House OKs bill granting Duterte ‘necessary’ powers due to COVID-19 crisis
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives on Monday approved a bill declaring a national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic and authorizing President Rodrigo Duterte “for a limited period and subject to restrictions, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out the declared national policy.”
During a special session, the lower chamber approved the Bayanihan Act of 2020 (House Bill No. 6616) in response to the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which has infected 460 people in the country.
The House voted 284 for and 9 against the measure with no abstentions.
“In view of the continuing rise of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the serious threat to the health, safety, security, and lives of our countrymen, the long-term adverse effects on their means of livelihood, and the severe disruption of economic activities, a state of national emergency is hereby declared over the entire country,” the bill states.
“In order to optimize the efforts of the President to carry out the tasks needed to implement the aforementioned policy, it is imperative to grant him authority subject to such limitations as hereinafter provided,” he added.
The measurer gives the President the power to adopt “temporary emergency measures” to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
This includes implementation of measures to curb the transmission of the disease, hastening medical testing of persons under investigation (PUI) and persons under monitoring (PUM) and “immediate treatment” of COVID-19 patients.
Likewise, the President will also ensure that local government units (LGUs) are following directives from the national government in line with the pandemic response.
The President can also “direct the discontinuance of appropriated programs, projects or activities (P/A/P) of any agency of the Executive Department, including government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCC), in the FYs 2019 and 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA), whether released or unreleased the allotments for which remain unobligated.”
The funds will be used for response measures related to COVID-19.
Among other powers authorized for the President to perform include the following:
- Direct the operation of any privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities including passenger vessels and, other establishments, to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations, or other temporary medical facilities; and public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel and other persons
- Adopt measures to protect the people from hoarding, profiteering, injurious speculations, manipulation of prices, product deceptions, and cartels, monopolies or other combinations in restraint of trade, or other pernicious practices affecting the supply, distribution and movement of food, clothing, medicine and medical supplies, fuel, fertilizers, chemicals, building materials, implements, machinery equipment and spare parts required in agriculture, industry and other essential services, and other articles of prime necessity, whether imported or locally produced or manufactured
- If needed, undertake the procurement of goods and services as “in the most expeditious manner” in relation to COVID-19 response
- Ensure the availability of credit to the productive sectors of the economy especially in the countryside through measures such as, but not limited to, lowering the effective lending rates of interest and reserve requirements of lending institutions
- Liberalize the grant of incentives for the manufacture or importation of critical or needed equipment or supplies for the carrying-out of the policy declared herein, including healthcare equipment and supplies
- Require businesses to prioritize and accept contracts, subject to fair and reasonable terms, for materials and services necessary to promote the herein declared national policy
- Regulate and limit the operation of all sectors of transportation through land, sea or air, whether private or public
- Regulate traffic on all roads, streets, and bridges, and access thereto; prohibit putting up of encroachments or obstacles; authorize the removal of encroachments and illegal constructions in public places; and perform all other related acts
- Continue to authorize alternative working arrangements for employees and workers in the Executive Branch, and whenever it becomes necessary, in other independent branches of government and constitutional bodies, and the private sector
- Conserve and regulate the distribution and use of power, fuel, energy, and water, and ensure an adequate supply of the same
- Move statutory deadlines and timelines for the filing and submission of any document, the payment of taxes, fees, and other charges required by law, and the grant of any benefit, in order to ease the burden on individuals under community quarantine
- Allocate cash, funds, investments, including unutilized or unreleased subsidies and transfers, held by any GOCC or any national government agency in order to address the COVID-19 emergency
- Provide for a thirty (30) day grace period on residential rents falling due within the period from March 16 to April 15, 2020, without incurring interests, penalties, fees, and other charges
- Implement an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilya Program responsive to the needs posed by the crisis, and provision of commodity assistance program where the Secretary of Department of Social Welfare and Development may purchase commodities for emergency distribution to the members of the informal and marginalized sector during the duration of quarantine
The bill requires the President to submit a report on Monday of every week. The report will contain acts performed in accordance with the bill.
Those violating the regulations and directives of the national government will be meted a penalty of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1 million and/or imprisonment of two months.
If the offender is a public official, he/she will be meted the same punishment on top of perpetual or temporary absolute disqualification from office.
“Provided, however, that if the offender is a corporation, association, partnership or any other juridical person, the penalty shall be imposed upon the president, directors, managers, managing partners, as the case may be, who participated in the commission of the offense or who shall have knowingly permitted or failed to prevent the commission of the same,” the bill states.
“If the offender is an alien, he shall, in addition to the penalties herein prescribed, be deported without further proceedings,” the bill further notes.
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