MANILA – Leading national dailies Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star on Sunday dished out with contrasting reports on alleged emergency powers for the Palace in order to better address the sweeping coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
With no other than Senate President Vicente Sotto III as talking head, the PDI reported and quoted Sotto as he confirmed that there is no truth to the insinuation that President Rodrigo Duterte is asking for Congress to grant for him emergency powers to fastidiously address the COVID-19 crisis.
“Not true. Read the title. Nothing there says emergency powers,” Sotto said in a text message when asked if Duterte had asked Congress for the granting of emergency powers, the PDI reported.
“Absolutely wrong, because that was precisely my point in the meeting yesterday that this is not an emergency powers bill. We agreed that it is not,” the PDI added.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Star reported otherwise as it claimed that “The Palace is seeking the grant of sweeping emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to address the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.”
The Philstar further reported that “According to a transmittal letter from the Palace signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the executive branch is calling on Congress to hold a special session on Monday “to authorize the president to exercise powers necessary to carry out urgent measures to meet the current national emergency relating to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19); to provide ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds to strengthen governmental response against the said disease; and to continue providing basic services to the people.”
It also stated that “the unnumbered Bayanihan bill, a copy of which has since been obtained by Philstar.com, was proposed by the Palace, grants the chief executive the power to take over the operations of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest.”
Accordingly, the proposed measure, which needs a counterpart bill at the House of Representatives, grants Duterte the authority to regulate all forms of transportation, telecommunications, and the distribution of power, fuel, energy and water if needed.
It also said that the President may also purchase more testing kits and construct properties without passing through the usual procurement processes.
Among the powers proposed in the bill are:
-Power to “ensure” that all local government units are “acting in line with the rules and regulations issued by the National Government”
-Adopt measures against hoarding and profiteering
-Procure goods, including medical equipment and supplies
-Lease property to house health workers or serve as quarantine centers
-“Liberalize” incentives for manufacturers and importers of supplies
Regulate traffic on all streets
-Cancel programs and reallocate funds from 2019 and 2020 budget bills to generate savings
At present, the Philippines has 380 confirmed cases of the new pathogen in the Philippines after the Department of Health disclosed 73 more confirmed cases on Sunday.
The president last Tuesday (17 March 2020) declared a state of national calamity after cases continued to rise despite government intervention. The declaration allows the government to use funds allocated for calamity response. (iamigo/sovereignph.com)