2022 elections? Is the Duterte administration forfeiting a sustained and more adequate response to the on-going pandemic? Is President Duterte abandoning Filipinos and the economy to the cruel and consuming clutches of the contagion?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker and distinguished colleagues.