Ball in Executive’s court as law mandates it to obligate, spend Covid-19 funds: Pangilinan

THE proverbial ball is now in the court of the Executive branch of government as it is mandated to obligate, source, and release the Covid-19 funds specified in the Bayanihan 2 law, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Tuesday.

Asked by Senate reporters on the proposal for special congressional sessions to discuss extending the effectivity of the law, Pangilinan said: “Right now, the ball is with the court of the Executive Department. They have basis to spend it. They have basis to release it. They have basis to obligate it. So that’s what they should do.”

“It is really the challenge for the Executive Department dahil kung ipasa nga natin ngayon, i-extend natin sa ngayon, eh hindi pa na-o-obligate…And hindi mapapaso by June 30 kapag obligated na. So nasaan ang bola? Nasa kanila,” he added.

Pangilinan said the law specifies where the funds should go, and these funds will not be reverted to the general funds if obligated on or before June 30.

“Nandyan yung batas, nandyan yung paraan para gastusin ‘yan. Pag na-obligate ‘yan, hindi na kailangan i-extend. Ibig sabihin nung obligate kasi, naka-commit na ‘yan so hindi na mare-revert. In other words, kahit na lumagpas na ‘yung June 30 deadline, as long as it is obligated, it can be released after the deadline,” he said.

Pangilinan said special sessions will still necessitate that the Executive obligate, source, and release the funds. He reiterated that his call is for the release of the un-obligated and un-released 173 billion pesos specified in Bayanihan 2 Law.

“Of course release might be a bigger challenge kasi 173 billion [pesos] yan. At ang sinasabi, they are still sourcing the funds. Nasa Executive Department pa rin ‘yan. Wala sa legislature. So kahit na mag-special session tayo ngayon, ibabalik pa rin sa kanila to obligate, and to release, and to source,” he added.

At the same time, Pangilinan, who requested for Senate Committee of the Whole hearings on the vaccine roll-out, said the country needs a swift, adaptable response to stem the spread of the virus.

“Kinakailangan mabilis kumilos, mabilis mag-adjust. Ako sinusuportahan ko ‘yung Cebu Province. Nakita natin ang resulta sa kanilang Covid cases. At sa ilalim ng Bayanihan 2, ‘yung basehan nung mga protocols, ang policy within the jurisdiction of the local government is decided by the LGU,” he said, referring to Section 4 (p) of Bayanihan 2.

Section 4 (p) of Bayanihan 2 specifies in part that while “the IATF-EID shall be responsible for providing guidance on cross-border concerns…the LGUs shall determine the policies and regulations within their respective jurisdictions.”

Asked if a uniform quarantine protocol is needed nationwide, he said: “Hindi pwede ‘yung one size fits all.”

At the same time, Pangilinan said the government should come up with a united front and a clear direction on how to bring the country back from the pandemic.

“Sabi ko nga, para tayong bapor na nasa gitna ng dagat…Siyempre kinakailangan habang binabagyo ang bapor, ang layunin natin ay kung paano dadalhin ang bapor at mga pasahero sa kaligtasan. Dapat maliwanag iyong direksiyon,” he said, adding that if the directions are constantly changing, the boat might eventually sink.

“Dapat iyong kapitan at crew, iisa ang layunin, iisa ang direksiyon. Maliwanag ang patutunguhan para mailigtas iyong barko at mailigtas ang mga pasahero,” Pangilinan added.

Link to the recorded interview: