Medialdea defends need for ‘standby power’ for Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — The proposed authorization for President Rodrigo Duterte to take over private establishments amid the coronavirus pandemic was merely a “standby power,” Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said Monday.
During the lower chamber’s special session on COVID-19 response, Medialdea explained that the “intent of the proposal was simply to grant to the government a standby power.”
“It is a power which we don’t consider necessary to be exercised at all times because the establishments that are needed to deal with this crisis have, to their credit, been mostly cooperating with the government… We only desire such power to be legislated because the virus we are up against is so unpredictable and can spread rapidly in a community,” Medialdea said.
Medialdea said the proposed power was only intended “in the event that the crisis reaches its worst.”
“(It is) when our most critical institutions are nearing shutdown and government is left with no choice but to take over these establishments,” he said.
“We are requesting it this early because we do not know how our Congress can convene if and when we reach that point. Thus for the benefit of the people, we opted to include it in our requested authorities,” he added.
On Sunday, reporters obtained a copy of the supposed draft bill which states that “when the public interest so requires, the President can temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with the public interest to be used in addressing the needs of the public during the COVID-19 emergency as determined by the President.”
But in the House version of the bill filed Monday, said provision has been revised to: “When the public interest so requires, direct the operation of any privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities, hotels, and other similar 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.”
Medialdea gave assurance that the proposed powers for Duterte during the pandemic do not intent to “overstep the bounds of Constitution which remains firmly in place even in times of emergency.”
“We, therefore, approach he distinguished members of congress, the elected legislators of our people, to ask for a law that will enable the president and the executive branch the legal authority to address this crisis in a manner that is free from the restrictions which while beneficial during normal times, might prove disadvantageous during such an unusual time as this,” he said.
“In each of the powers we are requesting to Congress to grant the president, our objective is to hasten the delivery of services to those who are suffering or are suspected of having COVID-19, to halt its spread, and to bring relief to the rest of our countrymen who are now constrained to stay in their homes and give up for a time their ability to earn a daily living,” he added.
As of writing, there are 396 cases of COVID-19 in the country, with 33 deaths.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus that first emerged in China’s city of Wuhan in Hubei province in late 2019.
The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses named the novel coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2.
The virus causes mild symptoms such as fever and cough for most people but can cause serious illness such as pneumonia for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.
Coronavirus is a family of viruses, which surfaces have a crown-like appearance. The viruses are named for the spikes on their surfaces.
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