Cayetano, Defensor blast Senate amendments to emergency powers bill

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2020 03:34 AM

MANILA -- House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday criticized the Senate over the amendments it made to the bill granting emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to battle the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“If we wanted publicity kinatay natin itong bill na ito and every single advocacy spell out natin hanggang singkapal na ng phone book,” Cayetano said, addressing his colleagues after the House approved its own version of the bill close to midnight.

Cayetano’s comments came as senators inserted specific earmarks for where funds that will be at President Rodrigo Duterte’s disposal.

“Tayo po simple. The national government asked for flexibility. They told us the plan, the plan is community quarantine, the plan is keep people in their homes, the plan is set up and support the present health system, the plan is to get supply in and the plan is to give money,” he said.

Before this, Anak Kalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor said they could have finished work sooner. 

“2:30 natapos ang ating Kongreso, tapos na tayo by 2:30 if only we've voted and not waited for the Senate we would have a bill to help the president respond, tapusin ang problema gawin ang kinakailangan,” Defensor said.

Defensor also lashed out at the Senate’s amendment then accosted them for limiting the President’s discretion. 

“Bakit pa tayo gumagawa ng bill ng emergency powers, kasi nga may emergency. Kung ito naman eh hindi emergency, gagawa tayo ng bill ng PhilHealth, gagawa tayo ng GAA, gagawa tayo ng isang batas pambubuwis. Pwede tayo magdebate, pwede tayong mag-usap, pwede hindi maging kasing detalye tulad ng ginagawa nating batas ngayon,” he said.

”Sa Senate ano pinag-usapan? Special allowance for health workers para may hazard. Ni-limit nila magkano, P100,000 kung namatay, P1 million kung mas malaki kailangan. Bakit nililimita, bakit 'di natin bigay sa pangulo. Why would we limit it?" he added.

Defensor claimed that the House version is the right measure needed as it has all the safeguards while still giving the President the flexibility he needs. 

Cayetano, meanwhile, alleged that failure on the part of government to act quickly would be fatal to a large segment of the population. 

He said that critics should not to use the issue to oust the president. He also lashed back at those who accused him of politicizing the government’s response to COVID-19.

“ 'Yung iba kasi sabi kailangan ng leadership ngayon ano ibig sabihin noon palitan ang presidente gusto nila kandidato nila. hindi time para mamultika hindi time para iweaponize itong COVID-19,” he said.

Cayetano also took exception with an unnamed senator.

“Imagine a senator of the republic saying we need medicine, we need to help the frontliners, we need provisions of food but we don't need special powers. So emergency powers eh saan mo kukunin ang pera yung more than P275 billion na gagamitin. When we made this budget … nobody knew there would be COVID-19. Who was prepared for this? But the president acted and more people will die unless we all understand why,” he said.

Cayetano justified the need to approve the measure. ”We have to pass this law so that we can deliver at the very least P5,000 to P8,000 to each and every family.”

Cayetano also approved the creation of the an dd hoc committee in the House which he will co-chair with Majority Leader Martin Romualdez to oversee the government’s efforts at responding to the crisis.

The president earlier placed the country under a state of public health emergency following the Luzon-wide community quarantine, in an effort to contain the virus.

The health department recorded a total of 462 cases of COVID-19 with 33 fatalities and 18 recoveries as of Monday.