Duterte to sign bill on special powers vs COVID-19 on Tuesday — Sotto
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign the bill granting him special powers to deal with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on Tuesday, said Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
“Today,” Sotto said Tuesday in a phone patch interview when asked when the President would sign Senate Bill 1418 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.”
The measure was approved by the upper chamber in a special session on Monday which lapsed until the early hours of Tuesday.
The House of Representatives also passed its counterpart measure but eventually adopted the Senate’s version of the bill.
Senate Bill No. 1418, if enacted to law, would grant Duterte additional powers to adopt “temporary emergency measures” to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill also authorizes the President to direct the “discontinuance” of appropriated programs, projects or activities of any agency of the executive department, including government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs), in the 2019 and 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA), “whether released or unreleased, the allotments for which remain unobligated, and utilize the savings generated therefrom.”
This “to augment the allocation for any item directly related to support operations and response measures, which are necessary or beneficial in order to address the COVID-19 emergency.”
Additional provisions to the bill include the granting of emergency subsidy to around 18 million low-income households in the country; a “COVID-19 special risk allowance” and compensation to public health workers, among others.
Sotto further reiterated that the bill they have approved was not to grant the President emergency powers.
“There is an emergency situation. Hinahanap nila yung emergency powers ang sinasabi ko, sino naman ang may sabi sa kanila na emergency powers ang pinapasa natin?” he went on.
(There is an emergency situation. They are looking for the emergency powers, what I’m saying is, who said that we were seeking the approval of granting emergency powers?)
“There is an emergency situation, let’s give the President authority to handle the situation financially at ika nga the necessary powers to handle it. Yun ang sinasabi namin. Pag sinabi mong emergency powers, ibang usapan na kagad yun e,” he added.
(There is an emergency situation, let’s give the President authority to handle the situation financially and necessary powers to handle it. That’s what we’re saying. When you say emergency powers, that a different story).
Authorized powers given to the President under bill will only be effective for three months unless extend by Congress.
The Philippines has so far recorded over 500 COVID-19 cases, 33 have died while 19 patients have already recovered.
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