MANILA – Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Monday assured the public that the Duterte administration will not abuse the additional powers sought from Congress to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
During the House Committee of the Whole hearing at the plenary hall, Medialdea said House Bill 6616, or the proposed Bayanihan Act, would equip the President and the Executive Branch with the legal authorities necessary to address the Covid-19 crisis as confirmed cases continue to rise in the country.
Medialdea stressed that the Constitution remains firmly in place even in times of emergency.
“This government believes that our democratic way of life will prevail through this crisis… We assure Congress and our countrymen that this administration has no intent to abuse the powers we are asking of you today,” Medialdea said.
“Our objective is to hasten the delivery of services to those who are suffering or are suspected of having Covid-19 to halt its spread and to bring relief to the rest of our countrymen who are now constrained to stay in their homes and give up for a time their ability to earn a daily living,” he added.
He said among the legal authorities asked from Congress is the ability to purchase equipment for health workers expeditiously without being restricted by existing procurement laws.
Also sought is the power to “freely reallocate” funds in the General Appropriations Act and augment allocations to address the coronavirus outbreak.
Medialdea clarified that the controversial provision, which grants the President the authority to “take over” private establishments, is intended as a “standby power” that would not necessarily be exercised at all times.
“The establishments that are needed to deal with this crisis have, to their credit, been mostly cooperating with the government. But we only desire such a power to be legislated because the virus we are up against is so unpredictable and can spread rapidly in a community,” Medialdea said.
“The power to take over is intended merely as standby power in the event the crisis reaches its worst when our most critical institutions are nearing a total shutdown and government is left with no choice but to take over these establishments,” he added.
He said the additional powers requested have an expiry date, noting that they “would last only as long as the Covid-19 crisis would last.”
He highlighted that Congress itself would be able to closely monitor the actions of the executive branch through an oversight committee to be created under the proposed law.
The House constituted itself into a Committee of the Whole and passed House Bill 6616 at the committee level with no interpellations. The bill will still have to go through plenary deliberations. (ia/soveregnph.com/PNA)