Congress passed in a single day landmark legislation granting emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Bill No. 6616 Approved
The House of Representatives held a special session Monday morning, March 23, and approved House Bill No. 6616 which declared a national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic and authorized President Rodrigo Duterte to have emergency powers “for a limited period and subject to restrictions, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out the declared national policy”.
There were 284 representatives that voted for the bill and 9 that were against, with no abstentions. The voting of HB No. 6616 was considered historical as it was the first online emergency session held in Congress.
Following the support and approval of the House, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea assured the public that the President will not abuse the proposed special power.
Senate Bill No. 1418 Approved
Forwarding the measures approved in the House, the Senate curated Senate Bill No. 1418 which revised some provisions from HB No. 6616. With 19 affirmation, 1 refutation, 0 abstention, and 4 senators with no participation – the SB No. 1418 was approved on its third and final reading, giving the President 30 special powers in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines.
All senators present voted affirmative – Cayetano, Sotto, Gatchalian, Go, Gordon, Lacson, Lapid, Pacquiao, Poe, Revilla, Villanueva, and Tolentino. Senator Hontiveros was the only senator that voted no (via phone patch) as she does not see the need for emergency powers to procure funds and address the needs of the public, “our current laws and mechanisms already provide that”, she said.
Senators not present were able to vote via phone call – Binay, Recto, Zubiri, Angara, Dela Rosa, Villar, and Pangilinan all voted yes, with Pangilinan expressing serious reservations.
Drilon, Marcos, Pimentel, and De Lima were not able to vote even through a phone call.
Bayanihan to Heal as One Act
SB No. 1418, also known as the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”, placed the whole country under a state of national emergency and authorized special powers to the President for three months, “unless extended by Congress”.
The version of the Senate was particular on the departments and programs that would receive additional funding from the savings. These are the Department of Health (DOH), the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) with their Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers and COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) with their Livelihood Seeding Program and Negosyo Serbisyo sa Barangay, the Department of Agriculture (DA) with their Rice Farmers Financial Assistance Program, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) programs, the Allocations to Local Government Units (LGUs), and the Quick Response Funds (QRF) in relevant departments.
Signed into law as Republic Act No. 11469, the President is now granted 30 special powers, such as:
- the ability to adopt and implement measures to prevent or suppress further transmission and spread of COVID-19 through effective education, detection, protection, and treatment;
- the ability to expedite and streamline the accreditation of testing kits and facilitation of prompt testing;
- the granting of emergency subsidy to around 18 million low-income households with an emergency cash assistance of P5,000.00 to P8,000.00, depending on the minimum wage of the region;
- ensuring that all public health workers are protected through the “COVID-19 special risk allowance” in addition to the hazard pay already granted under RA No. 7305;
- provide compensation of P100,000.00 and the family of those that have died from contracting the virus would receive P1,000,000.00;
- administer all local government units and that they act in line with the rules of the national government;
- the continuous enforcement of anti-hoarding, profiteering, and manipulation of prices measures;
- the assurance of non-delays in the donation, acceptance, and distribution of health products pertinent to COVID-19;
- the regulation and limiting of operation for land, sea, and air transportation;
- the regulation for the distribution of power, fuel, energy, and water;
- allowing extensions for deadlines and timelines of filing of any document, taxes, fees, and grants;
- directing banks and financial institutions to implement 30-day grace period for loan payments;
- implementation of an “expanded and enhanced” Pantawid Pamilya Program;
- lifting of the 30% on the QRF; and
- undertaking of other measures reasonable and necessary to respond to the pandemic; among others.
Checks and Balances
Section 5 of R.A. No. 11469 provides an oversight that during Monday of every week, “a weekly report to Congress of all acts performed pursuant to this Act during the immediately preceding week” shall be submitted by the President.
A Joint Congressional Oversight Committee of four members from each chamber are to be appointed by the Senate President and the House speaker. The Committee “shall determine whether such acts, orders, rules and regulations are within the restrictions provided herein”.
PRRD thanks Congress
In a recorded address, President Rodrigo Duterte thanked Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for shepherding Congress for the proposed measure’s passage.
“I express my sincerest gratitude to all of you for granting our most urgent requests. Finally, the executive department can move, decide, and act freely for the best interest of the Filipino people during this health crisis,” he said.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS