House committee of whole OKs bill granting Duterte ‘emergency’ powers due to COVID-19
MANILA, Philippines — The House Committee of the Whole on Monday approved the bill seeking to declare a national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic and to authorize 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 held to tackle government response on coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the House of Representatives first convened as a committee of the whole to tackle House Bill No, 6616 or the “Bayanihan Act of 2020”.
Under House rules, when the House constitutes into a Committee of the Whole, “it functions as one committee acting upon a bill or resolution, and conducting its proceedings like a regular committee with its membership composed of all the Members of the House.”
House Bill No. 6616 allows the president to “issue such rules, regulations and directives as may be necessary to carry out” his powers which include 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 shall also ensure that local government units (LGUs) are following directives from the national government in line with pandemic response.
The President can also “reprogram, reallocate, and realign any appropriation” in the 2020 national budget “for whatever purpose the President may deem necessary and desirable to fund measures to address and respond to the COVID-19 emergency.”
The President can also “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.”
However, the bill also states 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.”
“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 emergency powers subject to such limitations as hereinafter provided,” the bill states.
As of writing, there are 380 cases of COVID-19 in the country.
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