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âDuterte will still exercise powers to defeat COVIDâ
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. made the statement after Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon reminded law enforcers that they cannot use the Bayanihan Act as a reason to randomly arrest people, especially those they consider violators of quarantine rules.
Presidential Photo/Yancy Lim

‘Duterte will still exercise powers to defeat COVID’

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - June 28, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines  — Despite the expiration of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, President Duterte will continue to exercise necessary powers to ensure public safety and health are not compromised amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. made the statement after Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon reminded law enforcers that they cannot use the Bayanihan Act as a reason to randomly arrest people, especially those they consider violators of quarantine rules.

“While the Bayanihan Act may have lapsed, this will not prevent the National Government from addressing the threat of COVID-19,” he said.

“The President continues to exercise all and every means at his disposal to protect public safety and the lives of our citizenry in the state of public health emergency and the state of calamity which unquestionably exist to this day,” Roque said.

He emphasized that curfews in some areas will continue despite the expiration of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Republic Act 11469.

He noted that some cities and municipalities have passed local ordinances to effect curfews on minors.

“Although the law has lapsed, it is not accurate to state that the government can no longer enforce curfews or any prohibitions on mass gatherings. As we previously articulated, local ordinances that remain in effect may still be enforced,” Roque said.

Drilon earlier reminded law enforcers they can no longer arrest violators under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act since the law has already expired.  Congress did not approve the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 when it adjourned last June 4.

Roque also noted that with the expiry of the Bayanihan Act, the President can no longer use emergency powers to realign the budget and use the money to implement programs to address COVID-19.

But even without the Bayanihan Act, Duterte is still empowered to address COVID-19 crisis through the declaration of State of Calamity under Proclamation No. 299.

The State of Calamity is effective for six months beginning March 16. A provision in the proclamation states that it may be lifted or extended based on prevailing circumstances.

The President’s proclamation gave the national government and local government units “ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds” including the Quick Response Fund, for response efforts.

Under the proclamation, all law enforcement agencies, including the military, are directed to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order in affected areas.

Meanwhile, senators said holding a special session for the approval of Bayanihan 2 would be a waste of time unless the executive department and Congress agree on a mutually acceptable measure to address the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people.

“Before a special session is called, it is best for the Executive Department and Congress to first agree on a mutually acceptable legislative measure to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the social and economic problems that beset our country. That way, we won’t be wasting our time,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.

“However, as long as the Department of Health is incompetently led and the health issue cannot be addressed appropriately, we will be in a Sisyphus-like situation. Worse, we will just be throwing away our country’s very limited resources that could bring us neck-deep in debt with no solution in sight,” said Lacson.

“It’s bad enough that we will be forced to scrounge and even borrow just to augment our already limited funds. It’s infuriating if we lose it all – and more – to incompetence,” Lacson added.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri echoed Lacson’s statement, saying the executive department, the Senate and the House of Representatives have different measures for the Bayanihan 2.

Zubiri said he was still clueless on the target date for the special session and he would ask Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea about it.

“But of course, I hope before any special session, the finance team should first determine the amendments they want to see included in the Bayanihan 2,” he said.

Zubiri said the Senate version of the Bayanihan 2 has lower allocation of P140 billion – from the initial P236 billion – since officials of the Department of Finance (DOF) had claimed there was not enough budget.

“It would be better to discuss the measure first before the special session so as not to waste time. I think TWG (technical working group) will be good which will include House Speaker, the finance team and other key personalities,” said Zubiri. “We will wait for the final package.”  Cecille Suerte-Felipe

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