Special powers bill to deal with coronavirus now up for Duterte's signature

MANILA, Philippines – The bill that would give President Rodrigo Duterte special powers to deal with the coronavirus oubreak is now up for his signature.

At past 3 am Tuesday, March 24, the House of Representatives adopted the approved Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill No. 1418, which would grant Duterte 30 powers, including the authority to declare savings and use it for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) measures.

As the Senate special session closed, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday that an enrolled copy will be sent to Duterte.

SB 1418 greatly differs from the original bill. Controversial provisions on the takeover of businesses and the unconstitutional budgetary items were taken out.

The bill would grant 18 million low-income families in the country an emergency cash aid worth P5,000 to P8,000, depending on the prevailing minimum wage in the region.

SB 1418 would also give public and private health workers who would be severely infected by the virus a compensation of P100,000. Families of those who contracted the virus and died while on the line of duty would receive P1 million, effective retroactively.

Health workers would also be given a special risk allowance on top of their regular hazard pay.

If signed by the President, the bill would be effective immediately after publication in a newspaper or on the Official Gazette. It will be valid for 3 months unless extended by Congress or terminated earlier through a concurrent resolution or a Presidential proclamation.

House approved on third and final reading its counterpart measure late Monday, March 23, close to two hours ahead of the Senate. The lower chamber's version sought to give the President 25 special powers, excluding the lifting of the 30% cap on the quick response fund, which was in the Senate version.

As of Monday, the Philippines has 462 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with 33 deaths and 18 recoveries.

The global death toll has reached 15,189, with 5,476 of the fatalities in Italy and 3,270 in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau). The number of cases worldwide has risen to 341,300, with 81,093 cases in China and 59,138 cases in Italy. The virus has spread to 174 countries. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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