Pangilinan says he would’ve voted yes to special powers if he were not on SQ but…
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis Pangilinan on Tuesday said that while he may have voted in support of the bill granting President Rodrigo Duterte special powers amid the coronavirus pandemic, he still has “serious reservations.”
Pangilinan, who was not able to attend the Senate’s special session to tackle and approve the bill due to his ongoing observance of self-quarantine (SQ), said that had he been allowed to vote his vote would have been in the affirmative.
“As we said in our phone-in verbal explanation of vote, our ‘Yes’ vote comes with both a warning and an admonition,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
“It is a warning and an admonition to the IATF (Inter-agency Task Force) that our people deserve better from them. And that the incoherent and often confusing, conflicting, and haphazard policy pronouncements in the past two weeks ought to be the last coming from IATF,” he added.
Pangilinan added that the task force will be called out if “we see that the law and funding we have put in place are not being implemented as envisioned.”
“Beginning today and until the day we have defeated this virus, we would urge and call out the IATF and this administration to ensure that the law is effectively implemented, and the health and welfare of our citizens are protected and upheld,” the senator said.
“But as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof of the law is in the implementation,” he added.
Under the rules of the Senate, physical presence is required for a senator to be able to vote in plenary debates.
Pangilinan said they sought the suspension of the rule, but it was not approved by the majority in the upper chamber.
Those who were not physically present in the debates were instead allowed to make manifestations via phone patch. They were also allowed to manifest what their vote would have been had they been present in the Senate.
‘Dangerous provisions’ removed
Pangilinan took note of the “dangerous provisions” in the original draft of the bill which the senator called an “an attempt to get ‘unli’ emergency powers and ‘unli’ spending powers.”
“While it limited the exercise of these powers to two months, it also gave the President the power to extend it to however long he wants and was quiet on how much and how it would be spent. The Senate limited the powers to 90 days and any extension will require Congressional approval,” Pangilinan said.
The senator said these provisions—including the provision allowing the Presider to take over companies which earned the ire of netizens when the supposed draft bill was leaked—were removed by the senators.
“The Senate was also able to provide for what our people need now and what we, echoing the clamor of the people and various experts, have been calling for: mass testing, support to front-liners, and cash transfers to the vulnerable,” Pangilinan said.
“In a major way, in the Senate version, we were able to exert our influence on the Executive on how the crisis must be addressed — not in the haphazard, confusing, and damaging way that it has so far faced this life-and-death situation,” he added.
Pangilinan said the Senate version of the bill, which was adopted by the House of Representatives, contains the following:
-prioritizes the distribution of medical supplies and the augmentation of the budget;
-limits the President’s power to realign funds to “Savings” within the Executive branch;
-grants grace periods for loans and rental payments;
-includes an expanded and more comprehensive 4Ps;
-provides P5,000 up to P8,000 emergency subsidy a month, for a period of two months, to 18 million low-income families;
-exempts from import taxes the importation of equipment and supplies needed for COVID-19 response;
-grants P100,000 or P1,000,000 to public and private health workers who may contract or die from COVID-19;
-requires the President to report to Congress weekly all acts performed pursuant to the Act, including the amount and corresponding utilization of funds used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated, and realigned;
-removes from the President the delegation of penal powers and specifies punishable acts under the law;
-clarifies that the Constitution prevails over any provision of the law;
makes the effectivity of the law three months unless extended by Congress.
With the House’s adoption of the Senate bill, the two chambers no longer have to meet for a bicameral conference committee and thus, would only await Duterte’s approval of the bill.
The Department of Health (DOH) said that confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines have soared to 501 as of Tuesday morning.
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