Press Releases

‘Life-or-death decision:’ Salceda calls for special session to extend Bayanihan 2

June 18th, 2021

‘Life-or-death decision:’ Salceda calls for special session to extend Bayanihan 2; warns that contact tracers, health workers’ contracts could lapse without extension, as COVID-19 cases surge in provinces

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) recommended to the House leadership that they call for a special session of Congress to approve an extension of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, whose validity expires on June 30, 2021. With this expiration, funding for the contracts of contact tracers and human resources for health (HRH) hired under the package will also lapse.

In an aide memoire to the Speaker and the Majority Leader, Salceda warned that “Without such extension, provinces potentially face a situation of having their contact tracing and healthcare response capacities drastically reduced for at least 26 days (from the June 30 expiry of contracts to July 26, the opening of session) during a period of COVID-19 case surges.”

“Local response teams and civil society groups have requested Congress to pass a bill providing for an extension of the appropriations and capacity to obligate and disburse funds until December 31, 2021. The extension is a matter of life and death in many communities, as contact tracers and augmented human resources for health (HRH) were hired under Bayanihan 2 contracts that will also expire by June 30,” Salceda wrote.

“Positivity rates are also above 5% in all regions. This is apart from the surges in Bicol, Visayas, and Mindanao,” Salceda added.

As of May 31, and according to the financial report from the Department of Budget and Management on Bayanihan 2, over Php18.4 billion in unobligated funds for critical pandemic response and recovery programs are about to expire.

“The funds that will expire include P6.6 billion for lab testing and HRH, and about P873 million for contact tracing. We still need those funds, especially with the surge in cases,” Salceda added.

Rules allow for special session

Article VI, Section 15 provides that “The President may call a special session at any time.”

“This was invoked in passing the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. The House and the Senate are also allowed by their respective rules to call for a special session without the President’s call,” Salceda wrote.

Section 86 of the Rules of the House provides that “The House, if not in session, shall convene without need of a call within twenty-four (24) hours following the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or the occurrence of any national emergency.

Rule XIV, Section 42 of the Rules of the Senate permits the Senate President to convene a special session: “…the President of the Senate, in consultation with the Majority and Minority Leaders and upon agreement with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, may reconvene the Senate in session without need of a call by the President of the Philippines, at any time during a recess as provided in the legislative calendar, to consider urgent legislative matters.”

“We can do it as Congress, but it would really be better if the President calls for the special session instead. I am sure he is open, since he has also been closely monitoring our situation in Albay,” Salceda said.

In his aide memoire, Salceda also wrote that “Considering the need of the situation, the President’s concern for the emerging surge in cases, and the strategic importance of having a Senate bill certified as urgent by the President, action originating from the Executive branch would be a stronger, more effective move.”

“This is a life-or-death decision for many provinces. We can’t afford a month without contact tracing or with reduced health capacity,” Salceda added.

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