Senator Sotto: There is No “Emergency Power” on the Bill

House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano CabSec Salvador Medialdea and DILG Sec. Eduardo Año along with the 20 congressmen put up signs on Manila paper that read, "Together with doctors and front liners, we went to work for you so please stay at home for us." in a photo op before the start of the special session on March 23, 2020. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

While the Senate and the Philippine House of Representatives approved the bill filed by Senate President Vicente Titto Sotto III and Senator Pia Cayetano giving the president “special powers” to address the current crisis brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, many people and organizations worried that this might be the excuse for the current administration to take measures that will violate the constitutional rights of Filipinos and take over private institutions and businesses. However, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Monday that there is no so-called “emergency power” mentioned in the bill that’s why people don’t need to worry.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of, there is no “emergency powers” on the bill. I was the author and the one that they talked about was the draft, a draft from by some lawyer.” Senator Tito Sotto Said, in a local dialect, told DZMM Radio.

It was said that the bill was made to effectively address many factors with regards to dealing with the inconsistencies of some Local Government Units (LGU) in implementing measures to prevent or minimize the transmission or the spread of the virus. It would also allow the government to direct the operation of privately-owned medical facilities so that the accommodation for persons under monitoring (PUI) and for COVID-19 patients will be efficiently executed and expedited in terms of testing and other procedures.

The concern of the bill also includes the competence of public transportation system. It was reported that some mayors in Metro Manila have tried to execute its own measures in dealing with the crisis due to the government‘s lack of capacity and consistency. It also seeks to consolidate any available resources for assuring the capacities and utilities of essential facilities including telecommunications, manufacturing, etc.

Meanwhile, Senator Sotto also mentioned that “under the Senate’s “We Heal As One Act”, each indigent family is expected to receive about P8,000 monthly for 2 months”. He also added: “There will be oversight. Congress will have oversight. They should not be worried because there are safeguards”.

However, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said their version might include special powers for Duterte “as a last resort.”  He told DZZM radio that what it means is “the power to direct businesses if they don’t want to obey the government”. He also added, “In the draft, it’s not ‘take over’ but as last resort, if they don’t cooperate, that’s when the government will take over because that’s in the Constitution. But we changed that, including the wording, to simply ‘direct’ businesses”.


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