The Senate will not allow President Rodrigo Duterte to take over privately-owned public utilities and business in addressing the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation in the country, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Sunday.
In a message to reporters, Sotto said there is nothing in the still-unnumbered Senate bill which Duterte certified as urgent that gives him emergency powers.
"Not true. Read the title. Nothing there says emergency powers," Sotto said
"Perhaps one controversial provision in the bill [is] about the takeover of businesses but that won't fly in the Senate. The main proposal of the bill is to distribute cash to the 16.5 million families badly needing help," he added.
Sotto even went on to say that Malacañang, the Senate and House of Representatives contingent agreed in their meeting on Saturday that the measure they will be passing will not give Duterte emergency powers.
"That was precisely my point in the meeting yesterday that this is not an emergency powers bill. We agreed that it is not," he said.
According to the bill, the President is authorized to "exercise powers necessary and proper" to implement a unified national policy to combat COVID-19 "for a limited period and subject to restrictions."
One of these powers include the authority to "temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest to be used in addressing the needs of the public during the COVID-19 emergency as determined by the President."
These include hotels and other similar establishments to house health workers and serve as quarantine areas, public transportation systems to carry health, emergency and frontline personnel and other persons, and telecommunication entities to facilitate continuous communication between the government and public.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said it is up to Congress to consider the said provision in the bill.
"Yan ang panukala ng Kongreso. Pagdedebatihan nila yan bukas. At tignan natin kung ano ang magiging resulta ng kanilang session ng Kamara pati ng Senado," Nograles said in an interview on 24 Oras Weekend.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo clarified that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea's letter to Congress on the matter mentioned "powers necessary to carry [out] our urgent measures to implement the national emergency," not emergency powers. — RSJ, GMA News