Tue. Apr 13th, 2021

MANILA – The House Committee of the Whole on Monday gave the green light to a measure granting President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Voting as Committee of the Whole, the House approved HB 6616, which authorizes the President to declare state of emergency and exercise necessary powers in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak “for a limited time and subject to restrictions.”

Under the emergency powers granted by the House is the authority of the President to “direct the operation of privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities, hotels, and other similar establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations, or other temporary medical facilities.”

Also, it allows the President to direct the operation of public transportation systems to carry health, emergency and frontline personnel, and other persons.

Duterte could also “reprogram, reallocate, and realign any appropriation” in the 2020 national budget “for whatever purpose the President may deem necessary” to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The President can also cancel appropriated programs, projects, and activities to generate savings.

HB 6616 also stressed “the urgent need to minimize transmission of COVID-19, mobilize assistance to affected individuals, and provide healthcare and treatment to patients” the GMA News said.

“By reason thereof, and in order to optimize the efforts of the President to carry out the tasks needed to implement the aforementioned policy, it is imperative to grant him emergency powers subject to limitations,” HB 6616 read.

Presided by Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, the House constituted itself into a Committee of the Whole as a first step in deliberating on the measure.

As House rules, the chamber constitutes into a Committee of the Whole when “it functions as one committee acting upon a bill or resolution, and conducting its proceedings like a regular committee with its membership composed of all the Members of the House.”

The approved measure by the Committee on the Whole now allows the House to draft a bill to be deliberated in the plenary for second and third reading.

Meanwhile, the Senate is also set to discuss its counterpart measure, Senate Bill No. 1413 or “We Heal as One Act,” authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Pia Cayetano.

Sotto reiterated and assured the public that the bill they filed does not include “emergency powers” for the President.

“Walang emergency powers na sinasabi dito. Authority ang sinasabi natin to use the funds available and generally, ang pondong gagamitin, hindi manggagaling sa GAA ng 2020, manggagaling sa mga GOCCs. In other words, off-budget, kaya wala dapat kabahan,” Sotto said in a radio interview.

As of Sunday, the DOH has tested at least 1,513 patients. Of which, 380 turned positive for COVID-19, including 25 fatalities, 662 tested negative, while the results for the 471 patients are still pending. (ia/sovereignph.com)

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