On March 25, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the bill that grants him 30 special powers to deal with the novel coronavirus that’s currently plaguing the country. Republic Act No. 11469, or what we now know as the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020, faced a lot of backlash with the public since it was initially announced as the President “seeking emergency powers.”
BREAKING NEWS. President Duterte signs into law the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act granting him 30 special powers to address the #coronavirus outbreak. #COVID19PH | Photo from Bong Go via @sofiatomacruz
Story to follow on https://t.co/xRifPLHRsK pic.twitter.com/Sz5RGeW38r
— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) March 24, 2020
People took to social media, arguing that the President has enough powers as it were to have prevented the spread of COVID-19 by banning airlines and foreign visitors, which he failed to do earlier, and to provide more aid to the Filipinos, especially the poor community, suffering terribly from this crisis. The signing of the law happened one week after Duterte placed Luzon under enhanced community quarantine.
The proposed bill initially included controversial provisions such as allowing Duterte to “take over private businesses” and other provisions that would allow him to extend his special powers. But what does the final version say?
Health workers who are infected with COVID-19 will receive a compensation of P100,000
Today, we honor these Filipino heroes who died, so we all may live. Thank you for bravely standing on the frontlines, Doctors!
We send our sympathies and prayers to their families and loved ones.#Covid19PhHeroes#NowYouKnow#NYK pic.twitter.com/ap0bvs4aug
— Now You Know (@nowyouknowph) March 24, 2020
Public and private health workers, our brave frontliners, will be given a special risk allowance for their services. The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) was also directed to shoulder the medical costs of workers who contracted the virus during the duration of the emergency.
There will also be given a health risk allowance for regular workers on top of their regular hazard pay.
Financial aid of P1 million will be given to the family of health workers who are exposed to the virus and died while on duty
This will apply retroactively from February 1, 2020. The fight against COVID-19 is serious and is also equally seriously putting the health of our doctors and nurses on the line. Duterte addressed the nation past 9 PM on March 24 and thanked the frontliners for putting in hours and risking their lives to help.
Low-income households will receive a subsidy ranging from P5,000 to 8,000 a month for two months
This man was too afraid he’d infect his family and thought he wouldn’t get proper treatment because they’re poor so he just took his own life. THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO ASSURE FILIPINOS THAT WHEN THEY GOT THE VIRUS, THEY CAN GO TO A HOSPITAL & BE TREATED FOR FREE! https://t.co/3JfxZX0PRM
— #MassTestingNow (@cuntspiracies) March 24, 2020
This emergency subsidy will benefit 18 million households from the marginalized communities in Luzon depending on the prevailing minimum wage rate of the region.
The President can reallocate government funds to relief efforts against COVID-19
The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act allows Duterte to continue or discontinue the programs and activities of the executive branch and use the fund to give aid to the affected communities. Budget savings will also be prioritized for departments and organizations such as the Department of Health, Philippine General Hospital, and local government units.
The President can direct the operation of establishments and public transportation to house health workers, assign quarantine areas, and more
Once the President orders it, public transportation will be used to ferry health workers and frontliners to and from points in the city. His chosen establishments can also be made into areas of relief aid distribution locations. There will essentially be no “takeover” of businesses.
Those found to violate the law, including purveyors of fake news, can be given a fine of up to P1 million
to fight fair means to fact-check. Verify the sources, google-search that interviewee/expert. With all of us basically forced to stay at home, the next setting for a revolution will be online, and I hope we all fight the good fight. Stay vigilant. Wash your hands. Stay safe.
— Guiller Rongavilla (@jgrongavilla) March 24, 2020
A fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P1 million or imprisonment up to two months await law violators. This includes LGUs disobeying the national government policies or directives on imposing quarantine, private health facilities who fail to comply with the national order, hoarders, and price manipulators. This also includes those who spread or perpetuate false information about the COVID-19 crisis on social media or other platforms.
Going with this new law, is it safe to suggest that the first few people to be punished should include OWWA Deputy Executive Director Mocha Uson?
The law placed the country under a state of national emergency
This is on top of the 30-day Luzon-wide lockdown. The cases positive with COVID-19 continue to climb and the masses are yet to be tested. As of March 25, 636 cases are recorded in the Philippines with a death toll of 38 and a recovery count of 26. Worldwide, there are more than 440,000 positive cases with 19,700 deaths.
The limits to the President’s power under the Act
A bill can have a title as absurd as “Bayanihan to Heal As One”—but it can tell a lot. It says a lot about the president’s bid for emergency powers amid this public health crisis, especially from a president who has responded to this crisis with militarist and punitive measures.
— Philip Jamilla (@pmjamilla) March 24, 2020
This period of special power is granted to the President for only 90 days unless extended by the Congress or terminated earlier through a concurrent resolution or a presidential proclamation. He is required to submit weekly reports to Congress on the utilization and realignment of funds related to the measure.
What do you think about the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act?