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Davao City, Philippines

Palace: Duterte will exercise additional powers ‘in accordance with Constitution’

March 25, 2020 - Wednesday 6:03 PM by Jon Joaquin

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DAVAO CITY — Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Wednesday gave assurance that President Rodrigo Duterte will exercise the additional powers granted to him by Congress “strictly in accordance with the Constitution.”

This after the President on Tuesday signed into law Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act which grants him the exercise of powers that are “necessary and proper to address the present global health crisis that has engulfed our land.”

In a statement, Panelo said while there are penal provisions found in the law for those who violate its provisions, he said the President “shall exercise the said powers strictly in accordance with the Constitution with the end in goal of putting a stop to the spread of the coronavirus and save the Filipino people from imminent death.”

Panelo said RA 11469 is effective immediately upon its publication and will remain in force for three months.

Under this law, the President is given the authority to exercise the following: 

[1] Implement measures to prevent or suppress the transmission and spread of COVID-19, including the power to facilitate the immediate testing of persons under investigation and monitoring, as well as to direct establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, or relief and aid distribution venues; 

[2] Provide assistance to frontliners and health workers, such as giving them financial allowance, hazard pay and compensation or shouldering their medical expenses, and direct public transportation to ferry them to and from their workplaces; 

[3] Expedite the procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical equipment, exempt the importation of equipment needed to combat the spread of COVID-19 from duties, taxes and other fees, ensure that there will be no delays in the donation, acceptance and distribution of health items, and liberalize the grant of incentives for the manufacture and importation of critical and needed equipment;

[4] Authorize alternative working arrangements for workers, and regulate and limit the operation of transportation and traffic, including ensuring that local government units are acting in accordance with the Act; 

[5] Provide subsidies to low-income households, implement an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program to respond to the needs affected by the community quarantine, ensure availability of credit to productive sectors, reschedule deadlines for the filing of government requirements, and order a grace period on paying residential rents or loans;

[6] Enforce measures against hoarding, price manipulation, combinations in restraint of trade or other pernicious practices, and ensure the availability of essential goods, such as food and medicine, and adequate supply of power, fuel, energy and water; and

[7] Undertake the procurement of particular goods and services, as the need arises, in the most expeditious manner, and reallocate or realign from savings to address and respond to the national emergency.

Salute to doctors and health workers
Panelo said the President is mandated to submit a weekly report to Congress of all acts he has performed.

Congress will also establish an oversight committee to determine that the President's acts are within the restrictions it has imposed, he said.

Panelo expressed the Office of the President (OP)’s appreciation to both chambers of Congress for responding to the call of the times.

At the same time, he said the OP also salutes the country’s doctors and health workers “who are front liner heroes who have placed their lives on the line, even as we mourn for those who have sacrificed their lives just so they could attend and treat the patients afflicted with COVID-19.”

Panelo urged all Filipinos to “act and move as one nation” to “slay this scourge of a dragon that imperils our very existence.”

“As the President aptly said in his televised message, ‘Let us set aside our differences and work in solidarity to overcome this pandemic. We only have one common enemy and that is COVID-19,’” he added.