Congress set to deliberate on Duterte’s ‘emergency powers’ request

THE Senate and the House of Representatives are scheduled to separately convene Monday, March 23, to deliberate on a proposed measure to grant President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers to carry out urgent measures to address the national emergency caused by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Senate announced that it will hold its special session at 10 a.m. Monday. The House is also preparing to hold a separate special session within the same day.

At the Palace, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed the issuance of Proclamation No. 933, saying the President is “utilizing all the resources of the government to secure the safety of all Filipinos”.

Duterte issued Proclamation No. 933 on March 21, 2020, calling on Congress to hold a special session and pass a law authorizing him to exercise additional powers to respond to the Covid-19 emergency.

Panelo said the authority sought may include permitting the President to fund projects calculated to respond swiftly to the evolving health crisis and allowing him to realign funds in the national budget.

“They are to be channelled to where they are needed to effectuate the success of the national objective of eliminating the grave threats facing the nation and satisfy the food requirements of those economically dislocated by reason of the forced home quarantine specially those belonging to the marginalized or vulnerable sectors of society during its implementation,” Panelo said.

He noted that the 1987 Constitution grants the President the right to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy for a limited period and subject to restrictions that Congress may impose.

The declared national policy is to stop the spread of the coronavirus that threatens public safety, Panelo said.

He said there are urgent measures that the President may need to effectively stop the spread of Covid-19.

Section 23, Article VI of the Constitution reads, “In times of war or other national emergency, the Congress may, by law, authorize the President, for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as it may prescribe, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy. Unless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next adjournment thereof.”

The President has declared a state of public health emergency and a state of calamity to allow government to tap calamity and quick response funds to respond to the pandemic.

He has also placed the entire Luzon on an enhanced community quarantine that suspended all public transportation systems, domestic air and sea travel, and visa issuance to all foreign nationals with a few exemptions.

Luzon’s over 53 million inhabitants have been ordered to stay at home. Only one person per household is allowed to go out to replenish supplies.

The government’s economic team has rolled out a P2.7-billion package to help mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic while monetary officials have cut down interest rates and eased regulations to bolster the economy.

Privately owned companies are also implementing measures to help employees cope with the impact of the stringent quarantine measures. The business community, however, has called for a “more forceful action” and a massive fiscal stimulus package of up to P281 billion.

As of Sunday, March 22, the Department of Health said it has recorded 380 Covid-19 cases in the country, with 25 deaths. Seventeen patients have recovered.

The number of cases is expected to rise as more people are tested. As of Sunday, DOH officials said less than 2,000 people have been tested. (MVI/SunStar Philippines)