Congress to submit COVID-19 aid, special powers bill for Duterte’s signature

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2020 05:17 AM

MANILA - Congress on Tuesday is set to submit to Malacañang a bill that would grant additional powers to the President, and cash aid for health workers and indigent families hit by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The House of Representatives adopted Senate Bill No. 1418 so that the legislative can skip a bicameral conference and expedite the passage of the measure, which President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent.

At around 3:30 a.m., the Senate received the House's confirmation, allowing the Senate leadership file it as an "enrolled bill" after 17 hours of marathon discussion.

Under Congress rules, "a final copy of the bill, known as the 'enrolled bill,' shall be printed, and certified as correct by the Secretary of the Senate and the Secretary General of the House of Representatives."

It will be signed by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President before it will be transmitted to Malacañang for Duterte's approval.

Under the bill, public health workers who contracted the disease will receive P100,000 from the government, while all medical practitioners who died from COVID-19 will be given P1 million each.

Some 18 million low-income households across the country will also receive a monthly allowance - between P5,000 and P8,000 - for 2 months.

The bill also grants the President, for a limited period, at least 20 special powers - including the reallocation of government savings to coronavirus-related programs, control over private businesses under special circumstances, exemptions from procurement laws, among others. 

Duterte may approve or veto the bill. The measure is also enacted into law if the President fails to act on it "within 30 days from receipt in his office."

Congress passed the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” a week after Luzon, the Philippines’ most populous island, was placed under a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, a disease which originated from Wuhan, China that is now considered as a global pandemic.

As of March 23, at least 462 patients in thr country contracted the disease. Of those infected, 33 died, 18 recovered, while the rest continue to battle the disease.