While many of us were sleeping, the House of Representatives and the Senate approved a bill on Tuesday, Mar. 24, granting President Rodrigo Duterte the “necessary and proper” powers to adopt “temporary emergency measures” to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
Also known as the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Senate Bill No. 1418), the bill seeks to place the country under a state of national emergency due to COVID-19. Once signed into law, some of the the additional powers that will be given to President Duterte will include:
Allocating funds and investments held by any government-owned or controlled corporation (GOCC)
Directing the operation of privately-owned health facilities and other establishments
Directing the operation of public transportation of frontline personnel
Expediting and streamlining accreditation of testing kits
Facilitating prompt testing of PUIs (person under investigation) and PUMs (persons under monitoring), as well as compulsory isolation and treatment of patients.
Amendments to the bill were also made during the Senate hearing. These include providing financial aid to health workers affected by the coronavirus and directing PhilHealth to shoulder all expenses of public and private health workers.
The bill passed the House with a 284-9-0 vote and the Senate with a 12-0 vote. The powers given to Duterte will only be effective for three months “unless extended by Congress.” Luzon is currently on enhanced community quarantine until Apr. 14.
As of writing, many netizens woke up to the news of the president’s emergency powers. Most of them were confused as to why the president needed so much power to address the pandemic.
Hindi talaga natin mawari bakit kailangan ni Duterte ng emergency powers. Akala mo naman may ginagawa siya.
Good morning, Philippines! Your @HouseofRepsPH and @senatePH just voted, with overwhelming majority votes and almost minimized opposition, to grant the Executive under Duterte emergency powers as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the days leading up to the House and Senate hearings, both Malacañang and Senate president Tito Sotto denied that Duterte would receive emergency powers if the bill would be passed into law. On Mar. 22, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters that Duterte will get “powers necessary to carry out urgent measures to implement the national emergency, not emergency powers.”
On Mar. 23, Sotto assured the public that he didn’t put “emergency powers” in the Senate bill and that they shouldn’t be afraid.
What are your thoughts about the bill and Duterte’s additional powers?