Duterte cloaked with emergency powers to fight COVID-19

EIGHTEEN million low-income families nationwide will receive subsidies of P5,000 to P8,000 for two months following approval of Congress, in a special session, of special emergency powers President Rodrigo Duterte can use to fight the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

The House of Representatives adopted the approved Senate version of the bill.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act acknowledged the need to declare a national emergency amid the increasing number of Filipinos affected by the dreaded virus.

Both the Senate and House adjourned the one-day special session early yesterday morning.

House Bill 6616 was approved on third and final reading with a vote of 284 yes and nine negative votes.

The bill provides an emergency subsidy for 18 million low-income families nationwide amounting to P5,000 to P8,000 for two months.

The measure also gives public and private health workers infected by the virus a compensation of P100,000.

A financial aid of P1 million would be extended to the families of those who contracted the virus and died while on duty. This is retroactive, the solons emphasized.

Reports said that there are already a number of doctors and frontliners who have been infected and died from exposure to COVID patients.

President Duterte is given authority to realign available government funds to address COVID-19.

In the House version, authors stressed that there is at least P275 billion available for realignments and can be used to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, should the situation worsen the President is given the authority to direct the operation of privately-owned hospitals, medical and health facilities, hotels and other establishments.

These will be used as quarantine facilities, houses for the health workers, medical relief and headquarters for aid distribution.

Under the measure, the President may also direct the use of public transportation to ferry health, emergency and frontline personnel.