Speaker: Set aside politics, win battle vs COVID-19

SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano has called on the country's leaders to find a way to work together as a nation and set aside politics to be able to win against the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).

​In order to optimize the National Government's effort to prevent further damage to Filipinos’ health and livelihood due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress approved the proposed  "Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” granting President Rodrigo Duterte the authority to urgently address the serious threats to health, safety and livelihood of the Filipinos as well as the severe disruption of economic activities.

​“It’s been a long day, but it’s been worth it. But we’re going to face many, many long days in the coming weeks, unless we find a way to work together as a nation to set aside politics, to take out this toxic environment that we had before COVID-19, said Cayetano in his final remarks after the House of Representatives passed House Bill (HB) No. 6616 on third and final reading.

​Cayetano stressed that the proposed “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” will give the government the mechanism and resources that it needs to cope with the national health emergency and alleviate the plight of the workers affected by the community quarantine.

​Cayetano also assured the public that there are “checks and balances” stipulated in the bill to prevent abuses and corruption.

​Under the Congress-approved measure, a Joint Oversight Committee composed of four members of each house to be appointed by the Senate President and the House Speaker, respectively. The Committee shall determine whether such acts, orders, rules and regulations are within the restrictions provided herein.

​“This is a time to do our job and not a time to play politics,” he asserted the urgency of the bill, which aims to ease the burden of the Filipinos severely hit by the enhanced community quarantine.

​“We will do everything we can, para ang gamot at pagkain and in this case cash po ang gusto namin, mapunta po sa 18 million households around the country,” the Speaker stressed when he addressed his colleagues in the House of Representatives.

​Cayetano also sought the support of his colleagues in the House of Representatives to support the work of the Oversight Committee through the creation of an adhoc committee called Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC).

​“This Oversight Committee will sit down with the Task Force and will be discussing many, many, many issues: health, provisions, economic relief, curfews, quarantine, peace and order, how our economy is doing, fiscal position, everything,” Cayetano said.

​“We don’t want na makasagabal tayo sa kanila. Hindi naman pwedeng araw-araw e hearing, pa’no nila gagawin ‘yung trabaho nila? And that’s why we’re putting together today an adhoc committee called Defeat COVID-19 Committee,” he added noting that DCC will be a “working committee” that will collaborate with the Oversight Committee.

​Cayetano noted that the DCC, co-chaired by House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romuladez will do a lot of work from home and the meetings will be done online through the use of digital communications.

​Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea during the Committee of the Whole proceedings, reiterated that that the President does not desire to overstep the bounds of the Constitution, which remains firmly in place even in times of emergency.

​The bill allows the President to reallocate, reprogram and realign from savings on other items of appropriations in the FY 2020 GAA in the Executive Department, as may be necessary and beneficial to fund measures that address and respond to the COVID-19 emergency  including social amelioration for affected communities and the recovery of areas, sectors ad industries severely affected.

​This will expedite medical testing, observation of Persons under investigation (PUIs) and Persons under Monitoring (PUMs), and immediate treatment of infected patients by purchasing more testing kits,Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for medical personnel, and other medical supplies.

​To provide support for displaced workers and poor households, the bill authorizes the President to exercise temporary emergency measures to provide an emergency subsidy to around 18 million low income households, which shall amount to a minimum of P5,000 to a maximum of P8,000 a month for two months.

​Under the proposed “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”, the President is also authorized to “direct the operation” of privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities, including passenger vessels and other establishments, to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations or other temporary medical facilities and public transportation to ferry health, emergency and frontline personnel and other persons.

​Cayetano appealed to the public to give the President and the Executive a chance to implement the urgent measures with greater flexibility at this time of emergency.

​“Ang akin pong pakiusap, give this remedy or this authority we're giving the President a chance dahil hindi po ito gawa-gawa lang ng Executive. Ilang araw po na ito pinagmitingan, ilang tao at eksperto po ang kinonsulta rito,” said Cayetano.