Drilon questions constitutionality of extending Bayanihan law
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday questioned the constitutionality of extending the validity of the Bayanihan to Heal as One law, which granted President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers to address the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
During the joint hearing of Senate committees on finance and economic affairs, Drilon raised the issue of constitutionality on the proposal to extend the validity of the Bayanihan Act, noting that powers granted by Congress cease when it is adjourned, citing Section 23 Article 6 of the Constitution.
The Bayanihan law will lapse on June 24, while Congress is set to adjourn on June 6.
The committees are tackling the bill that seeks to extend the validity of the Bayanihan law for another three months, or until September. A similar bill was also filed at the House of Representatives.
“My strict reading of this provision (Section 23),” said Drilon, “indicates that it appears that Congress is not authorized to extend the law because the provision does not say that it can be extended as distinguished and as contrasted to the proclamation of the martial law, and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus.”
Drilon cited the discussions of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, on the spirit of Section 23, Article 6 of the charter.
“Father Bernas is of the view that when Congress is not in session and is therefore unable to act on emergency situations, the President himself is stripped of his emergency powers,” Drilon said.
In response, Senator Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate panel on finance, said the constitutional provision seems to be crafted out of the country’s grim martial law experience during the Marcos regime.
“The drafters of our Constitution were afraid that the Executive would overreach and they would like to place the Legislative as a check on the executive power,” he said.
Angara pointed out that there is no provision prohibiting Congress to delegate such power.
“I think, in the absence of the prohibition on the legislative to delegate that power given there is no prohibition, we should be able to delegate it as long as there is nothing unconstitutional in our delegation,” the panel chair said.
Also during the hearing, Drilon sought the removal of the penal provisions for quarantine violations under the Bayanihan to Heal as One law should its effectivity be extended until September.
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