Sotto, Cayetano file bill granting more power to Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — A bill that would allow President Rodrigo Duterte to take over private hospitals and “other establishments,” and “regulate and limit” the operations of all transportation sector whether private or public, has been sought in the Senate.
On Monday, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Senator Pia Cayetano filed Senate Bill 1413, dubbed the “We Heal as One Act,” in order to address the COVID-19 pandemic on the home front.
The bill sought to declare the existence of a national emergency due to Covid-19 pandemic, by giving the President authority “for a limited period and subject to restrictions, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out the declared national policy and for other purposes.”
Such powers, as enumerated under Section 4 of the bill, include the following:
- Adopt and implement measures to prevent or minimize further transmission and spread of Covid-19;
- Expedite the medical testing and observation of persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs);
- Ensure that all local government units are acting in line with the rules, generations, directives issued by the national government;
- When the public interest so requires, direct the operation of any privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities, including 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.
Under Section 4.4 of the bill, “reasonable compensation” should be provided for any additional damage or costs incurred by the owner of the property or establishment.
“Provided, finally, that if the foregoing enterprises unjustifiably refuse or signified that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises for the purpose stated herein, the President may take over their operations subject to the limits and safeguards enshrined in the Constitution,” the bill stated.
The bill also authorized the President to do the following:
- Continue to 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;
- Undertake the procurement of certain goods and services as the need arises “in the most expeditious manner.” These goods and services include the purchase of personal protective equipment and other surgical and medical equipment; lease of real property or venue to house health workers; establishment, construction and operation of temporary medical facilities, among others;
- 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 adequate supply of the same
If approved, the President may also tap unused and spent money, and reallocate and realign the 2020 budget to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
The President is likewise authorized to “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.”
“In order to ensure that there will be no abuse in the exercise of the above-mentioned powers, this bill has provided safeguards, such as the limit of time when the powers shall be exercised, the reportorial requirement, the creation of a committee oversight, and the authority give to the Congress to withdraw such powers granted under this measure anytime, ” Sotto and Cayetano said in their explanatory note of the bill.
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