'There will be an accounting,' Cayetano says, citing problems in implementation of Bayanihan Act

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) — House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday vowed to hold government officials accountable for lapses in the implementation of legislative measures for COVID-19 response.

In his speech during the last plenary session of Congress, Cayetano said that during the two-month break, "we will continue to discuss how to hold people accountable not for the sake of being accountable but to give people better services."

Congress adjourns session from June 6 to July 26, but House committee hearings will continue.

"Going into Bayanihan 2, we commit to the Filipino people and to the President, we will be supportive but we will follow the President's lead. We will demand accountability. We will be asking the departments, we will be talking to them, we will be having an accounting," said Cayetano, who himself had been hounded by allegations of corruption in the handling of a regional sporting event last year.

The Bayanihan to Heal As One Act gave President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers for the fight against the coronavirus disease, which has infected more than 20,000 people nationwide. The law, however, is in effect for only three months or until end of June.

Congress went on break without passing a new law called Bayanihan 2 or Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, which was supposed to extend Duterte's special powers until September.

READ: No presidential certification for Bayanihan 2 bill

In the enforcement of various measures under the Bayanihan Act, Cayetano said some problems were "understandable," but others were "inexcusable."

Learning from mistakes

The law authorized Duterte to provide an emergency subsidy of ₱5,000 to ₱8,000 each to 18 million low income families once a month for two months. Some 98 percent of the beneficiaries were able to receive the first tranche of cash aid, while the second wave has yet to be implemented.

READ: Cash aid tops government's ₱353-B expenses for COVID-19 response

Cayetano hit the Department of Social Welfare and Development for its failure to have every Filipino sign out a form so the government could determine if an individual is eligible for aid under the Social Amelioration Program, or other forms of assistance.

"The original sin of not coming up with a better list spiraled into many problems," Cayetano said, noting that local government units were able to distribute much of the aid meant for April in May.

Local officials complained that many beneficiaries were left out, while the government promised that they will be given aid in the second tranche.

"If you ask me, kung magkakaroon ng second wave and God forbid or kung magkakaroon ng ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) ulit sa ibang lugar at may ayuda, e per person na ang gawin natin para walang problema," Cayetano said, citing complaints that some big households did not get enough aid.

[Translation: If you ask me, if there will be a second wave, and God forbid if other areas are placed under ECQ and given aid, let us give it per person so there would be no problems.']

"That's an example of learning from our mistakes," he said.

Compensating healthcare workers

Cayetano also questioned the delay in the compensation of health workers infected with COVID-19.

Under the law, ₱100,000 should be given to healthcare workers with "severe" COVID-19 infection and ₱1 million to the families of those who died from the viral illness.

The Department of Health said it had to look for funding, but stressed it is now working on beating the June 9 deadline sent by Duterte for the medical frontliners' compensation. A total of 79 healthcare workers who fell severely ill will receive ₱100,000 each while the families of the 32 fatalities will get ₱1 million.

Duterte also threatened to sack officials responsible for the delay, while sparing Health Secretary Francisco Duque III from the blame.

Cayetano mentioned other issues in the government's COVID-19 response, including the overseas Filipino workers who were stuck at quarantine facilities in Metro Manila awaiting results of their COVID-19 tests. More than 24,000 stranded OFWs have been sent home following an ultimatum set by the President.

READ: OFWs returning via Metro Manila should be sent to their hometowns within 5 days