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Palace flexibility helped solons pass ‘Bayanihan’ bill –Rodriguez

By Ellson Quismorio

Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez hailed the Executive branch’s “flexibility,” which he said led to the swift passage of the special powers needed to counter the scourge that is the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez (Rufus Rodriguez official Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez (Rufus Rodriguez official Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

According to him, this flexibility was shown in Malacañang’s acceptance of lawmakers’ amendments to the special or emergency powers bill, which was designated as House Bill (HB) no.6616.

“I laud President Duterte and Executive Salvador Medialdea for graciously agreeing to substantial revisions of their proposed original Bayanihan To Heal As One Act,” he said, referring to the measure.

Rodriguez said the first change the Palace agreed to was the scrapping of the proposal to allow the President to “take over” privately owned public utilities.

As revised, he said the provision now only allows the Chief Executive “to direct the operations of any private hospital…” and similar facilities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mindanao solon recalled that he expressed concern over the original proposal during the House of Representatives’ unprecedented, digitally-aided session last Monday. He took part in the overnight session through videoconferencing.

Rodriguez said the second revision Malacañang accepted was placing a definite timeframe for the exercise of the proposed extra powers, from “two months or longer if the calamity will persist, as may be determined by the President” to “three months, unless extended by Congress.”

He recalled that during the special session, he cited a provision of the Constitution providing that the exercise of emergency powers shall be for “a limited period.”

“If the extension is determined by the President, it will not be for ‘a limited period’ and hence will be unconstitutional,” stressed the lawyer-congressman.

Also in the approved version, specific agencies, including local government units (LGUs), were specified as beneficiaries of augmentation of funds the President was authorized to reallocate.

“I moved for a provision in the bill to download funds to the LGUs as frontline units fighting COVID-19,” said Rodriguez, chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

He said the final version also mandates the Department of Health (DOH) to prioritize the sending of testing kills and personal protective equipment like face masks and gowns to the regions, provinces and cities.

“In my interpellation, I pointed out that there are no testing kits in all regions of Mindanao except Davao City,” he said. The measure was passed on third and final reading late Monday night.

Rodriguez also lauded Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Appropriations Committee Eric Yap of ACT-CIS party-list, and Secretary General Jose Luis Montales “for the highly successful first ever online session of the House of Representatives.”

Source: Manila Bulletin

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