Sotto calls for special session

Vicente Sotto III

SENATE President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III called for a special session of Congress to tackle and pass measures granting a supplemental budget and give the President and concerned agencies maximum flexibility to reallocate and utilize funds as needed to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Sotto confirmed that most senators concurred with his recommendation to allow cash subsidy to those affected by the enhanced community quarantine.

“Money is food. Food is security. Security is Peace and Order,” he said.

For his part, Senator Bong Go promised to push for the special session.

“The Executive Branch, led by the President, together with all concerned agencies, is doing everything it can to resolve this issue. We, at the Legislative Branch, are ready to do what we can to help especially through much needed legislative action, such as appropriating necessary funds to solve the crisis,” he said, further stressing that the government must always be ready to cushion the various threats of COVID-19 to the people and to the economy.

Currently, a stimulus package plus additional funding from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and contingency fund sources are readily available for the government to respond to the COVID-19 situation.

However, Go said that the legislative branch could step in and convene for the passage of a supplemental budget in order to ensure flexibility in the access of funds during this time.

“If the abovementioned sources prove insufficient, I will recommend to the President that he may call for a special session so that Congress can deliberate on the need to approve a supplemental budget,” Go said.

Go added that additional funds can be allocated so that the government can deliver more financial and food assistance to Filipinos, particularly the vulnerable sectors, daily wage earners and informal economy workers affected by the strict quarantine measures being imposed.

“Sa ngayon, may sapat naman po tayong pondo. Pero hindi po tayo dapat maging kampante dahil evolving ang problema. Isipin din natin what happens in the coming days, what happens after the quarantine and let us think of all possible scenarios,” he added.

Aside from legislation, Go mentioned that the Congress may also help through its oversight functions, in ensuring that government programs are implemented despite the imposed enhanced quarantine and social distancing measures.

“‘Wag nating hintayin na matapos ang krisis para silipin ang mga ito. Kailangan tayo ngayon. Siguraduhin natin na ang mga programa para tulungan ang mga nangangailangan ay naiimplementa ng maayos. Tuloy tuloy dapat ang serbisyo,” he said.

Despite being on session break, Go said that Congress must continue to find ways to respond to the needs of the people, especially at this time when decisive government action is needed the most.

“Hindi pwedeng ipagpaliban ang pagtulong natin sa mga nangangailangan. Now, more than ever, we, as elected officials, must do everything we can to be of service to the Filipino people,” he said.