OPPOSITION leader Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the first report submitted by President Duterte to the congressional oversight panel is nothing but “perfunctory” compliance to the weekly reportorial requirement imposed by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act. No. 11469).
Lagman noted there was no disclosure of the specific and total funds already disbursed and projected to be disbursed for the purchase of test kits, personal protective equipment, facial masks, sanitary gloves, medicines and other supplies and equipment, and their distribution to end-users.
He said there was also no validation of the social and labor amelioration benefits which have been received by intended beneficiaries nationwide.
Lagman also noticed that there was no report on the donations, both local and foreign, which are to be facilitated and prioritized pursuant to Section 4 (J) of the new law.
The veteran lawmaker said the report only contains lengthy restatements of the guidelines for implementation under the March 28 memorandum issued by the Executive Secretary and the grant of powers to the President under Section 4 of R.A. No. 11469.
“It is a mere reiteration of the various prior actions pursued and implemented by the President and government agencies before the effectivity of R.A. No. 11469 on March 26, 2020,” he said.
The following are the members of the joint congressional oversight committee: Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr., Rep. Eric Yap, and minority leader Bienvenido Abante Jr.
Cayetano, the leader of the House contingent to the oversight panel, defended the President’s report, calling it “comprehensive.”
“It’s a comprehensive report in the sense that the President is not only reporting what they’re doing under the new law but also reporting role and programs of different departments,” he said in a Facebook live video.
NOT BEING FELT
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the President should understand that economic and medical relief “is hardly felt on the ground three weeks into the community quarantine imposed by authorities.”
He slammed the “very minimal relief provided to affected residents, three weeks into the quarantine period.”
“As mentioned in the report, food and non-food items distributed by DSWD only totaled 4,753. Worse, for a population of 12 million residents, more or less, DSWD-NCR only delivered to 17 LGUs a total 67,150 food packs!” he said.
“Even the breakdown of where the P275 billion budget for this emergency will come from or where the funds will go is not yet clear. Also, the announcement of P200 billion amelioration without details yet, just caused much confusion on the ground as LGUs, and the barangays are the ones being blamed because their constituents are going hungry,” he added.
Zarate said the oversight panel needs to be convened because the public has a right to access the report and expect their representatives “to ask questions and relay their demands to Malacañang.”
“(This is) especially since the basic concerns of the people regarding public health, daily sustenance, and respect for rights are not being adequately addressed going into the third week of lockdown,” he said.
Cayetano urged the Department of Health to clarify details of its plan to procure one million sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers amounting to P1.8 billion now that doctors have been dying of the disease, partly due to the lack of PPE.
“So, it’s not enough to just say, we’re buying P2 billion. No. Tell us the number of hospitals per region, the number of beds, and how many will be delivered and then communicate it with the hospitals so if they ask for donations, or when they say it’s not enough, they can say what they mean by it,” he said.
Cayetano said the DOH should also thoroughly explain how it will carry out its plan to have more testing centers.
“Just saying that you’re adding testing without telling people why and what the strategy is, is causing problems,” he said.
“The Department of Health should be the one very clearly stating the public health strategy and let the media ask questions. If it takes you two hours to explain the strategy, to give accounting of the number of beds per hospital, per region, per province, to explain everything, so be it,” he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Senators Franklin Drilon, Panfilo Lacson, Christopher Go, and Pia Cayetano have been designated as members of the Senate panel in the joint oversight committee.
“It’s quite precise and concise to the spirit of what we expect. Although some provisions are still in process, most are being executed already. But I will wait for the comments of the oversight committee and consolidate in a report to the Senate proper,” Sotto said of the report.
Sotto appealed to the more than 18 million daily wage earners who will be the beneficiaries of government aid to give government ample time to distribute the cash assistance.
“Displaced workers have started receiving their 5k for the month thru DOLE remittance centers. Relax lang, mahina ang kalaban. Hindi instant coffee ito (Relax, the government will fulfill its promise. The process cannot be likened to an instant coffee),” Sotto said.
Sen. Joel Villanueva urged Malacanang to list down the names of beneficiaries in the next report.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that the Bayanihan Act can be withdrawn by the lawmakers sooner than the granted authority to Duterte upon Congress’ next adjournment on June 5.
Lacson said the actual funds which can be realigned by Duterte is more than P200 billion, based on records from the Department of Budget and Management.
As of the third quarter of 2019, the DBM said there are P989 billion unused funds from various government agencies.
Senate president pro tempore Ralph Recto said the President’s public address late Monday night had more questions to answer rather than presented solutions to the COVID-19 problem.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said Duterte must act immediately to deal with the COVID-19 problem now that was given the necessary powers by Congress.
In a statement, Drilon said the President must address hunger among the badly affected by the lockdown, augment funding for the country’s health care system by buying more test kits, personal protective equipment, and mechanical ventilators, among others. – With Raymond Africa