MANILA – Congress may hold a special session during recess to extend the emergency powers granted to President Rodrigo Duterte amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stated in a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4 as he acknowledged that lawmakers are running out of time to tackle the possible extension of Duterte’s special powers to allow him to continue boosting government’s efforts to fight Covid-19.
“Papa-adjourn na po kasi ang Congress (Congress will adjourn soon), let’s face it. Parang kung kinakailangan talagang maipasa iyan sa lalong mabilis na panahon, baka kinakailangang mag-special session kasi pa-adjourn na po ang Congress (If this [plan to extend Duterte’s emergency powers] needs to be passed in the soonest time possible, Congress may need to hold a special session),” Roque said.
Under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Duterte is authorized to use emergency powers to stop the further spread of Covid-19 in the country.
RA 11469, which Duterte signed on March 23, takes effect for only three months unless extended by Congress.
However, Congress is set to adjourn sine die on June 5 and will resume session when Duterte delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address on July 26.
Roque acknowledged that lawmakers might need to pass a new measure to extend Duterte’s special powers.
“It amounts to a new law kasi wala naman pong extension kung napaso na ‘yung batas (because there will be no extension when the law lapses). So siguro po, kahit anong title ng bill na iyan (So perhaps, whatever the title of the bill is), it will amount to a new law authorizing the exercise of the emergency power,” he said.
Malacañang earlier stressed the need to extend Duterte’s emergency powers to allow his administration to address the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.
As of June 1, the Philippines has reported 18,638 Covid-19 cases.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has filed House Bill 6811, which seeks to extend Duterte’s special powers until September this year as it is “clear that the pandemic will not be over by June 24, 2020.”
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri have also filed Senate Bills 1561 and 1546, respectively, extending the validity of RA 11469 until September 30 thus allowing Duterte to have additional 90 days to use his emergency powers. (PNA)