Malacañang stressed the measure has provisions to counter abuse. “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,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
Facebook screengrab/Presidential Communications
No takeover of telcos,hospitals, transport
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 25, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — There will be no takeover of telecommunications facilities, hospitals or transport companies once President Duterte begins using his “authorized powers” approved by Congress in a special session to help the government contain the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic.

The authorized powers were enumerated in the declaration of a state of national emergency – dubbed the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” – passed overwhelmingly by the Senate and the House of Representatives in a special session that stretched from Monday to early yesterday.

Malacañang stressed the measure has provisions to counter abuse. “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,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

“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,” he said.

Under Section 4(8) of the declaration, the President is authorized to “direct the operation of any 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.”

The section stated the management and operation of the enterprises, however, shall be retained by their owners, who shall render a full accounting to the President of the operations of the utility or business as basis for appropriate compensation.

It gave assurance of reasonable compensation for any additional damage or costs incurred by the owner or operators of these sectors, “after the situation has stabilized or at the soonest time practicable.”

The measure provided a justification for the government to take over if the concerned enterprises or utilities “unjustifiably refuse or signify that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises for the purpose stated herein.”

“The President may take over their operations subject to the limits and safeguards enshrined in the Constitution,” the declaration read.

The declaration authorized Duterte to regulate and limit the operation of all sectors of transportation through land, sea or air, whether private or public; and regulate traffic on all roads, streets and bridges and access thereto; prohibit putting up of encroachments or obstacles; authorize the removal of encroachments and illegal constructions in public places and perform all other related acts.

It also authorized Duterte to ensure that all local government units (LGUs) are complying with all the rules, regulations and directives issued by the national government to contain the novel coronavirus, including the enhanced community quarantine.

Profiteering, speculations, manipulation

Congress also allowed Duterte to continue to enforce measures to protect the people from hoarding, profiteering, injurious speculations, manipulation of prices, product deceptions and cartels, and “other pernicious practices” affecting the supply and distribution of vital goods.

The declaration also sanctions the imposition of additional penalties of imprisonment of two months or a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1,000,0000, or both such imprisonment and fine, at the discretion of the court for various offenses Congress listed on top of existing penalties for the infractions.

The penalties may be slapped on LGU officials disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines; owners and possessors of privately owned hospitals, medical and health facilities, including passenger vessels, and other establishments who unjustifiably refuse to operate in accordance with the directive of the President; and those engaging in hoarding, profiteering, injurious speculations, manipulation of prices, product deceptions and cartels, monopolies or other combinations in restraint of trade, or other pernicious practices affecting the supply, distribution and movement of food, clothing, hygiene and sanitation products, medicine and medical supplies, fuel, fertilizers, chemicals, building materials, implements, machinery equipment and spare parts required in agriculture, industry and other essential services and other articles of prime necessity, whether imported or locally produced or manufactured.

The same punishment may be slapped on “individuals or groups creating, perpetuating or spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid or beneficial effect on the population and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear or confusion; and those participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the current crisis situation to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails or other similar acts,” it said.

The declaration of the state of national emergency also contained measures to help over 18 million poor families and assist frontline workers, including a P1-million compensation for private and public health personnel who may die while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The granting of compensation is retroactive to Feb. 1.

As of yesterday, five doctors have reportedly succumbed to COVID-19 while treating numerous patients infected with the disease even as hospitals pleaded for more supplies, including personal protective equipment while turning away patients due to overcrowding.

There is no data yet on possible casualties among nurses and other healthcare providers.

The compensation was an amendment put in by Sen. Richard Gordon.

The declaration also mandated the provision of a “COVID-19 special risk allowance,” in addition to the hazard pay granted under the Magna Carta of the Public Health Workers or Republic Act 7305 of 1992, which Sen. Grace Poe has written into the measure.

Voting 284-9, the House of Representatives approved the measure called “Bayanihan Act of 2020” on third and final reading in an unprecedented online session. Twenty House officials led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano were physically present at the plenary hall, while 267 other House members participated remotely via a Zoom social media platform. The Senate voted to approve the measure early Tuesday.

Lawmakers, however, have to assuage concerns over a provision in the measure that allows government takeover of private enterprises.

Before the voting, Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte reassured the public that government will not unreasonably take over private enterprises.

“We will make sure that the 1987 Constitution is not violated. We believe that this bill is constitutionally sound,” Villafuerte said. 

“It will be turned over to them after the crisis,” Villafuerte said in response to concerns raised by Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin that a takeover could have dangerous consequences. - Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe

COVID-19 PANDEMIC HOSPITALS TELECOMMUNICATIONS FACILITIES TRANSPORT
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