"Congress must now realize its predicament and find a solution to it."
After Bayanihan Law I expired—it was an emergency law, after all—Congress enacted Republic Act 11494, also known as Bayanihan 2. This will grant emergency powers to the President and allocate public funds to government agencies for the purpose of assisting and rebuilding sectors of society adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, Santa Banana, being an emergency law, it has a limited time as all emergency laws are.
A reading of Aricle VI, Section 23 (2) of the 1987 Constitution will show that the primary law explicitly provides that “In times of war and other national emergencies, the Congress may, by law, authorize the President for a limited period and subject to restrictions as it may prescribe, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy. Unless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers should CEASE UPON THE NEXT ADJOURNMENT THEREOF (caps mine).”
Is is thus clear, my gulay, that upon the next adjournment, such emergency powers shall cease to exist!
Since Congress originally intended to adjourn on December 19, and because Bayanihan Law was set to be effective sometime in September 2020, Congress figured that it was giving Bayanihan law 2 three months to remain enforceable and effective. During that time, Congress was unaware that it would be forced to adjourn, both the regular and special sessions, sooner that expected. Why?
On October 12, 2020, in his bid to keep his power as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alan Peter Cayetano decided to suspend the House’s regular session without passing or finalizing the 2021 budget.
Cayetano’s decision to hostage our budget is more devious than what appears on the surface. This is a time of crisis and emergency, hence the budget is more important than ever. It is the lifeblood of government projects intended to jumpstart our lives in the “new normal.”
Santa Banana, it was at this time when the fate of Bayanihan Law 2 was sealed. Transactions pursuant to the expired provisions of the law, without the public bidding requirements, without the required permits and clearances, or without the proper payment of taxes, were obviously at risk of being criminally charged for violation of the law against graft and corruption.
Even public officers who continue to disburse public funds previously granted by Bayanihan Law 2 are at risk of being criminally charged for processing or releasing public funds based on an already non-existent law.
Given this, Congress must now realize its predicament and find a solution for it.
Why do I say that Bayanihan Law 2 is non-existent?
When Cayetano suspended suddenly on October 12, Congress adjourned. There was a special session called by the President (October 13 to 16), but a reading of Article VI Section 23 (2) will show that all emergency powers of the President shall cease to exist upon the next adjournment. Nothing could be clearer than that.
Because of Cayetano’s sudden adjournment, both the Senate and the House no longer had a session.
The reason of the law’s non-existence is clear and simple. The fact is that Congress adjourned. Nothing could be clearer.
I amazed that with all the lawyers in government, including the President, nobody saw this. This exposes public officers who are transacting under the expired provisions of Bayanihan 2. Many others can take advantage of this situation.
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The Department of Budget and Management claims that the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year is pork-free. The Supreme Court has outlawed pork barrel, sure. But it has actually just taken another name—“lump sum allocations.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed that 220 of the 242 congressional districts received more than P2 billion; the rest will get smaller amounts. But, take note of this: some will get less than P620 million, but one district will be given P15.351 billion. All these are under the Department of Public Works and Highways national budget.
Secretary Mark Villar may not necessarily be involved in this anomaly, but it could point to his incompetence and negligence. I would like to know, as many others do, how these could happen under his nose. Insiders say there were insertions by members of Congress themselves.
But now, during the bicameral conference, this could be corrected. Will the Senate allow this to happen?
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Is the government running out of funds?
Why not abolish some government agencies like the Presidential Commission on Good Government, which has served its purpose. Now its commissioners are getting double compensation by acting as directors of sequestered corporations. The Office of the Government Corporate Counsel can be placed under the Office of the Solicitor General. The Climate Change Commission has a whopping budget of P1 billion. Its officials attend conferences abroad—will that stop climate change? Furthermore, we should privatize the 47 Pagcor casinos.
The country is facing several crises. We need all the funds we can save.