Akbayan Party is extremely concerned over the Bayanihan Act of 2020. The fight to save Filipino families from the COVID-19 pandemic requires clear, implementable, and responsive plans NOT a one-man rule President.
The administration’s manipulation of many laws to justify its attacks on the opposition, on human rights, and on press freedom does not give us confidence that any new powers granted to the President will not be abused.
The spirit of Bayanihan means everyone helps to serve the needs of the Filipinos, from the President to the barangays. It requires strong responses across government agencies and units, especially the local government. Centralizing all powers to one man is not bayanihan.
We agree that the national budget crafted before the COVID 19 pandemic needs to be realigned. More funds need to be provided to local governments to enable them to support those people, especially urban poor, who have lost incomes and will soon not be able to provide food for their families.
It is not necessary to grant blanket authority to the President to make such realignments on his own.
If Duterte is given the power to realign the 2020 budget, we are not confident that he will make the right decisions. How can we trust a man who allocated P14 billion to tourism projects to fight the pandemic?
It should be noted that Duterte has P25 billion from combined confidential funds, calamity funds, and contingency funds. His allies in the legislative also said that there are unspent funds worth P56 billion from the Unconditional Cash Transfer program which can aid affected workers right now. The private sector and international bodies are pledging more than P750 million to fight COVID-19. He doesn’t need new powers, he can just make a decisive action to release the funds.
We believe that private companies need to cooperate and be regulated during the crisis but Duterte doesn’t need to take over private companies. There is no use for a presidential takeover especially when he can’t even go against big corporations who laid off their workers during the pandemic. Big business families who have been attacked by President Duterte understandably fear that any takeover of their businesses will not be temporary but will result in the turnover of their properties to the President’s cronies.
Businesses who continue to support their workers despite the threat of bankruptcy need to be supported.
The bill also removes protections against corruption. In the bill, the executive can choose which company to spend taxpayers’ money even without bidding. Corruption is a plague worse than COVID-19 that has cost the Filipino taxpayers more than PHP 1.4 trillion in the past two years, money that could have been used to upgrade hospitals to battle the sickness.
We are particularly concerned about Section 6 on Penalties which would punish “Any violation of the rules, regulations and directives of the National Government…” This would give the President martial law powers without a specific declaration of martial law. This would enable the President to arrest the opposition and imprison them for two months without having done anything other than to oppose undefined Presidential “directives”.
We are fighting a virus that could take out thousands of Filipinos if we do nothing. We need all the arsenals of medical science and technology to overcome the virus NOT one man rule. We need the perfect balance of a community quarantine to suppress the virus without suppressing our rights and freedoms with this new law.
We need additional budget for health, food, and cash aid not additional powers to the President. Our health workers need hazard pay and protection. Our workers and senior citizens need P10,000 cash aid during the one-month lockdown. We need free and massive testing available to a large portion of our population and free treatment for those who are sick. In a time of a public health emergency, we don’t need the President to lord over LGUs. We need him to support our LGUs. When we support cities and barangays with their services, we help Filipino families survive the pandemic.