Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the extension of the law would be done before Congress adjourns on June 3.
Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal
Senate to extend Bayanihan Act for 3 months
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 28, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate will extend for another three months the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gave President Duterte special powers to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, including realigning funds and imposing harsher penalties on certain criminal offenses.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the extension of the law would be done before Congress adjourns on June 3.

“No doubt, we’ll extend it. In what form and what amendments… will depend on our discussions later,” Sotto told reporters yesterday via video conference.

He said there would be discussions before the law is extended but did not discount the possibility that either the Senate or the House of Representatives would adopt either chamber’s final version to speed up passage.

The Bayanihan Act, which was passed in special session last March 23, granted Duterte authority for two months to realign funds to distribute emergency cash assistance to the poor and those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and impose stiffer fines and penalties for hoarding, profiteering and other crimes, including those for local officials refusing to comply with emergency measures set by the national government.

Malacañang expressed support for a three-month extension of the Bayanihan Act.

“I think the three-month period is ideal,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told ABS-CBN News Channel.  – With Alexis Romero, Rainier Allan Ronda

“It’s not a preference, but I think it definitely is necessary to give us at least 90 days and we’ll see from there if at the end of 90 days, there’s a need for emergency powers, then it can be extended until December,” he added. ?

Second tranche of SAP

Meanwhile, with Malacañang giving the green light to distribution of the second tranche of the P5,000 to P8,000 social amelioration program (SAP) emergency cash subsidy, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has called on local government units (LGUs) to expedite the payout of the first tranche of the SAP and submit liquidation reports.

The DSWD said the liquidation reports of all LGUs have to be in before they can make validation to clear the way for transfer of the second tranche.

The liquidation report is vital in the process of validation as it includes the report of the disbursement (containing the photos of the recipients, SAP card forms and amount of cash received), checks issued and disbursements certified by LGU accountant and approved by the local chief executive and copy of official receipt for refund/return of unutilized SAP funds.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the distribution of the second tranche of SAP must not be stymied by liquidation reports being awaited from LGUs.

“In ordinary times, this audit rule should be followed strictly. But in the midst of the pandemic, it should be relaxed, not waived, but only insofar as extending the deadline of submission and not making it a requisite for the release of the next tranche,” Recto said.

“Citizens running out of cash and hope are expecting this assistance, which has been promised them, and to allow red tape to abort its prompt delivery is unkind and unjust. Why should the people be penalized for a delay not of their own doing?” he said.  Alexis Romero, Rainier Allan Ronda

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