SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
In a Special Session convened on Monday, House leaders pushed strongly for the passage of House Bill 6616 or the proposed “We Heal As One Act of 2020", with Speaker Alan Peter "Compañero" Cayetano as principal author. The bill seeks to authorize President Rodrigo Duterte to exercise powers for a limited period to carry out the declared national policy in addressing the crisis caused by the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
In sponsoring the bill, Committee on Appropriations Chairman Rep. Eric Go Yap (Party List, ACT-CIS) emphasized that lawmakers must unite and rise above political differences in facing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez (1st District, Leyte) likewise urged for the passage of HB 6616 as it would help efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. The bill would also allow immediate mobilization of resources for the provision of basic necessities for families affected by the Enhanced Community Quarantine.
Deputy Speaker for Finance, Luis Raymund Villafuerte (2nd District, Camarines Sur), who defended the bill during the interpelation period, said its approval would allow the national and local governments to raise spending on urgent measures to protect Filipinos from COVID-19 without sacrificing the outlays in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) comprising state investments in infrastructure modernization, human capital development, and social protections for the poor and underprivileged sectors.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who gave his remarks as a resource person during the meeting of the Committee of the Whole, cited the urgent need to enable President Duterte and the Executive branch with the legal authority to address the COVID-19 outbreak "in a manner that is free from the restrictions which, while beneficial during normal times, might prove disadvantageous during such as an unusual time as this."
Medialdea said that the main objective of granting such powers to the President is to hasten the delivery of services to those who are suffering or are suspected of having COVID-19, to halt its spread, and provide relief to the rest of Filipinos constrained to stay in their homes and withdraw their ability to earn a daily living.
"Your administration simply desires to be equipped with all the legal authorities necessary for us to serve our people during this crisis in the most expeditious way and to bring an end to this national order at the soonest possible time," Medialdea said.
He assured, however, that the Executive does "not desire to overstep the bounds of the Constitution, which remains firmly in place even in times of emergency."
"Our legislators would note that the powers we have requested today have their own expiry date as they would last only as long as COVID-19 crisis would last. And Congress itself will be able to closely monitor the actions of the Executive through an Oversight Committee to be created by the proposed law," Medialdea said.