President Duterte discusses with his Cabinet in Malacanang
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has urged Congress to create an oversight committee that will monitor the disbursement of funds earmarked to ensure the government’s effective fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Duterte made the call in a taped public address aired on state-run PTV-4 on Tuesday morning, as he ensured that his administration would spend the Covid-19 funds “wisely and correctly”.
“Congress is free to participate or create oversight committees – committees of all sorts,” he said. “I am urging Congress, as a matter of fact, I am demanding Congress to join us in putting up measures to ensure that the money is spent to its purpose.”
Duterte’s statement came as the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), which aims to cushion the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, only needs his signature to become a law.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have already ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed Bayanihan 2 which is expected to reach Duterte’s desk by Tuesday.
Duterte said Filipinos have the right to know how the government utilizes the money allotted for the Covid-19 response.
“I urge Congress, ilagay na ninyo ang lahat ng safety measures para walang palpak (implement all the safety measures so there will be irregularities),” he said. “I am willing to give way. At saka kung gusto ninyo ng accounting for every transaction, puwede rin (And if you want, there can be accounting for every transaction. It can be done).”
Duterte said the proposed congressional oversight panel may also summon state agencies and departments with questionable spending of funds.
“They can report to Congress weekly or at your choosing. Walang problema ‘yan (That’s not a problem). I’m ready to order that. It is not a matter of separation of powers. Iyan ‘yung parang expanded oversight lang na gusto lang man (It will serve as an expanded oversight committee that can know everything). It is never illegal to know where your money is going,” he said.
Around PHP165 billion will be allotted for the proposed Bayanihan 2, which intends to extend the validity of Duterte’s special powers by providing a stimulus fund to support the country’s response and recovery interventions for the Covid-19 pandemic.
The PHP165-billion stimulus package under the proposed Bayanihan 2 consists of PHP140 billion in regular appropriations and PHP25 billion in standby funds.
Publication of agencies’ spending
Duterte expressed confidence that his Cabinet members manning different government agencies would not allow corruption to proliferate amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have no doubt that they will not allow corruption,” he said.
He said he is also willing to direct all government offices and departments to disclose their Covid-19 spending every 15 days to prove that there is no irregularity in the disbursement of funds.
“Sa Cabinet, another publication sa disbursement nila kung ilan ang ginastos nila ngayong buwan na ito o gusto mo every 15 days para mas maganda (The Cabinet must publish how they spend the money for this month or it can be done every 15 days). Every 15 days, you would know how much a department has disbursed money of the people,” Duterte said.
Duterte also pledged to impose “stricter measures” to make sure that the Covid-19 funds would be exhausted properly.
He added that he would not hesitate to endorse the filing of cases against corrupt public officials who will attempt to pocket the money allocated for the fight against Covid-19.
“Allow us time to do our thing, spend the money and there will always be a time for reckoning and that will be the time when we account for the money that we have used in the fight against (Covid-19),” Duterte said. (PNA)