Senator Joel Villanueva bared that although he is open to discussing the P420-billion Bayanihan 3 in the Senate, it is also imperative to ensure the effective implementation of previously passed legislation against the COVID-19 crisis now ravaging the country.
Villanueva issued the statement after mounting calls to have the House-initiated Bayanihan 3 declared as urgent legislation to curb the present surge of COVID-19 cases and help alleviate the plight of workers and businesses affected by quarantine restrictions.
The idea of conducting a special session for this purpose has also been floated, as Congress is on break until May 17.
“Legislation is not the main solution, executive action is.”
“I will support a discussion on Bayanihan 3. But having said that, let me be clear on where I stand on the mess engulfing us: Legislation is not the main solution, executive action is,” the chair of the Senate committee on labor expressed.
“The main cures to COVID-19 and its deadly effect on lives and livelihood are not waiting to be legislated, but to be implemented. Case in point is the new COVID-19 Vaccination Law, a great law in need of good implementation,” the veteran legislator added, noting that the country has been lagging behind its neighbors in the rollout of vaccines to its citizens.
The seasoned lawmaker also explained that the government is also slow to spend funds appropriated in the last Bayanihan law against a virus that is fast spreading out of control, infecting record numbers of people and crippling business and livelihood quicker than the release of government aid.
The senator disclosed that the appropriations authorized under Bayanihan II was P165.6 billion.
While this has all been released to agencies, the amount obligated by agencies stood at a low P77.5 billion, according to DBM’s February report to the Senate.
“At doon sa P77.5 billion, wala pang kalahati, o P38 billion, ang na-disburse ng mga agencies. Bakit may underspending?” he asked.
“What we need are not new republic acts.”
“What we need are not new Republic Acts, but for the people in government to get their act together,” Villanueva stressed.
“But if there are gaps that would require congressional action and approval, then let us do it. Isang halimbawa nito ay ang pondo panglaban sa pandemya. Kung kailangan po ng legislative refill, gawin na po natin kaagad,” he further explained.
As to the special session called for Bayanihan 3, Villanueva said he was for it.
“Sakali pong magpatawag ng special session, handa po tayong sumuporta dito alang-alang sa ating mga manggagawa na walang trabaho at sweldo, sa mga pamilyang walang makain, sa mga taong walang-wala,” the former TESDA chief stated.
“Ang epekto po kasi ng ‘no work, no pay’ sa mga pagawaan ay ‘no pay, no eat’ ang ating mga manggagawa. Ganun pa man, hinihikayat po natin ang gobyerno na maging listo at alerto sa pagpapatupad ng mga programang may pondo na sa 2021 National Budget,” he added.
“Underspending is fatal. Budgetary savings will not save lives. Gastusin na po ang dapat gastusin para sa mga tamang bagay,” Villanueva concluded.