Duterte to submit fifth report on special powers to Congress

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 26) — President Rodrigo Duterte is due to submit on Monday his fifth report on his special powers granted to him by Congress to address the COVID-19 crisis.

The expected updates from Duterte in his latest report include cash aid for the poor, which is among the key provisions of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which granted him special powers.

Senators Joel Villanueva and Francis Pangilinan are still calling on the government to fast track the distribution of cash aid, more than one month since Congress passed the measure.

According to Duterte’s fourth report to Congress on his special powers, only 24 percent of the 17.9 million intended cash aid beneficiaries have received financial assistance from the government.

But Pangilinan said that he expects a majority of beneficiaries to receive cash aid soon as more agreements on its distribution are forged between the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units.

Pangilinan is also calling on Duterte to be more transparent in his report by showing the programs being implemented, their implementing agencies, the actual number of beneficiaries served, the target number of beneficiaries, the actual amount released for programs and the total budget for these.


He said that he also wants to clarify the cash position of the government.

“The public needs to be reassured that we have enough resources to fund our fight against the pandemic and that these funds are being used for their intended purposes efficiently and swiftly,” he said.

According to his last report, Duterte has declared a total of ₱246.28 billion as savings which can be tapped for the government’s COVID-19 response.

Of this amount, Duterte said ₱148.93 billion has been released to different national government agencies for their COVID-19 response. Duterte’s report, however, did not include a breakdown of this release.

But Duterte did mention in his third report that ₱100 billion was released to the Social Welfare Department, while ₱30.8 billion was given to fund the so-called Bayanihan Grant for municipalities and cities, and ₱1.5 billion went to the Labor Department.

Duterte, in addresses to the public, has also lamented how the government is cash-strapped in its battle against COVID-19 and has even floated the possibility of selling some government assets to generate more funding.

READ: Gov't says COVID-19 funds running low, floats idea of selling state assets as last resort

In his two previous reports to Congress, Duterte said that the Philippine Guarantee Corporation and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation have both submitted inventories of its real properties which may be used for COVID-19 projects, programs and activities.

In a taped briefing aired Friday, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado admitted that the government has already spent ₱352 billion of the ₱397 billion which can be realigned for the government’s COVID-19 response.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, however, said that the country’s needs are currently being financed through loans from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank which already amount to ₱310 billion.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act allows Duterte to reshuffle funding within the executive department towards the government’s efforts against COVID-19.

The same law also requires him to submit to Congress a weekly report on how he has so far utilized these powers and the government’s response to the pandemic.