I voted “NO” to the grant of additional powers to Malacanang because it grants the President unchecked powers that are open to abuse and corruption. It also grants the President a virtual blank check with no clear plan nor strategy to defeat COVID-19. Paano natin masisigurado na mapupunta ang pondo sa taumbayan?
I am very alarmed by the potential for abuse and lack of accountability in giving the President near-absolute control over public funds in national government agencies and even government-owned and controlled corporations. The President’s new powers would authorize him to now stop altogether important government projects and divert their funding to other uses, with little check and balances in place. Paano ngayon mamomonitor ng taumbayan ang paggamit ng napakalaking mga pondo na ito, at paano tayo makakasiguro na ito nga ay napupunta sa paglaban sa COVID-19? Ano ang garantiya na hindi mapupunta ang kaban ng bayan sa mga negosyante o Chinese companies na malapit sa administrasyon?
We cannot and should not blindly trust the use of these important funds to a government, which during this health crisis, has chosen to spend P14 billion on tourism projects, but has been unable to immediately and sufficiently deliver PPEs to our doctors, health workers, law enforcement agents and other frontliners.
Furthermore, the Executive Branch does not need special powers for it to act urgently and decisively in meeting the immediate needs of the people amid the COVID-19 outbreak. While I am grateful that my amendment for the provision of cash transfers to poor Filipino families was included in the bill, even this provision does not require the grant of new powers. Our arsenal of readily-available laws and policies, notably the Government Procurement Reform Act (RA 9184), the Price Act (RA 7582) and the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act (RA 11332), has not been fully utilized in the fight versus COVID-19.
These laws, if partnered with a supplemental budget, already authorize the government to purchase ample personal protective equipment (PPEs), medical supplies, relief packages and other needed items, secure that prices of basic goods will remain affordable, and impose preventive community-wide measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, among others. I know because these were part of my proposals during the start of this crisis – a crisis that the government underestimated at the beginning.
Hindi special powers ang sagot sa pandemic na ito, kundi political will para isulong ang mass-testing, ibigay ang PPEs at hazard pay sa mga frontliners, at ihatid ang cash assistance sa mga mahihirap na pamilya at nawalan ng kita. Bakit special powers na ang hinihingi habang hindi pa tuluyang nagamit ang kasalukuyang mandato at kapangyarihan na mayroon ang Pangulo?
Ang hinihingi ng publiko ay klarong programa laban sa krisis na dulot ng COVID-19. Sana ay iwasan natin ang isa pang krisis na maaring dalhin sa taumbayan ng korapsyon at pang-aabuso sa kapangyarihan ng pamahalaan.
Moving forward, we will closely watch the exercise of these additional powers by Malacañang to protect the public against abusive and ineffective policies. These expanded powers should translate to actual help to our vulnerable sectors, such as cash assistance to poor families and hazard pay to frontliners. With these new powers at Malacañang’s command, they have no excuse to let our people down.