Duterte’s emergency powers threaten LGU initiatives, social media dissent over COVID-19 crisis handling



Gabriela Women’s Party has raised alarm on Thursday over the last-minute insertions in the already draconian emergency powers for the President, including penalties for local government unit (LGU) officials disobeying national policies and directives in imposing the community quarantine.

In a statement, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said the “Bayanahin to Heal As One Act” imposes the penalty of disqualification from public office for LGU officials who will not act within the “letter and spirit of all rules, regulations and directives” issued by the national government in relation to COVID-19.

“Under such emergency powers, local government officials risk being booted out from their post for merely adjusting their COVID-19 response to the specific needs of their jurisdiction. Hindi na lang parinig kundi parusa at pagpapatalsik ang maaring abutin ng LGU officials. Lalong hihigpit ang hawak ng Pangulo sa leeg ng mga LGU,” said Brosas.

“This is a very punitive and top-down framework for a health crisis response — at a time when decentralized and urgent initiatives may actually help save lives,” she added.

The Gabriela lawmaker said such penal clause shrinks the room for localized and creative initiatives, and may further delay the delivery of much needed services to the people.

The new law also wants to penalize the spreading of false information on COVID-19 crisis such as those “having no valid or beneficial effect on the population.”

“This draconian power may be abused to clamp down on social media dissent especially now that criticisms on the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis are blowing up in several online platforms,” said Brosas.

“Nakakaalarma ito dahil posibleng gamitin ang kapangyarihang ito para arestuhin ang sinumang magpahayag ng kritisismo sa COVID-response ng gobyerno, gayong karapatan ito ng bawat mamamayan,” she added.

Under the measure, violations will be punished by imprisonment of two months or fines of P10,000 to P1 million or both.

Gabriela Women’s Party called ¬†on women and the people to continue demanding for urgent health-based and people-oriented solutions to the pandemic while remaining vigilant on Duterte’s tyrannical tendencies to further restrain and silence the people./Stacy Ang

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