Philippine Senate okays emergency powers for Duterte in fight vs coronavirus outbreak

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Tokyo, Japan, May 31, 2019. © Reuters / Kazuhiro Nogi / Pool. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, Mar 24, 2020, PhilStar. Senate, in a special session Monday, approved the proposed legislation that would give President Rodrigo Duterte sweeping emergency powers to address the new coronavirus outbreak in the country, The Philippine Star reported.

With a shutout 12-0 vote, the upper chamber approved Senate Bill1418 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act authored by Senate President Tito Sotto III and Senator Pia Cayetano.

Some senators, being unable to physically attend the special session, reportedly voted via phone.

The proposed measure would authorize President Rodrigo Duterte to undertake extraordinary measures to contain COVID-19 and mobilize at least P200 billion to help over 24 million mostly-poor families.

Provisions in the proposed legislation sparked concerns over the request of Malacañang for power to take over private establishments.

Cayetano said Senate’s version of the bill will never have a provision on takeover of businesses.

Earlier, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the request for power to take over private establishments is a “standby power which we do not consider necessary to be exercised at all times.”

“We do not desire to overstep the bounds of Constitution which remains firmly in place during times of emergency,” Medialdea also said during his speech at the special session of the House of Representatives, which passed the measure on third reading via a 284-9-0 vote.

The new coronavirus has infected 462 people and killed 33 in the Philippines.

with report from The STAR/Paolo Romero

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