By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros is calling on the government to rush the obligation and disbursement of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) funds within the month.
The senator is lamenting the slow spending under Bayanihan 2, which was originally supposed to expire on December 19, 2020. However, since that first deadline, its effectivity has been extended to June 30, 2021. So far, there is no indication from the Senate leadership that there is going to be a special session for this.
“Pera na magiging bato pa. Ilang araw na lang, mag-e-expire na ulit ang pondo, pero sa sobrang bagal ng paggasta, dalawang beses nang nabigyan ng chance. Habang nakatengga yan, parami nang parami ang nangangailangan sa ilalim ng krisis. Kailan pa natin balak gamitin ang perang yan?,” Hontiveros asked.
Hontiveros says as of December 2020, the Department of Health (DOH), had only obligated 47% of its P12.5b allocation under Bayanihan 2, mostly on laboratory testing and hiring of human resources for health personnel.
The senator adds that according to the DBM, with Bayanihan 1 and 2, the country has spent P495,060,547,684 for the pandemic. Most of the money went to medical supplies, services, and financial aid. However, that amount is only 75.76% percent of the pie. Bayanihan 2 alone still has P127,155,172,328 in unspent funds.
“Kulang na kulang na nga ang Bayanihan 2, hahayaan pang mag-lapse? Bilis-bilisan dapat ang implementation ng mga programa. Kung maaari, bawasan na rin ang napakahabang listahan ng requirements para agarang maibigay ang ayuda,” she added.
Hontiveros then urged the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release the missing reports on Bayanihan 2 to help the government make quicker and clearer decisions on pandemic-related expenditures. Hontiveros hopes the missing reports can be evaluated way ahead of budget deliberations for 2022.
“Bago man lang sana pag-usapan ang 2022 budget, sagutin muna nila kung saan na napunta ang Bayanihan 2. January 2021 pa ang huling report na nai-file ng Malakanyang sa Bayanihan 2. Nasaan na ang iba pang weekly reports para sa transparency at accountability?” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros stressed, even the reports from the DBM are incomplete.
“Mayroong April 15, 2021 report on obligation and disbursement ang DBM. Pero hindi nito dinetalye kung ano ang nahita ng bayan sa pag gastos. Wala ring paliwanag kung bakit hindi umaandar ang ibang programs,” she added.
“Wala sa DBM report noong Abril ang tungkol sa service contracting, kung saan less than 10% pa lamang ang naipapamahagi. Ibig sabihin, halos wala pang disbursements. Absent din sa DBM reports ang accounting ng funds na inilagay ng Bayanihan 2 sa Land Bank, nung Pebrero lang,” she said.
Last month, the senator called for a special audit of the disbursed funds for COVID-19. Senate Resolution No. 710 covers scrutiny of both Bayanihan 1 and 2.
“Nakahain ang panukala ko para sa audit ng mga pondo para sa COVID. Dito magkakaalaman kung ‘excellent’ talaga ang response ng gobyerno. An ‘adequate’ response means consistency on the part of the administration at makatotohanang pag-uulat sa bayan. Kumpleto dapat ang reports at walang pagmamasahe ng datos,” she emphasized.
Hontiveros stressed the senate will continue to perform its oversight functions over the COVID emergency funds.
“Why the need to hold these funds? Hindi ba natin ginagastos nang tama kaya ang dami pa ring natitira? Makikita natin ang sagot kung magsa-submit sila ng pinapangako nilang weekly reports. I do hope we in the Senate will continue to exercise oversight. Patuloy nating bantayan ang paggastos ng administrasyon nitong pondo para sa COVID-19,” she said. (AI/MTVN)