By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Majority Leader and Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez justified on Monday, March 23 President Duterte’s request to Congress to grant him “special authority” to address the national public health crisis fired up by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
During an online House special session, House Bill No. 6616 or the “Bayanihan Act of 2020″ was approved by the Committee of the Whole, chaired by Romualdez.
The committee recommended the plenary approval of the bill, which authorizes President Duterte for two months to exercise “necessary” powers to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, including the powers to direct the operation of any privately-owned hospitals, medical and health facilities, hotels and other similar establishments, and realign government funds.
“Such authority is needed not only to control the COVID-19 pandemic now gripping the country, but also to immediately mobilize resources for the provision of basic necessities to families and individuals affected by the imposition of Community Quarantine, especially indigents and their families,” Romualdez said in his sponsorship speech.
He said once approved, the measure “will immediately and amply provide healthcare, including medical tests and treatments, to COVID-19 patients, persons under investigation, and persons under monitoring.”
It also mandates formulation of a program for recovery and rehabilitation, including social amelioration program and provision of safety nets to all affected sectors, he said.
“Specifically, the bill seeks to empower the President to order the purchase of goods like testing kits, to lease properties and to construct temporary medical facilities without going through the rules on procurement, as well as require businesses to prioritize and accept contracts for materials and services in connection with the fight against COVID-19,” Romualdez said.
He said the violators of the proposed Act shall be slapped with a penalty of imprisonment for two months and a fine ranging from P10,000 to P1 million.