DURING deliberations at the House of Representatives yesterday about the law being asked by Malacañang giving special powers to President Duterte to help the government fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea was on hand to assure the representatives that the Duterte administration will not abuse these powers.
Medialdea said that the administration “simply desires to be equipped with all the legal authorities necessary for us to serve our people during this crisis in the most expeditious way.”
The requested legislation, if granted, will give the President wide-ranging legal authority to address the public health emergency which has now become a national crisis.
Restrictions in governance, we can all agree, are beneficial during normal times but would prove disadvantageous during unusual times as what we have now.
The Palace may well be given the benefit of the doubt in trying to ease accounting and auditing requirements in the release of funds and procurement of health supplies. However, its request to take over private businesses during the emergency has been taken with caution by the lawmakers.
The Executive Secretary explained that this is a power that Malacañang does not consider necessary to be exercised at all times because the establishments that are needed to deal with this crisis have, to their credit, been mostly cooperating with the government.
Medialdea said the Palace only desires such power to be legislated because the virus we are up against is so unpredictable and can spread rapidly in a community. He added the power to take over business establishments is intended merely as a stand-by power in the event the crisis reaches its worse, when our most critical institutions are nearing a total shutdown, and government is left with no choice but to take over these establishments.
We believe the chances that Malacañang will get what it wants from Congress are great, and it is because trust in President Duterte has never been as high as now, among the masses and among the legislators.
Also, it is well to mention that the government and the military were able to implement martial law in Mindanao for several months without much abuse, thus showing that the Duterte administration has no predilection to abuse any special powers granted by Congress.