THE Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has directed the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to transfer some P420.6 million to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to cover medical expenses and treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The order was issued after President Duterte on Tuesday night signed into law Republic Act No. 11469, or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” which allows him to swiftly, efficiently and freely decide and act on measures aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Under the new law, PhilHealth is mandated to have a medical package for COVID-19 patients and for public and private health workers who are exposed to COVID-19 and other work-related emergencies.
Nograles said the P420.585 million accounts for 50 percent of the standby fund that PSCO has set aside to cover Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) cases in the country. The P1-billion PCSO standby SARS fund was established in 2013.
Under Executive Order 108, which was released by Malacanang on March 14, only the P420.585 million can be used to cover treatment containment, prevention and management of COVID-19 cases, while the balance shall “continue to cover the funding necessary to respond to future cases of SARS in the Philippines.”
PhilHealth’s packages for COVID-19 are the following:
** Isolation package: P14,000 – for patients under investigation (PUIs). It can also be claimed by confirmed cases with mild symptoms and PUIs who tested negative for COVID-19;
** Referral package: P4,000 – for patients from Level 1 or lower level hospitals referred to higher level hospitals with capacity for quarantine procedures;
** Moderate pneumonia: P15,000 – for those experiencing moderate pneumonia.
** Severe pneumonia: P32,000 – for those experiencing severe pneumonia.
On top of quarantine and isolation costs, PhilHealth will also cover the cost for COVID-19 tests.
PhilHealth on Tuesday said it was releasing an initial P30 billion to accredited hospitals to help them respond to the onslaught of CoVID-19 in the country.
The President signed the Bayanihan Act into law in the presence of longtime aide turned Sen. Christopher Go.
Prior to the signing, Duterte met with the members of the IATF-EID led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista.
The President, in a taped public address after the meeting on Tuesday, thanked Congress for the special powers that was granted him to implement measures to fight the COVID-19 spread.
The measure, which will take effect upon its publication, shall be in force for three months unless cut short or extended by Congress.
“I especially thank Congress for granting the executive department with special powers, through the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act… to effectively respond to the challenges caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic. I particularly thank Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for the strong and decisive leadership you have demonstrated in shepherding this measure to fruition during this critical time in our national history,” he said.
“To the members of both houses of Congress who sponsored and voted for this measure, I express my sincerest gratitude to all of you for granting our most urgent requests. Finally, the Executive Department can move, decide and act freely for the best interest of the Filipino people during this health crisis,” he added.
The Bayanihan Act acknowledged the existence of a state of public health emergency due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus. It highlighted the urgent need to mitigate, or contain, the transmission of COVID-19; assist families and individuals affected by the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), undertake measures to avoid the overburdened health care system and provide health care including tests and treatment; ensure sufficient funding and for the delivery of needed services; and promote and protect the welfare and interests of Filipinos.
Under the law, the President may adopt and implement measures and practice to prevent or suppress the further transmission of COVID-19 through effective education, detection, protection and treatment; expedite the and streamline the accreditation of COVID-19 testing kits; provide subsidy for the treatment of COVID-19 patients under PhilHealth coverage; provide a subsidy of 5,000 to P8,000 monthly for an estimated 18 million low-income households for a period of two months; and provide a COVID-19 special risk allowance for public health workers on top of the hazard pay.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a leader of the opposition, claimed the new law was “superfluous and unconstitutional.”
Lagman alleged there was no need for the President to ask Congress to declare a state of national emergency “because he himself has the authority to make such a declaration.”
Lagman cited the case of David vs. Macapagal-Arroyo (G.R. No. 171396, May 3, 2006) where the Supreme Court stated that the framers of the 1987 Constitution “did not intend that Congress should first authorize the President before he can declare a state of national emergency.”
The SC ruled that the President can declare the existence of a state of national emergency “even in the absence of a Congressional enactment.”
Lagman said that in December 6, 1989, then president Corazon Aquino issued Proclamation No. 503 “Declaring a State of National Emergency throughout the Philippines” without waiting for congressional authorization” to address military adventurism.
Moreover, he said President Duterte had virtually declared a national emergency when he issued Proclamation No. 922 dated March 8, 2020, “Declaring a State of Public Health Emergency throughout the Philippines,” and Proclamation No. 929 dated March 16, 2020 “Declaring a State of Calamity throughout the Philippines due to Coronavirus Disease 2019” and an “Enhanced Community Quarantine throughout Luzon beginning 12 midnight tonight until 12 April 2020”.
Lagman said there are multi-billion-peso funds available in the 2020 GAA which the President can readily order to be implemented without the need for realignment as COVID-19 response “because these funds are precisely allocated to meet contingencies and calamities like the President’s P12-billion Contingent Fund and the P16-billion National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF) or calamity fund.” – With Wendell Vigilia