PRESIDENT Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s flexibility expedited the approval of the bill granting him extra powers to combat the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), said a Mindanao House leader on Tuesday.
“I laud President Duterte and Executive Salvador Medialdea for graciously agreeing to substantial revisions of their proposed original Bayanihan To Heal As One Act,” said Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments.
Rodriguez said the first change the Palace agreed to was the scrapping of the proposal to allow the President to take over privately owned public utilities.
As revised, Rodriguez said the provision now only allows the Chief Executive “to direct the operations of any private hospital…” and similar facilities in the fight against Covid-19.
He added that during the overnight special session on Monday, he expressed concern over the original proposal.
Rodriguez pointed out that the second revision Malacañang accepted was putting a definite timeframe for the exercise of the proposed extra powers, from “two months or longer if the calamity will persist, as may be determined by the President” to ‘three months, unless extended by Congress.”
He recalled that during the special session, he cited a provision of the Constitution providing that the exercise of emergency powers shall be for “a limited period.”
“If the extension is determined by the President, it will not be for ‘a limited period’ and hence will be unconstitutional,” he stressed.
In the approved version, he said specific agencies, including local government units (LGUs), were specified as beneficiaries of augmentation of funds the President was authorized to reallocate.
“I moved for a provision in the bill to download funds to the LGUs as frontline units fighting Covid-19,” he said.
He said the final version also mandates the Department of Health to prioritize the sending of testing kills and personal protective equipment like face masks and gowns to the regions, provinces and cities.
“In my interpellation, I pointed out that there are no testing kits in\ all regions of Mindanao except Davao City,” he said.
Rodriguez also lauded Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, House committee on appropriations chairman and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap, and House Secretary General Jose Luis Montales “for the highly successful first ever online session of the House of Representatives.”