Calls mount for Duterte's report on emergency powers, COVID-19 efforts

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Calls mount for Duterte's report on emergency powers, COVID-19 efforts
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night called for
PPD / Ace Morandante

MANILA, Philippines — Concerns over the president's inability to submit his first weekly report on his newly-granted special powers mounted late Monday night. 

Calls for transparency rang on social media after the chief executive also missed his public address to the nation originally slated to be delivered at 4 p.m. that same day. 

Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act of 2020 requires President Rodrigo Duterte to submit a report to Congress on the government's COVID-19 response every Monday. These reports would have to outline the implementation of the law and the president's usage of his special powers, including how funds were allocated and spent. 

Throughout the day, no reports came out on whether or not Malacañang fulfilled its deadline.

Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan Party-list), who was among those who voted against handing Duterte sweeping powers, confirmed that nothing was submitted as of 10:11 p.m.

"RA 11469 is effective but no report was submitted this Monday. What is the plan with the P275 billion? It's our right to know," Elago said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

READ: Hontiveros, Elago say they could not 'blindly trust' government with emergency powers

In explaining her earlier "no" vote, Elago last week said, "We can't give out emergency powers without knowing for sure where the money and where these powers will be used by the government."

Section 5 of RA11469 reads: 

SEC. 5. Reports to Congress and Creation of an Oversight Committee. — The President, during Monday of every week, shall submit a weekly report to Congress of all acts performed pursuant to this Act during the immediately preceding week. The report shall likewise include the amount and corresponding utilization of the funds used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated and realigned pursuant to this Act. 

For this purpose, the Congress shall establish a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee composed of four (4) members of each house to be appointed by the Senate President and the House Speaker, respectively. This Committee shall determine whether such acts, orders, rules and regulations are within the restrictions provided herein. 

Under the law, the president is also handed special powers such as the authority to ensure that all local government units are "acting in line with the rules and regulations issued by the national government," the ability to adopt measures against hoarding and profiteering, and the power to procure goods, including medical equipment and supplies.

READ: Duterte's expanded powers under Bayanihan Act defined but possibly indefinite

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier on Monday said, "I expect to receive a report on [the] distribution of financial aid to the 18 million families of the informal sector, mass testing specially in urban areas, [and] prioritization of the safety and welfare of the frontline health workers."

He also disclosed that Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sens. Pia Cayetano, Christopher "Bong" Go, and Panfilo Lacson were appointed as the senate's members in the oversight committee. 

The House lawmaker also called for the oversight committee to convene on the lack of submission. 

Amid concerns of possible abuse of power before the passage of the law, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig) asserted that the formation of the congressional oversight committee was in place to make sure that the powers are not abused. 

For his part, former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te wrote in a tweet, "The weekly report required under Sec. 5 of the [law] can be in written form as there is nothing in the law that says it needs to be made in an address."

"It just needs to be signed by the chief executive, with the information required by the [law,]" he added.

"Hindi nakakapagod ang paghihintay, pero ang paasahin, oo," Elago said. 

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