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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

House approves proposed “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act of 2020” to fight COVID-19 risks
24 March 2020 07:47:16 PM

The House of Representatives, in a special session on Monday, approved the proposal to declare the existence of a national emergency arising from the COVID-19 situation as well as a national policy, and authorizing President Rodrigo Roa Duterte powers necessary to carry out such policy for a limited period and with restrictions.

The House, voting with 284 affirmative votes, nine negative votes and zero abstention, approved its own version of the proposal embodied in House Bill 6616 principally authored by Speaker Alan Peter “Compañero” Cayetano. It subsequently adopted Senate Bill 1418 or the proposed “Bayanihan To Heal as One Act of 2020” as amendment to HB 6616.

The proposed “Bayanihan To Heal as One Act of 2020” provides that a state of national emergency is hereby declared over the entire country in view of the continuing rise of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the serious threat to the health, safety, security, and lives of Fillipinos, the long-term adverse effects on their means of livelihood, and the severe disruption of economic activities.

The Act shall take effect immediately upon its publication in a newspaper of general circulation or in the Official Gazette and shall be in full force and effect only for three months, unless extended by Congress. The powers granted under the Act may be withdrawn sooner by means of a concurrent resolution of Congress or ended by President Proclamation.

The bill provides that there is an urgent need to: 1) mitigate, if not contain, the transmission of COVID-19; 2) immediately mobilize assistance in the provision of basic necessities to families and individuals affected by the imposition of Community Quarantine, especially indigents and their families; 3) undertake measures that will prevent the overburdening of the healthcare system; 4) immediately and amply provide healthcare, including medical tests and treatments, to COVID-19 patients, persons under investigatio (PUIs), or persons under monitoring (PUMs); 5) undertake a program for recovery and rehabilitation, including a social amelioration program and provision of  safety nets to all affected sectors; 6) ensure that there is sufficient, adequate and readily available funding to undertake the foregoing; and 7) promote and protect the collective interests of all Filipinos in these challenging times.

To optimize the efforts of the President to carry out the tasks needed to implement the national emergency policy, it is imperative to grant him authority subject to limitations, the bill provides.

The powers granted to the President are pursuant to Article VI, Section 23 (2) of the Constitution, the President shall have the power to adopt the temporary emergency measures to respond to the crisis brought by the pandemic.

Among these powers of the President shall be to adopt and implement measures to prevent or suppress further transmission and spread of COVID-19 through effective education, detection, protection, and treatment. He shall also expedite and streamline the accreditation of testing kits and facilitate prompt testing by public and designated private institutions of PUIs and PUMs and compulsory and immediate isolation and treatment of patients.

He shall also ensure that all Local Government Units (LGUs) are : a) acting in line with the rules, regulations and directives issued by the National Government pursuant to this Act; b) implementing standards of community quarantine consistent with what the National Government has laid down for the subject area, while allowing LGUs to continue exercising their autonomy in matters undefined by the National Government or are within the parameters it has set; and c) fully cooperating towards a unified, cohesive and orderly implementation of the national policy to address COVID-10.

Consistent with Sec. 17, Art. XII of the Constitution, when the public interest so requires, the President shall direct the operation of a) any privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities, including passenger vessels and, other establishments, to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations, or other temporary medical facilities; and b) public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel and other persons. 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 of the operations of the utility or business as basis for appropriate compensation.

The reasonable compensation for any additional damage or costs incurred by the owner or the possessor of the subject property solely on account of complying with the directive shall be given to the person entitled to the possession of such private properties or businesses after the situation has stabilized or at the soonest time practicable. If the foregoing enterprises unjustifiably refuse or signified that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises for the purpose stated herein, the President may take over their operations subject to the limits and safeguards enshrined in the Constitution.

The President shall also continue to enforce measures to protect the people from hoarding, profiteering, injurious speculations, manipulation of prices, product deceptions, and cartels, monopolies or other combinations in restraint of trade, or other pernicious practices affecting the supply, distribution and movement of food, clothing, hygiene and sanitation products, medicine and medical supplies, fuel, fertilizers, chemicals, building materials, implements, machinery  equipment and spare parts required in agriculture, industry and other essential services, and other articles of prime necessity, whether imported or locally produced or manufactured.

Moreover, he shall ensure that donation acceptance and distribution of health products intended to address the COVID-19 public health emergency are not unnecessarily delayed.

He shall also direct all banks, quasi-banks, financing companies, lending companies, and other financial institutions, public and private, including the Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System and PAG-IBIG Fund, to implement a minimum of a 30-day grace period for the payment of all loans, including but not limited to salary, personal, housing, and motor vehicle loans, as well as credit card payments, falling due within the period from March 16 to April 15, 2020, without incurring interests, penalties, fees, or other charges. Persons with multiple loans shall likewise be given the minimum 30-day grace period for every loan.

Likewise, he shall implement an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilya Program responsive to the needs posed by the crisis, and provision of commodity assistance program where the Secretary of Department of Social Welfare and Development may purchase commodities for emergency distribution to the members of the informal and marginalized sector during the duration of quarantine. The Secretary of Department of Social Welfare and Development may approve the temporary emergency standards of eligibility and levels of benefits.

The President, during Monday of every week, shall submit a weekly report to Congress of all acts performed pursuant to this Act during the immediately preceding week. The report shall likewise include the amount and corresponding utilization of the funds used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated and realigned pursuant the Act.

For this purpose, the Congress shall establish a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee composed of four members of each house to be appointed by the Senate President and the House Speaker, respectively. This Committee shall determine whether such acts, orders, rules and regulations are within the restrictions provided herein.

In addition to acts or omissions penalized by existing laws, violations of the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with imprisonment of two months or a fine amounting to P10,000 up to P1 million, or both such imprisonment and fine at the discretion of the court, without prejudice to prosecution under other applicable laws with heavier penalties.  If the offender is a corporation, association, partnership or any other juridical person, the penalty shall be imposed upon the president, directors, managers, managing partners, as the case may be, who participated in the commission of the offense or who shall have knowingly permitted or failed to prevent the commission of the same.

If the offender is an alien, he shall, in addition to the penalties herein prescribed, be deported without further proceedings. Meanwhile, if the offender is a public official or employee, he shall in addition to the penalties prescribed herein, suffer perpetual or temporary absolute disqualification from office, as the case may be.