By Julie M. Aurelio | Inquirer.net
Allies of presumptive President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. are preparing a stimulus program, similar to the Bayanihan packages of the Duterte administration, that would help tackle the health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez.
As funds would be needed for what Romualdez called the “Bayan Bangon Muli” (BBM) program, the Leyte representative said among the proposals being considered is the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in order to use the allocation for that exercise for the stimulus package.
Romualdez, a first cousin of Marcos, said the package would help the incoming administration tap this year’s budget for the pandemic response.
“It was president Marcos’ initials, BBM. The ‘Bayan Bangon Muli’ bill … will allow the incoming president to harness the resources available during the closing period of 2022 and pass measures that are needed for [what is] hopefully [the] endemic stage of this COVID-19 [pandemic]. And of course, to harness whatever remaining resources to stimulate the economy,” Romualdez said in an interview with reporters on Thursday.
“Bayan Bangon Muli” (Nation, Rise Again) also echoes Marcos’ election campaign slogan, “Sama sama tayong babangon muli” (Together we will rise again).
‘Help the Speaker’
Romualdez made the remarks after attending a lunch meeting in Mandaluyong City with members of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan—one of several political parties backing his bid for the speakership in the 19th Congress.
In support of the initiative, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda on Friday said: “I’m looking for measures … to fund the ‘Bayan Bangon Muli’ package being proposed by the incoming administration. I’ll help the House Speaker fully fund that package. Let’s try to keep the fiscal space intact.”
But Salceda maintained he was not in favor of scrapping the 12-percent value-added tax on electricity generation charges, which Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Agnes Devanadera proposed to the incoming administration on Thursday.
Postponement of polls
“We … need to fund the ‘Bayan Bangon Muli’ spending package announced by the incoming Speaker. [But] that’s just so much harder to do if we create unwise tax exemptions,” said Salceda, who currently chairs the House ways and means committee.
No amount has yet been set for the stimulus package. But according to Romualdez, lawmakers are considering the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections scheduled in December.
Some analysts assessing the outcome of the May 9 elections have pointed out the need for its contenders to strengthen their local political base, down to the barangay level.
But Romualdez said postponing the elections will mean more than P8 billion for the BBM program.
“We will have P8.141 billion that we can deploy for COVID-19 response, for economic stimulus and [for] all the country[’s] needs, especially those suffering from the pandemic. But more importantly, we are trying to make sure that the priority legislation of the incoming president will be aided and supported with the measures that will allow him to pursue his agenda,” he said.
Romualdez also said “that [the postponement of the elections] is one of the requests of our barangay chairpersons. We shall consider [it]. If that will be taken up, it should be [done] immediately because the barangay elections are in December.”
“So that will be one of the items in the … agenda. It should be in the priority list of [bills for] consideration,” he added.