Written by: Rita Magallona
Last March 23, 2020, the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines passed Republic Act 11469, better known as the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. This act gave President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to better mobilize government and private resources in the battle against COVID-19.
Responding to the Threat of COVID-19
In response to the sudden increase in COVID-19 cases, the President announced the following measures:
- March 8, 2020: Proclamation No. 922 or a State of Public Health Emergency for the entire Philippines
- March 15, 2020: community quarantine for Metro Manila
- March 16, 2020: Proclamation No. 929, which placed the whole country under a State of Calamity and the whole of Luzon under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ)
Additional Powers for the President
Congress quickly passed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to give the Executive branch greater flexibility to address the mounting issues and improve quarantine measures.
Section 4 of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act gave the President additional powers. These include the power to:
- Adopt and implement education, detection, protection, and treatment measures to keep COVID-19 from spreading further
- Expedite the accreditation of testing kits and facilities
- Reappropriate budget allocations to departments that are directly dealing with the COVID-19 threat such as the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Labor and Employment
- Provide emergency subsidy to about 18 million low-income households
- Direct the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to shoulder all medical expenses of public and private health workers COVID-19 infection or work-related injuries during the emergency
- Ensure that local government units (LGUs) comply with the rules and regulations given by the national government
- Direct the operation of privately-owned hospitals, medical facilities, passenger vessels, and other establishments to serve as health worker housing, quarantine centers, and for other purposes necessary to address the pandemic
- Enforce measures to prevent hoarding, profiteering, and other practices that affect the supply, distribution, and movement of essential goods, especially food and medicines
- Expedite the procurement of medical items (protective equipment, laboratory equipment, sanitary products, and medicines), goods. and services for relief of affected communities
- Regulate traffic on all roads
- Authorize alternative working arrangements
- Move deadlines for paying of taxes and direct financial institutions to implement a 30-day grace period for payment of loans
- Provide a grace period of no less than 30 days on residential rents
Limits to the Emergency Powers of the President
Embedded in the powers granted by the Bayanihan Act are limitations based on Constitutional provisions or existing laws. On top of that, Section 5 requires the President to submit a weekly report of everything that was done in line with the act.
Congress also formed a Joint Oversight Committee composed of four members from the House of Representatives and four from the Senate. This Committee makes sure that everything the President and the Executive Branch does is within the limitations stated in the act.
While its implementation has garnered mixed reactions, there has been a significant reduction in COVID-19 cases in the past two months since the Bayanihan Act took effect.
How can you help curb the spread of the coronavirus? As much as possible, stay indoors and keep your home virus-free.
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