Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Monday assured that President Rodrigo’s request for Congress to grant him additional powers to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in the country will stay within bounds.
During a special Senate session, Go co-sponsored Senate Bill No. 1418 or the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act” seeking to enhance the government’s capabilities to better address the health crisis.
He said the proposed measure will ensure that the Constitution and all other laws that protect the rights of the people will remain in full force and effect.
“The authority to be given to the President must be for a limited period only, subject to restrictions, and solely to be exercised within what is deemed necessary to put an end to this crisis and to support those who are affected by it,” Go said in his co-sponsorship speech.
He said once approved, the proposed bill will “empower and give the government the flexibility it needs to address the present health emergency.”
It also seeks to grant authority to the President to fund measures to address and respond to the threats of Covid-19 and the economic impact that comes with it.
“This measure also allows for needed realignments in the budget of concerned agencies so they can prioritize the provision of immediate healthcare needs, as well as food and cash assistance to affected Filipinos, particularly those belonging to vulnerable sectors,” he said.
He, meanwhile, urged the Executive Department to ensure the implementation of the proposed bill is done “in the most transparent manner” and that “every centavo should be accounted for.”
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, he said while Filipinos are expected to stay home to comply with the Luzon-wide quarantine, it was government’s responsibility to provide for their needs.
“We want everyone to ‘stay home’. But for that to happen, we have to make sure that we are able to sufficiently provide them with the necessary means to take care of their families and ensure the security they need in order to remain in their homes,” he added.
He said government must also focus on providing immediate healthcare to defeat the virus and, and at the same time, to provide cash and food assistance to those who are affected the most in this crisis.
Daily wage earners such as vendors, Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) drivers and the like should be compensated, he said.
He added that health workers and other frontliners like police and military should also be entitled to hazard pay and necessary personal protective equipment (PPE).
“This is the least we could do to help them,” he said.
Go appealed to his fellow senators to work together with the Executive Branch of the government to “strengthen” the fight against what he described as “invisible enemy” that must be defeated.
“We, as legislators, must provide the executive branch the authority and the resources to further enhance our government’s capabilities to better address this threat,” he said.
The Bayanihan Act was sponsored by Senator Pia Cayetano. (PNA)