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Rody’s extra power extension, virus bills okay up

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he will file a bill Tuesday authorizing Congress to extend President Duterte’s emergency powers under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law for three months up to September.

Rodriguez said the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Bayanihan law on March 24 to give the President emergency powers “to respond to the crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.” 

Meanwhile, the House Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee (DCC) is set to approve Tuesday morning for plenary deliberations three anticoronavirus disease-19 bills, including the P568 billion economic stimulus package, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said.

“Such powers are good for three months. Unfortunately, two months after the effectively of the law, the end to the pandemic is not yet in sight. There are still new COVID-19 positive cases being reported every day and the country is not yet fully operating,” he said.

“Since there is a similar proposal in the Senate, I am urging the leaders of the two chambers of Congress to consider approving the proposed extension before we go on our annual mandatory adjournment next weekend,” he said.

He added that if the legislature fails to pass the bill before Saturday next week, the President will have to call lawmakers to a special session during the recess if he wants his emergency powers under the Bayanihan law extended.

The President’s special authority under the law includes providing financial assistance of P5,000 to P8,000 to 18 million low-income households for April and May, realigning the national budget to fund COVID-19 response measures, and procuring personal protective equipment and other supplies for frontline health workers.

Rodriguez noted that the financial aid for this month amounting to P100 billion has yet to be distributed, while the Department of Health and its hospitals are still awaiting a large portion of procured medical supplies.

Meanwhile, the House Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee (DCC) is set to approve Tuesday morning for plenary deliberations three anti-coronavirus disease-19 bills, including the P568 billion economic stimulus package, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said.

Romualdez, the co-chairperson of the DCC along with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, said the committee will approve the reports of the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries, the economic stimulus-response package subcommittee, and the peace and order subcommittee regarding the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) bill, the P568-billion Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA), and the Anti-Discrimination measure, respectively.

“Immediately after consideration, the committee reports and recommendations are scheduled for plenary deliberations to address the unprecedented health crisis,” Romualdez said, adding that the House leadership has been working double time to pass the anti-COVID measures.

The bills include House Bill (HB) 6622 or the proposed “Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Law,” authored by House committee on banks and financial intermediaries chairman and Quirino Rep. Junie Cua Jr. The bill seeks to help financial institutions resolve bad debts and manage non-performing assets (NPAs) to cushion the effects of the pandemic on their financial operations.

The P568-billion Economic Stimulus Package approved by DCC’s economic stimulus cluster will help cushion the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Under the program, different sectors will be given assistance like tourism, P58 billion; transportation, P75 billion; industry and service sectors, P44 billion; and agri-fishery, P66 billion.

The DCC’s peace and order cluster co-chaired by Iloilo Rep. Raul Tupas, Masbate Rep. Narciso Bravo, Jr. and Quezon City Rep. Jesus Suntay, Jr. worked on the passage of the Anti Discrimination Bill principally filed by Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte.

The bill prohibits discrimination against person who are declared confirmed, suspect, probable, and recovered cases of COVID-19, health care workers, and service providers. It proposes to grant full, inviolable protection against prejudice and discrimination to those who have already suffered and recovered from COVID-19, those who carry the brunt providing medical care, logistical, and service support. It also seeks to recognize the dignity and heroism of the work of health workers, responders, and service workers.

Also on Monday, the Kilusang Bayanihan alliance said the President should use his emergency powers to waive electricity and water bills during the two-month lockdown.

“Energy corporations are now charging households with their lockdown consumption. Families have been on lockdown and have no source of income for two months. Cash aid from the government is slow, not enough and not all families were given. Families are in a swamp of debt,” said Romina Astudillo, lead convener of the alliance.

The group said postponing electricity bills to four equal monthly installments was insufficient.

“An installment system won’t help. With all the reasons stated, how do we think can households pay their bills? Even if households are to receive the second tranche of the delayed social amelioration program, it won’t even be enough to cover for their daily needs and debt,” Astudillo said.

“It is just and reasonable to waive bills. The government should exercise its emergency powers. That’s what it’s for. Filipino families didn’t want to be locked inside their houses, lose income for two months, suffer wage cuts, and unemployment but they sacrificed all of that to follow the government’s lockdown. It is the government’s obligation to ensure social protection,” she added.

Kilusang Bayanihan is a network of organizations and individuals organizing relief operations across the country since 2009.

Topics: Rufus Rodriguez , emergency powers , Bayanihan to Heal as One Law
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