‘National Emergency’ intends to give P5,000 to P8,000 to each of the 18.5 million indigent families in Luzon  – Senate Bill

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The proposed Senate Bill 1413 known as “We Heal As One Act,” which placed the country under a “national emergency”,  intends to give P5,000  to 8,000 to each of the 18.5 million indigent families in Luzon, amounting to about P200 billion.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Senate version does not indicate the total amount needed to provide for the indigent families, however, it might not go beyond P200 billion.

Sotto said target is the informal sector which comprises 18.5 million families.

Sotto said the amount of financial assistance to each family will depend on the minimum wage in the region they are currently in.

“CCT (Conditional Cash Transfer) beneficiaries will be included but only to top off their current subsidy,” said Sotto.

Sotto said 13 of 24 senators were made co-authors of a bill which grants President  Rodrigo Duterte additional powers to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

With the approval of the body, he said all members present were co-authors of  the said  bill.

Sotto and Senator Pia Cayetano, initiated the filing of the bill which seeks to  declare the existence of a national emergency arising  from  coronavirus disease  2019 (COVID-19).

The filing of the measure coincided with the opening of the special session by both the Senate and the House of Representatives to address the pandemic that has killed thousands of people around the world.

It authorizes the President  “for a limited period and subject to restrictions, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out the declared national policy.”

Such powers include  the  President’s authority to “direct the operation of any privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities, including establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations, or other temporary medical facilities; and public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel and other persons.”

“If the foregoing enterprises unjustifiably refuse or signified that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises for the purpose stated herein, the President may take over their operations subject to the limits and safeguards enshrined in the Constitution,” the bill said.

The President would also be granted  under the bill to “regulate and limit the operation of all sectors of transportation through land, sea or air, whether private or public.”

The 10 other authors of the bill are Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto,  Senators Sherwin Gathcalian,  Christopher “Bong” Go,   Richard Gordon,   Panfilo Lacson,  Lito Lapid,  Manny Pacquiao, Grace Poe, Ramon “bong’ Revilla Jr. and Francis  Tolentino.

Although Senator Cynthia A. Villar was not present in the session, she sent a letter expressing her intention to co-author the bill.

Sotto said Villar would be counted as co-author of the bill.

All opposition senators— Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, and  Leila de Lima, who has been detained at Camp Crame over drug charges— were absent during the Senate special session.

Drilon dismissed as a “boycott” the absence of the Minority Bloc in the Special Session Monday.

“We are on a 14-day self quarantine as we were exposed on March 11 to Senator  Migz Zubiri, who was tested positive,” said Drilon.

Moreover,  Drilon said that due to his age and  a pace-maker to regulate hid heartbeat, he is a high risk person who must take extra precaution.

According to Drilon, they had  requested for a session through teleconferencing, but Sotto informed them the Senate does not have that facility.

He urged the Senate media not to sensationalize and to attribute any meaning to their failure to attend the special session.

“My record will show my perfect attendance (and not leaving until adjournment) during the regular session.  Never boycotted. We fiscalize by being present,” he said.

Pangilinan said he is currently on the 13th day of self quarantine after being exposed to a COVID-19 positive person.

Upon the advice of his doctor and consistent with the Department of Health (DOH) strict protocols on Persons Under Monitoring (PUM), Pangilinan said he had to stay at home to avoid the possibility of infecting others should he be positive yet asymptomatic.

“I have not been tested,” further stated the senator, also president of the Liberal Party,

Late Saturday night, Pangilinan said he experienced a dry cough and “I am now under observation.”

“My Doctor, my younger sister Donna, has advised me to monitor the cough.

“According to her, it may be viral or since I have a history of acid reflux, it may be an acid reflux induced cough. I have no fever. I have no cold,” he said.

“The above mentioned development plus the strict 14-day self quarantine are the reasons why I am unable to attend today’s Special Session,” he also said.

However, Pangilinan said he has been communicating  in with a number of colleagues who were communicating with senators  in attendance “so that we may introduce through them our proposed amendments.”

“The Senate Minority through Senators Drilon, Hontiveros and myself have also written the the Senate Leadership requesting that our rules be suspended so we can go into teleconferencing. This is still to be decided,” said Pangilinan.

“We are working to ensure that the bill finally approved into law will be an effective tool in defeating the pandemic now wreaking havoc on our nation and our people,” he further stated.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, another member or the Minority Bloc said she failed to attend the special session as she has been strictly following health protocols set by the DOH.

“I am currently still under self-quarantine set to end by March 25. ”

As part of the Senate Minority, she had asked the Senate President to allow her participation thru teleconferencing.

Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Imee Marcos and Nancy Binay, all belonging to the majority bloc,  said they are still on self quarantine “for the good of others.”

“Much as I wanted to participate in today’s Special Session, I am still on an extended quarantine period given the fact that I have been exposed twice to persons who have been confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus,” she said.

Having a pre-existing condition, Binay said she was advised to avoid being exposed, as much as she does not not wish to risk the health of her colleagues.

Nevertheless,  she is currently monitoring the business online, and am in constant consultation with her fellow senators.

“Should there be an opportunity to take action through the tools technology provides, or whatever is practicable, I will gladly participate,” she added.

Meanwhile, Marcos said the proposed Act in its entirety focuses heavily on the powers allowed for the government to raise funds to address the COVID-19 crisis.

While these powers are needed, she said these are not balanced out by a clear program on the use of these funds.

“It is a logical case of sources and uses of funds. The Declaration of Policy itself is silent on the economic impact of COVID-19 and the need for a stimulus package,” she said./Stacy Ang

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