Bill seeking to give President Duterte “necessary” powers to address COVID-19 situation filed before Senate

(Eagle News)–A bill seeking to give President Rodrigo Duterte the “necessary” powers  to address the coronavirus disease 2019 was filed in the Senate on Monday, March 23.

The bill authored by Senate President Tito Sotto and Senator Pia Cayetano called “We Heal As One Act” aims to give  President Duterte the authority to “issue such rules, regulations and  directives as may be necessary to carry out any or all” of the specified measures to fight COVID-19.

These include the following measures:

-to expedite the medical testing and observation of (persons under monitoring) and (persons under investigation) and the immediate treatment of patients suffering from COVID-19

– ensure that all local government units are acting in line with the rules and regulations of the national government pursuant to the act

– when the public interest so requires, direct the operation of any privately-owned hospitals and medical health facilities, including other establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief, and aid distribution locations, or other temporary medical facilities provided the management and operation of the same are retained by the owners of the enterprise.

Under the proposed measure, the President may take over the operations of the said enterprises- but subject to the limits and safeguards of the 1987 Constitution if the  establishments “unjustifiably refuse or signified that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises” for COVID-19 response.

– continue to adopt measures to protect people from hoarding

– undertake the procurement in an expeditious manner of goods, lease of real property for use of health workers, establishment of quarantine facilities

At present, the House of Representatives is discussing a counterpart bill in the plenary, after it was passed by the committee of the whole.

President Duterte had asked Congress to convene a special session to declare a national emergency over COVID-19 and give him the necessary powers but that are restricted and are for a limited period to address the situation.

The Philippines so far has over 300 COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths.