Malacañang stressed that Duterte is not seeking “emergency powers,” adding that a proposal to allow the state’s takeover of private firms for quarantine and related purposes came from Congress. Malacañang stressed that Duterte is not seeking “emergency powers,” adding that a proposal to allow the state’s takeover of private firms for quarantine and related purposes came from Congress. KJ Rosales

Duterte seeks more powers vs COVID-19 Featured

National Week of Prayer set
MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte wants to declare a state of national emergency and is asking Congress to grant him additional powers to cope with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Malacañang stressed that Duterte is not seeking “emergency powers,” adding that a proposal to allow the state’s takeover of private firms for quarantine and related purposes came from Congress.

Duterte is also turning to prayer to fight the contagion.

In Proclamation 934 that he signed last Saturday, Duterte declared the fourth week of March as a National Week of Prayer against COVID-19.

In the proclamation, the President said the state recognizes the religious nature of Filipinos and the “vital role of faith in bringing about peace, solidarity, compassion and heroism in times of adversity.”

“During the aforesaid week, I urge all Filipinos of all faiths, religious traditions and backgrounds to unite our hearts in prayer as we face the COVID-19 threat, fixing our eyes on the Almighty in this time of affliction,” Duterte said.

The President urged the public to pray for the recovery of people who are suffering from COVID-19, for the comfort of those who have lost loves ones, and for the protection of all, especially the most vulnerable sectors of society.

“Pray also for strength and endurance for our outstanding medical professionals and health workers on the frontlines, your military and law enforcement officers, the government officials and personnel dealing with the present threat and all Filipinos who are working tirelessly to protect our communities, sacrificing their lives in the service of the country,” Duterte said.

“Through prayer, let us, as one nation, find strength to defeat this invisible enemy, with the aid and blessing of God,” he added.

The Philippines has 380 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 25 deaths as of yesterday.

The pandemic has prompted Duterte to place the entire Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine from March 17 to April 13.

Sen. Bong Go yesterday commended Duterte’s decision to declare a National Week of Prayer.

“I hope this paves the way for all of us to unite as a nation, notwithstanding our religion, and for us to also offer prayers for our frontliners who are leading our fight against COVID-19,” Go said in a statement in Filipino.

The senator seconded the importance of the President’s declaration, saying it is one of the ways to encourage and promote unity among Filipinos in the name of a common goal.

“We have gone through a lot of challenges. This is proof of our strength. Gaya ng ating pagdarasal noon upang maibsan ang hirap na pinagdaanan nating lahat, now more than ever, Filipinos need to pray,” Go said.

‘Not emergency powers’
Meanwhile, in a text message, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the letter to Congress signed by Execurive Secretary Salvador Medialdea stated “powers necessary to carry out urgent measures to implement the national emergency, not emergency powers.”

Earlier this month, President Duterte declared a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines due to the local transmission of COVID-19.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the grant of special powers was a proposal of Congress.

“Malacañang just wants the President to have flexibility on the use of some of the provisions of the budget bill... so we can use them for our needs as we combat COVID-19,” Nograles said.

Under Proclamation No. 933 dated March 21, Duterte urged Congress to hold a special session today to allow him to “exercise powers necessary to carry out urgent measures to meet the current national emergency” relating to COVID-19.

The President also wants lawmakers to provide him “ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds to strengthen governmental response” against the threat of the disease and to continue providing basic services to the people.

In a letter sent to Senate President Vicente Sotto III last Saturday, Duterte certified as urgent the passage of a bill titled “An act to declare the existence of a national emergency arising from the COVID-19 situation, a unified national policy in connection therewith, and to authorize the President of the Republic of the Philippines for a limited period and subject to restrictions, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out the declared national policy and for other purposes.”

‘Emergency powers’ in draft bill
A draft bill leaked to reporters, however, used the term “emergency powers” in its declaration of policy.

“By reason thereof, and in order to optimize the efforts of the President to carry out the tasks needed to implement the aforementioned policy, it is imperative to grant him emergency powers subject to such limitations as hereinafter provided,” the bill read.

Palace officials have not confirmed whether the draft bill was the version they transmitted to Congress.

The draft bill also allows the President to take over private firms when necessary. Private firms include, but are not limited to, hotels and other similar establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief, and aid distribution locations or other temporary medical facilities; public transportation to ferry health, emergency and frontline personnel and other persons; and telecommunications entities to facilitate uninterrupted communication channels between the government and the public.

Nograles was mum on the alleged proposal by the Senate to allow the government to take over private entities if necessary.

“(T)he House and the Senate will debate on it. Let’s just wait for the result of the debate because we in the executive branch will just follow the law to be passed by Congress,” he said. ­– With Paolo Romero000
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