Duterte can tap up to P400b for anti-COVID-19-related actions under new law - IATF
President Rodrigo Duterte could tap up to almost P400 billion to be used in addressing issues related to the coronavirus disease pandemic following the passage of a new law, granting him powers necessary and proper to carry out the implementation of national emergency in the country.
Duterte signed early Wednesday morning Republic Act No. 11469, otherwise known as the "Bayanihan to Heal As One Act."
"Pursuant to Article VI, Section 23 (2) of the Constitution, the President is hereby authorized to exercise powers that are necessary and proper to carry out the declared national policy," the new law said.
Asked of the estimated amount that the executive department could access under the new law, Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease Spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, in a press briefing on Wednesday in Malacanang, said, "what I know is it's almost P400 billion, if I'm not mistaken."
The law provides an emergency subsidy to around 18 million low income households, each receiving a minimum amount of P5,000 to a maximum of P8,000 a month for two months. The subsidy shall be computed based on the prevailing regional minimum wage rates.
The subsidy received from the current conditional cash transfer program and rice subsidy shall be taken into consideration in computing the emergency subsidy.
The Act also ensures that all public health workers are protected by providing them with a "COVID-19 special risk allowance" in addition to the hazard pay granted under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers or Republic Act No. 7305.
The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. is also directed to shoulder all medical expenses of public and private health workers in case of exposure to COVID-19 or any work-related injury or disease during the the emergency.
IATF Resolution No. 15 issued on March 24 directs state-run Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to transfer P420.585 million to PHIC to be utilized to cover COVID-19-related packages.
RA 11469 also provides compensation of P100,000 to public and private health workers who may contract severe COVID-19 infection while in the line of duty, while P1 million for those who may die while fighting the pandemic. It shall have retroactive application from February 1, 2020.
The law also directs the discontinuance of appropriated programs, projects or activities of any agency of the executive department, including government-owned or -controlled corporations, in the Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020 General Appropriations Act, whether released or unreleased, the allotments for which remain unobligated, and utilize the saving generated from them to augment the allocation for any item directly related to support operations and response measures, which are necessary or beneficial in order to address the COVID-19 emergency.
The discontinued program, activity or project may be revived at anytime after the national emergency has ceased.
The law also states that the unutilized or unreleased balance in a special purpose fund, as of the date of declaration of the State of Emergency, shall be considered to have their purpose abandoned for the duration of the state of emergency.
"All such unspent, unutilized or unreleased money or funds sourced from collections or receipts, including future collections and receipts, shall be utilized and are hereby appropriated for such measures to address the COVID-19 situation and accomplish the declared national policy herein," it says.
Under the law, the President is directed to submit a weekly report, including the amount and corresponding utilization of funds, used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated and realigned, to Congress of all acts performed pursuant to this Act during the immediately preceding week.
With this, a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee shall be established to determine whether such acts, orders, rules and regulations are within the restrictions provided in the law.
In addition to acts or omissions penalized under existing laws, RA 11469 also provides penalties for the violators - two months of imprisonment or a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1 million, or both, such imprisonment and fine, at the discretion of the court.
Among the violations include disobedience of LGU officials of the national policies or directives in imposing quarantines; unjustifiable refusal to operate pursuant to the directive of the President to owners and possessors of privately-owned hospitals, medical and health facilities, including passenger vessels, and other establishments; hoarding, profiteering, injurious speculations, manipulations of prices, product deceptions, and cartels; and creating, perpetrating, or spreading of false information regarding COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms clearly geared to promote chaos or panic, and participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the current crisis situation to prey on the public.
If the offender is a corporation, association, partnership or any other juridical person, the law says 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 prescribed in the law, be deported without further proceedings.
If the violator is a public official or employee, the additional penalty is perpetual or temporary absolute disqualification from office, as the case may be.
The law shall take effect immediately upon its publication in a newspaper of general circulation or in the Official Gazette and be in full force and effect only for three months, unless extended by Congress.
The powers granted to the President may be withdrawn sooner by means of a concurrent resolution of Congress or ended by Presidential Proclamation. Celerina Monte/DMS