Palace assures lawful use of special powers to combat Covid-19

March 24, 2020
Rodrigo Duterte

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte would not abuse the special powers granted to him by Congress to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Malacañang assured the public on Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo made the vow, as the legislative measure that would give Duterte additional powers to contain Covid-19 is now up for the President’s signature.

In a press statement, Panelo ensured that Duterte would use the special powers in accordance with the 1987 Constitution.

“The Filipino people are assured that the powers granted the President shall be enforced strictly in accordance with the Constitution. The grant of powers is for a limited period and subject to the restrictions contained therein,” he said.

Panelo, however, did not mention whether Duterte already signed the proposed measure.  

After lengthy deliberation, the House of Representatives on Tuesday dawn adopted Senate Bill (SB) 1418, which declares the existence of a national emergency and grants Duterte additional powers to act on the coronavirus pandemic.

The lower chamber’s move paved the way for the speedy passage of SB 1418 or the proposed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which was certified as urgent by Duterte.

Panelo said the executive branch would now be able to implement necessary interventions to fight Covid-19 after Congress gave its nod on the proposed measure.

“Congress has responded to the call of the times by passing the bill entitled ‘Bayanihan To Heal as One Act’ granting stand-by powers to the President to carry out effectively the national policy of stopping the spread of (Covid-19) which has endangered the lives of the Filipino people,” he said

”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,” Panelo added.

Duterte earlier declared a public health emergency and state of calamity all throughout the country in a bid to stop the transmission of Covid-19.

He also restricted the public’s movement in the entire Luzon after placing the island under an enhanced community quarantine.

Panelo said the proposed measure approved by Congress would help the national government ensure the effective detection of Covid-19; the prompt testing for the novel coronavirus; the protection of health workers; and the maintenance of availability and pricing of essential and basic commodities.  

“The (proposed) ‘Bayanihan to Heal as One Act’ is a response to such urgent need, the swift and efficient implementation of which will secure the success of the measures established by the national government in eradicating the threat to our national survival,” he said.

Panelo also emphasized that Duterte would now have the authority to immediately implement measures for the effective education, detection, protection, and treatment of the people against Covid-19.

He also expressed confidence that health workers would be able to enjoy compensation and free lodging as they continue to help the government in its fight against Covid-19.

Panelo added that the government is ready to provide subsidy to low-income households and implement an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.

He likewise advised the public to remain calm and refrain from believing in false news about the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Once again, we urge our countrymen to be wary of rumors and false news designed to create panic and confusion propagated by the enemies of peace and order,” Panelo said.

The number of persons infected with Covid-19 in the Philippines jumped to 501, as of Tuesday. PNA