Duterte urged to call for special session to pass Bayanihan 3, more COVID-19 response fund

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 6)— Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to call for a special session of Congress to pass measures, including the proposed third Bayanihan law, to help families most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes after Malacañang announced that there will be no additional aid for households affected by the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces.

“I urge the President to call a special session of Congress to pass the proposed Bayanihan 3 and expand the government’s cash subsidy program amid the spike in COVID-19 cases,” Drilon said in a statement on Tuesday.

While Congress is on break until May 17, Drilon said the Senate is “always prepared” to hold a special session to tackle the necessary legislation.

He also proposed the realignment of some items in the General Appropriations Act — particularly the funds for the anti-insurgency and intelligence campaigns.

Over at the House of Representatives, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the chamber is open to a possible special session if needed.

Velasco said the Bayanihan 3 and related bills are "already being studied” at the committee level.

“By the time the measures are finished at the committee level, we would have resumed session in May,” the Speaker said in a separate statement. “However, if Malacanang certifies the bill as urgent, we will comply.”

The government earlier passed two stimulus packages, Bayanihan 1 and 2, aimed at funding programs to address the adverse impact of the health crisis. They covered the healthcare system capacity, unemployment, and business activity, among others.

Lawmakers have also filed different versions of their Bayanihan 3 that also intend to provide emergency assistance to affected sectors and revive the ailing economy.

In a previous interview with CNN Philippines, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said there will be no extra assistance despite the extended lockdown in the NCR Plus, which also includes Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

He said the almost ₱23 billion subsidy budget downloaded to LGUs will be the total aid for now, as the government planned the program with a two-week ECQ already in mind.

Roque pointed out that Congress may be called for a special session if there is a need for further aid. The Palace, however, has yet to reply to Drilon’s fresh call.