Drilon hopes House squabble won’t delay passage of 2021 budget

Robie de Guzman   •   September 22, 2020   •   339

Senator Franklin Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon is hoping that the power struggle brewing in the House of Representatives will not delay the passage of the PP4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.

Drilon said the immediate passage of the next year’s budget is critical amid the coronavirus pandemic as it seeks to address unemployment and the imminent economic contraction that is projected to be 6% to 9% by the end of 2020.

“Certainly, a power struggle in the House of Representatives will affect our timelines and I hope not because we are still in the middle of a pandemic and we have about 10% unemployment,” he said in an interview on ANC on Monday.

Drilon noted that this is not the first time that a power play ensued at the lower House, recalling the congressmen’s bickering over infrastructure funds in 2018 that delayed the passage of the 2019 national budget for over four months.

He said the economic managers blamed the budget delay for the economic slowdown. The government was also forced to operate on a re-enacted budget.

The senator underscored that the government cannot afford another delay in the approval of the budget bill as it would affect the implementation of key development programs.

“The budget provides the spending authority for the government. If there is no spending authority because of the delay in the budget, what would happen is, there will be a re-enacted budget and a re-enacted budget would mean that new programs will not be funded or would have to wait until the budget is passed,” he said.

Earlier reports said that the bickering among congressmen is supposedly over infrastructure funds of legislative districts lodged under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

When asked whether the ongoing squabble is connected to the 2022 elections, Drilon responded with: “I would like to attribute good faith. But you cannot discount that this is part of the preparations for 2022. I have been in Congress long enough to know that if there is anything you should exercise extra vigilance, it is what is called the election year budget.”

He also said that the allocations under the DPWH budget should be “disaggregated in the spirit of transparency.”

The proposed P4.5-trillion national budget is currently being deliberated by both houses of Congress.

Over the weekend, House Deputy Speaker and presidential son, Davao Rep. Paolo Duterte threatened to declare the seats of House leaders amid the row fueled by the “disparity” in infrastructure budget allocations in their respective legislative districts.

Drilon urges Duterte to call for special session to approve Bayanihan 3 Law

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to call for a special Congressional session for the immediate passage of the proposed third Bayanihan Law or the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act that seeks to provide emergency cash assistance to families affected by the stricter protocols against COVID-19.

“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.

The senator said there is a need to provide more funding for the government’s response against COVID-19 in order to help the poor and the vulnerable sectors of society and small and medium enterprises heavily affected by the pandemic.

“Kailangan tugunan ito. Sa akin, kailangang tumawag ng special session ang Pangulo para po matugunan ito. Mag-realign ng mga items na hindi kailangan,” he said.

Drilon made the call after Malacañang said that the government will not extend additional aid for low-income families despite the one-week extension of the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna.

Drilon believes that affected families should continuously be provided with assistance due to difficulties they may experience amid the ECQ period.

In a radio interview, the senator also called for the realignment of some items in the General Appropriation Act to boost the government’s fund for COVID-19 response.

Under Article VI, Section 15 of the Constitution, the President is allowed to call a special session at any time.

Congress is currently on session break until May 17.

Drilon files bill seeking 10-year imprisonment for ‘red-tagging’

Robie de Guzman   •   March 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has filed a measure that seeks to make ‘red-tagging’ punishable by up to 10-years in prison.

Senate Bill 2121 or an “Act Defining and Penalizing Red-Tagging,” which Drilon filed on Wednesday, seeks to criminalize red-tagging and provide for penalties as deterrence “in order to fix the legal gaps, address impunity and institutionalize a system of accountability.”

It also seeks to disqualify persons convicted of this crime from holding public office.

The bill defines red-tagging as the act of “labeling, vilifying, branding, naming, accusing, harassing, persecuting, stereotyping, or caricaturing individuals, groups, or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning, subversives, communists, or terrorists as part of a counter-insurgency or anti-terrorism strategy or program, by any state actor, such as law enforcement agent, paramilitary, or military personnel.”

“Any person found guilty of red-tagging shall be imprisoned for 10 years and shall suffer the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office,” the measure stated.

“The passage of this bill will reverse the increasingly institutionalization and normalization of human rights violations and put a stop on the attacks against the members of the legal profession,” Drilon said in the bill’s explanatory note.

The senator said libel, or grave threats, is not appropriate when a state agent vilifies a person as an enemy of the state, thereby impinging an individual’s basic rights.

“It has resulted in serious human rights violations such as harassments, arbitrary arrests, detentions, and enforced disappearances. In some instances, being red-tagged is a prelude to death,” he said.

“The measure will likewise serve as a reminder to the government of its primary duty under the Constitution to serve and protect the people,” he added.

Proposed P10B aid to pandemic-hit firms ‘grossly inadequate,’ Drilon says

Robie de Guzman   •   March 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Franklin Drilon has questioned the P10-billion rescue package for companies heavily-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “grossly inadequate.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Drilon said the proposed amount is a “drop in the bucket” when compared to the government’s P19.5-billion fund to combat insurgency activities.

During a Senate hearing on the proposed Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery Act (Guide bill) on Wednesday, the senator stressed that rescuing strategically important companies (SIC) should be given priority since these can help save people’s employment.

He noted that the principal objective of the GUIDE bill is to give necessary access to credit and financial assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and SICs), affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Drilon questioned the sufficiency of the amount considering that the country suffered a 9.5 percent economic contraction in 2020, equivalent to P1.5 trillion, and an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, equivalent to 4.5 million jobless Filipinos, due to the pandemic.

“Given all of these, I raise questions on the sincerity of the administration in helping these strategically important companies. Will it make a dent?” he asked.

“The P10 billion rescue package is a joke, especially if you look at it in the context of the P19.5 billion this government allocated to the anti-insurgency fund,” he added.

Drilon said there is clearly a need for the government to provide more meaningful interventions to help pandemic-hit companies, save jobs and revive the economy.

He also insisted that the government should put more funds from the national budget instead of utilizing the funds of the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Under the measure, DBP and Landbank will be authorized to invest in, or enter into a joint venture agreement to incorporate a special holding company (SHC).

The SHC is intended to assist in the rehabilitation of strategically important companies affected by COVID-19 pandemic which are experiencing temporary solvency issues.

The bill provides for a capital infusion of P7.5 billion to LBP and P2.5 billion to DBP.

Drilon said using the existing funds of the state banks poses risks to their financial positions.

“I hope that the subcommittee can review the proposed structure of the special holding company, review the total financial exposure of the government in incorporating this, and check the finances of the LBP and DBP,” he said.

“We should also place more safeguards in the bill to ensure that the people’s money is protected,” he added.

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