House committee of the whole approves national emergency bill

THE House of Representatives, convened as a committee of the whole, approved via a voice vote a measure declaring a national emergency arising from the novel coronavirus pandemic and granting President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers to hasten the delivery of services and ensure that the rule of law will prevail.

House Bill 6616, authored by ACT-CIS Party-list Representative Eric Yap, provides the following powers requested by the President, as enumerated by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea:

> Ability to purchase equipment for the health workers on the front line in the most expeditious way possible without being restricted by procurement laws;

> Authority to ensure that local governments will fall in line with the national policy in dealing with this crisis and deal with wayward officials who are acting on their own;

> Enable the President to move deadlines and timelines for filing tax payments and payment of benefits such as yearend and midyear bonuses;

> Reallocate the budget in the 2020 General Appropriations Act and use the funds to address the Covid-19 pandemic; and

> Take over privately owned health-related establishments for use as quarantine areas, among others.

Medialdea described the authority to take over as “standby power in the event the crisis reached when most critical institutions are nearing total shutdown.”

He acknowledged that this legal authority has been stirring controversy, but assured that the executive branch “has no intent to abuse the powers we are asking of you today.” (MVI/SunStar Philippines)