Bill seeking additional powers for Duterte vs COVID-19 filed at Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   March 23, 2020   •   764

MANILA, Philippines – A bill seeking to declare the existence of a national emergency and to authorize President Rodrigo Duterte to exercise powers necessary to address the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis has been filed at the Senate on Monday.

Senate Bill No. 1413 titled “We Heal as One Act,” seeks to authorize Duterte to realign funds, and investments including unused or unreleased subsidies and transfers, held by any government-owned and controlled corporation or any national government agency.

The bill also proposes to grant Duterte the authority – for a limited period and subject to restrictions – to issue rules, regulations, and directives to address the coronavirus situation in the country.

The measure likewise proposes to grant the president the power to adopt and implement measures to prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19, expedite medical testing and observation of persons under monitoring, and the immediate treatment of confirmed virus-infected patients.

He may likewise direct the operations of privately-owned hospitals and other establishments to house health workers or serve as quarantine or distribution areas, as well as order public transportation to mobilize medical workers and other frontliners.

“The management and operation of the foregoing enterprises shall be retained by the owners of the enterprise, who shall render a full accounting to the President or his duly authorized representative,” the bill read.

The proposed measure also states that the president may also take over the operations of the said businesses – subject to limits and safeguards under the 1987 Constitution – if these enterprises “unjustifiably refused or signified that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises for anti-COVID-19 efforts.

The president may likewise undertake fast procurement or supplies as the need arises including testing kits, personal protective equipment, and other medical devices.

The proposed measure also seeks to authorize Duterte to cancel projects and programs to utilize its funds, realign budget and allocate funds held by any government agency to fund measures against the COVID-19 crisis.

The measure also seeks to ensure that local governments are acting in line with the directives of the national government.

The president will also submit a weekly report to the Congress while a Joint Oversight Committee will be established to determine whether such acts and orders of the President are within the specified restrictions.

The bill, introduced by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Pia Cayetano, has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

The Senate held a special session to tackle the bill on Monday.

Twelve senators, including Sotto, Cayetano, and Acting Senate Majority Leader Sherwin Gatchalian, Senators Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Manny Pacquiao, Ralph Recto, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Grace Poe and Francis Tolentino were present during the session.

The session, however, was temporarily suspended as they await the attendance of two more senators to reach a quorum.

Cayetano, who will sponsor the bill on the floor, said she is in the process of consulting the Cabinet officials, and consolidating all the proposed amendments introduced by her fellow senators. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Antipolo City market on lockdown as 18 tenants, vendors contract COVID-19

Marje Pelayo   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Antipolo City government has ordered the lockdown of the city’s public market after 18 of its tenants and vendors tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The lockdown, which started on Tuesday (June 30), would be in effect for two weeks, according to Antipolo Mayor Andrea Ynares.

The patients are now in isolation for mandatory quarantine while disinfection procedures are currently being undertaken within the market’s premises. 

Meanwhile, the local government unit has started distributing relief goods to other tenants and vendors affected by the closure. 

“Ang amin pong paulit-ulit na panawagan sa atin pong mga kababayan ay sana po sumunod tayo sa mga umiiral na batas ngayon, mga alituntunin,” appealed Relly Bernardo Jr. of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO).

[We constantly appeal to our constituents to follow health regulations, follow the law.]

“Siguraduhin po na nakakasunod po tayo sa mga protocols gaya ng pagsusuot ng mask, regular hand sanitation, at physical distancing,” he added.

[Always make sure that we are following protocols like wearing of masks, regular hand sanitation, and physical distancing.]

Likewise, the LGU is asking for help from the private markets in the city to conduct COVID-19 tests among their tenants.

The LGU added that private market owners can request from the city hall should they lack funds. —MNP (with details from JP Nunez)

J&T Express vows cooperation in probe over alleged parcel mishandling

Robie de Guzman   •   July 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Courier Service company J&T Express on Wednesday said it is ready to face any investigation after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered authorities to probe reports of alleged mishandling of parcels.

“We appreciate the concern expressed by the President towards our customers’ welfare as well as the well-being of our many partners and employees,” J&T Express company said in a statement.

“Furthermore, we will cooperate with the government in any investigation that they will conduct,” it added.

On Tuesday night, Duterte directed the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the company and its finances.

Duterte’s order came after a video of the company’s employees carelessly throwing packages into a truck circulated on social media.

An online toy store earlier complained about the service of the J&T Express, citing reports from their customers that some items delivered by the courier service were damaged.

The president warned the courier firm of possible closure if they are found liable.

“We are committed to improving our services for the benefit of the public,” the J&T Express said.

The firm earlier said it will sanction employees involved in the alleged mishandling of packages. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

3 options being considered for Duterte’s SONA, Sotto says

Robie de Guzman   •   July 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Congress is considering three scenarios for President Rodrigo Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

In an online press conference, Sotto said the Senate and the House of Representatives have been discussing options on how to hold the SONA this year amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Option number one involves conducting a traditional SONA in the Batasang Pambansa, with the president and several members of the legislative branch in attendance but without guests.

Option number two is to have the president deliver his speech at the Malacañang while lawmakers convene in Batasang Pambansa.

Option number three will see the President staying in Malacañang while senators and members of the House convene in their respective session halls.

Sotto believes the Palace will prefer that the address be made in Malacañang to ensure the president’s safety amid the threat of coronavirus pandemic.

“Kung ano ang safest sa pangulo ang primary consideration sa pag-decide sa SONA setup,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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