Duterte thanks Congress for special powers to battle COVID-19 pandemic


Posted at Mar 24 2020 11:04 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday thanked members of Congress for granting him special powers to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the country.

In a video message, Duterte thanked both chambers of Congress for working on the "Bayanihan to Heal As One Act," which grants the executive department with special powers "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," Duterte added.

He did not say in the video if he has signed the bill ito law.

Congress held a special session on the measure on Monday.

Once signed into law, the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” will give Duterte more powers that includes the authority to reallocate government savings to coronavirus-related programs, control private businesses under special circumstances, and grant exemptions from procurement laws.

Duterte earlier placed the entire Philippines under a state of public health emergency and later a state of calamity to provide the government with enough leeway to tap into emergency funds for response to the pandemic.

The President was granted additional powers a week after Luzon, the Philippines’ most populous island, was placed under a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 which has infected 552 people in the country as of Tuesday afternoon.