Duterte signs special powers law to combat COVID-19

March 25, 2020
Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law early Wednesday a bill that gives him additional powers to strengthen government’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic after Congress urgently deliberated and passed the measure within a day.

For a limited time, Duterte, under the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” will have more powers that includes the authority to reallocate government savings to coronavirus-related programs, control private businesses under special circumstances, and grant exemptions from procurement laws.

Malacañang on Tuesday said the law is a response to the “urgent need” to secure the “success of the measures established by the national government in eradicating the threat to our national survival.”

Congress held a special session on the measure on Monday.

“There is an urgent need to implement measures that will help address the health scare brought about by the spread of COVID-19 in our land,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

The new law also states that a subsidy will be provided to low-income households hit by the work stoppage due to the virus threat.

Duterte earlier placed the entire Philippines under a state of public health emergency and later a state of calamity to provide the government with enough leeway to tap into emergency funds for response to the pandemic.

The President was granted additional powers a week after Luzon, the Philippines’ most populous island, was placed under a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 which has infected 552 people in the country as of Tuesday afternoon.