By Catherine S Valente/Manila Times
Extending the special powers granted to President Rodrigo Duterte is “necessary” to sustain the government’s efforts in fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Malacanang said yesterday.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr said Duterte should be given until September to use emergency powers to address the pandemic, especially since a vaccine has yet to be discovered.
“It is not a preference but I think it definitely is necessary to give us at least 90 days. We’ll see from there if at the end of 90 days, there’s a need for emergency powers still, then it can be extended until December,” Roque said in a television interview.
“Of course, extraordinary power is something that is reserved for extraordinary circumstances. But the problem here with Covid-19 is, without the vaccine, we’ll never go back to normal and it’s still extraordinary,” he added.
Republic Act (RA) 11469, or the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act,” allows Duterte to wield emergency powers to address the health crisis.
The law, which was enacted on March 24, is only effective for three months, unless extended by Congress.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez had filed a measure that seeks to extend the validity of the Bayanihan law for three months.
When asked about extending the law until December as proposed by Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, Roque said it would depend on the situation.
“I think the three-month period is ideal although what Secretary Karl Chua suggested is not too far away from the three-month period because we are already in June. July, August, September — three months until September. You have another three months until December,” Roque said.
“But the important thing is if Congress gives us three months, 90 days, they will still be in session when the emergency power ceases because they are still in session in September and they can give the extraordinary, the emergency powers anew if they wish to, and if Malacanang would request,” he added. The National Economic and Development Authority said extending the emergency powers until the end of the year would help the economy recover.
“The first thing that we will do is extend the Bayanihan law. It is the easiest and it will allow us the flexibility to respond immediately,” Chua said during the online general membership meeting of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“For instance, the small business wage subsidy that many of you have received, that is not included in the Bayanihan law but because of the flexibility, we were able to prepare the programme in just two weeks and paid out in the fourth week. That is an example of flexibility,” he added.
The Small Business Wage Subsidy programme is one of the government’s support programmes for low-income families, workers in small businesses and other vulnerable sectors affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The programme, implemented by the Finance department together with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Social Security System, aims to prop up workers who were not able to receive their salaries for at least two weeks because of the enhanced community quarantine.
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