PRESIDENT Duterte late Monday warned local government officials, especially barangay executives, against abusing the powers granted to them as key enforcers of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) adopted as a mitigating strategy against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Duterte said he will order the suspension and imprisonment of corrupt and abusive local executives and village chiefs, whom he noted have primarily been tasked to distribute financial aid and relief goods to their constituents.
“Kapag nagkamali kayo dito, hindi ko kayo palusutin. I will see to it even tomorrow, if I discover some embezzlement, some hoarding there, at dina-divert iyung pagkain sa mga tao na dapat hindi sa kanila, you better think (If you make a mistake, I won’t let you off. I will see to it, even tomorrow, if I discover some embezzlement, some hoarding there, and the diversion of food to people who should not receive it… you better think),” he warned.
“I am not a cruel man. Pero kung may report ang pulis, I will order your detention hanggang matapos itong COVID-19 (I am not a cruel man. But if there are reports from the police, I will order your detention until the COVID-19 pandemic is finished),” he added.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has been getting reports that some local officials have refused to provide assistance to people who did not vote for them during the last elections or those who are not in good terms with barangay officials.
There have likewise been complaints that some barangays have not been getting their relief rations, even after the city government has already announced that the packages have already been released to the barangays.
In an 18-page report sent to Congress on Monday, President Duterte assured the public that he will remain transparent and use only the special powers when there is a need to use them in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The report is in compliance with the requirements laid down under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which Congress approved in a one-day special session last week.
Duterte said he is reserving the powers to “direct the operation of private establishments” and “to require businesses to prioritize contracts for materials and services” and would only use them when there is an absolute necessity.
Among the concerns raised during the crafting of the Bayanihan Act was the grant of powers to the President to take over private establishment to help him address the COVID crisis.
In his report, the President said the government has been undertaking key measures to overcome and recover from the effects COVID-19, with priority given to the provision of emergency assistance to affected sectors, securing facilities and resources for the health sector, and performing fiscal and monetary actions for the economy.
Among those mentioned in the report included how much the government had already spent for projects and programs implemented by different departments to address the COVID-19, ensure the safety of the public like the imposition of a travel restriction on foreign nationals and implemented through the Bureau of Immigration, the lockdown of jails and cancellation of visitation hours to keep those in jail safe from the coronavirus, the tapping of the police and the military and activation of task forces to implement the mandatory home quarantine, the conduct of information drive and campaign against disinformation and fake news about the COVID-19 situation in the country.
Duterte likewise said the Department of Agriculture is in close coordination with its counterparts in other Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) member countries to ensure the steady supply of rice in the country, which includes the importation of some 300,000 metric tons of rice through a government-to-government scheme.
The President said the government is also procuring medical supplies, devices and other personal protective gears which would be provided to health workers and other frontliners rendering public service.
Duterte said some one million protective items are now being acquired even as government is also ramping up the acquisition of more test kits to accommodate more people and get a fuller and more accurate picture of the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
He said more medical facilities and laboratories will be accredited in the coming weeks to boost the country’s ability to detect, contain and solve the coronavirus pandemic.
In filing the report to Congress, the President also mentioned the activation by the Bureau of Customs of an online filing system to ensure the immediate release of shipments especially those containing essential good and medical supplies.
He said 2,081 shipments had already been released by BOC.
The Department of Public Works and Highways had converted and approved the use of 110 evacuation centers and building as food hubs, operation centers, and health facilities.
Duterte said DPWH is still looking at other facilities and buildings that can be converted and used as isolation centers, including some ships that can be used as floating quarantine centers.
He said the government though the Environment Management Bureau had also issued 90 special permits for the transport and disposal of pathological and infectious wastes products.
AID AND DONATIONS
The President said that while the government has money, it also accepts donations and contributions from other countries as well as both from local and foreign private groups.
He assured that accounting of all the assistance is being done to maintain procedural integrity.
In his report to Congress, Duterte said the Department of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with the Department of Information and Communication Technology, is already setting up a website containing information on humanitarian assistance, including the acceptance and distribution of donations.
He said four governments, one international organization and 12 private international firms had sent several donations through the DFA.
In his public address, Duterte also thanked those who had contributed to government efforts, including private firms that have sent food packs, health items, and services among others; donors, and frontline workers who risked their lives and safety to serve the sick.
“On behalf of the Filipino people, I thank you for your compassion and your generosity, and my personal gratitude,” Duterte said.