The Executive branch is still assessing the need for a special session of Congress to tackle the proposed “Bayanihan 2,” which contains a stimulus package to revive the economy after the coronavirus pandemic, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement a day after Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Senate was no longer keen on a special session to pass Bayanihan 2. Sotto said this was because Congress was set to resume its second regular session on July 27.
In an online forum on Wednesday, Sotto said the Palace’s plan to call for a special session “will not really have a big effect at this point.”
Roque, in a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4, agreed with Sotto.
“We are evaluating whether there is still a need to call for a special session because Congress’ regular session is scheduled to open this month. Let’s see,” Roque said.
He made the statement even as a party-list lawmaker urged the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit of all the funds spent in the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and the foreign loans and grants secured by the Philippines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Jocelyn Tulfo said the government should ensure that all those funds would be judiciously spent for the country’s COVID-19 response efforts.
A lawmaker from Mindanao, meanwhile, urged the Department of Health to include the funds for the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine in its proposed budget for 2021.
“Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has already declared that the House of Representatives is prepared to appropriate funds for the vaccine,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriquez said.
“I am suggesting that the [department] incorporate in its budget proposal its estimated funding requirement for the doses the country needs to protect our people from the coronavirus.”
On July 2, Roque announced that President Rodrigo Duterte was set to ask Congress to hold a special session to discuss the passage of Bayanihan 2.
Roque’s previous announcement came after the economic team was able to iron out issues concerning the proposed economic stimulus package, which was designed to ensure the country’s recovery from COVID-19.
Bayanihan 2 will serve as a supplemental measure to Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which expired on June 25.
RA No. 11469 gave Duterte 31 emergency powers to address the COVID-19 crisis.
The Senate and the House of Representatives have already drafted their versions of a proposed measure replacing RA 11469.
Their proposed bills, however, were different from the Executive department’s proposed law, which limits the cost of the stimulus package to P140 billion.
One of the 31 temporary special powers granted to Duterte under RA 11469 was the grant of emergency subsidies, ranging from P5,000 to P8,000, to around 18 million poor families affected by the pandemic.