By Fred M.Lobo
Congress granted President Duterte special powers to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that has infected more than 500 persons in the country.
Senators voted 12-0 to approve Senate Bill No. 1418 – the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020” – during a special session and the House of Representatives immediately adopted the Senate version .
“We can now move fast in the interest of the Filipino people, “the President said.
The President thanked Senate President Tito Sotto and the speaker and other leaders of the House of Representatives for their speedy action on the bill granting him “financial powers” to realign the budget as an anti-COVID measure.
“There will be speedy delivery of medical supplies and other equipment and services to fight CONVID, ” he vowed.
Congress leaders said the measure places the whole country under a state of national emergency and gives the President special powers for three months, unless extended by Congress.
It authorizes the President to “reprogram, reallocate, and realign from savings on other items of appropriations in the Fiscal Year 2020 GAA in the Executive Department, as may be necessary and beneficial to fund measures to address and respond to the COVID-19 emergency, including social amelioration for affected communities, and the recovery of areas, sectors, and industries severely affected. “
Sen. Pia Cayetano, in her sponsorship speech, said the measure aims to secure the welfare of the 24.6 million Filipino families, particularly the 18 million families who are poor who were directly affected by the government’s enhanced community quarantine.
Some 18 million families will get P5,000 to P8,000 a month for the next two months from various national government and local government programs in cash or kind, she added
Cayetano said the Emergency Subsidy Program will require a total of P97.4 billion per month, or about P200 billion for two months.
Among the amendments the Senate included in the measure were assistance to health workers who have been and would be infected with COVID-19 and giving financial assistance to health workers who died of the disease.