Palace amends special power request 

TO allay fears of abuse or misinterpretation, the executive branch decided to modify its request to Congress for the special power to address the coronavirus disease or COVID-19. 

In his speech during the hearing of the Committee of the Whole in the House of Representatives, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said that the planned “take over” of the government will be limited only to private hospitals and hotels in case the COVID-19 worsens. 

Both the Senate and House conducted special session to discuss measures seeking to address the crisis by granting the President a limited emergency power. 

Medialdea admitted to lawmakers that the Palace initially sought to include a provision authorizing the take-over of private establishments, however to avoid confusion among businessmen and the public it decided to change it. 

“The power to take over is intended merely as a standby power in the event the crisis reached its worst, when our most critical institutions are nearing a shutdown and government is left with no choice but to take over these establishments,” Medialdea said. 

“We are requesting it this early because we do not know how quickly our Congress can convene if and when we reach that point. Thus, for the benefit of our people, we opted to include it in our requested authorities,” he further explained. 

In Malacañang’s draft of the bill, the President is authorized to temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest, including but not limited to hotels, public transportation, and telecommunications entities. 

In House Bill 6616, it noted that privately-owned hospitals and hotels will be used to house health workers or serve as quarantine centers or medical relief and aid distribution centers should the number of cases increase tremendously. 

According to Medialdea this is just another option, however he assured the public that government hospitals are well-equipped for the COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, authors of House Bill 6616 assured the public that water, electricity and other public utilities are not included in this so-called takeover provision.

Medialdea acknowledged that their earlier proposal got negative reactions from many sectors.

“But as I said, this government believes that our democratic way of life will prevail through this crisis. As a testament to that conviction, we listened to the advice of our legislators and the opinions of our countrymen and have adjusted our proposal by narrowing it down and subjecting it to safeguards in addition to what we originally proposed,” he added.