Duterte set to certify as urgent bill extending Bayanihan law – Zubiri

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 29) — President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to certify as urgent the bill extending the validity of the "Bayanihan" law until September 30, Senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri said on Friday.

Zubiri, who filed Senate Bill 1546 which revises Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, said he was given an "assurance" by the Palace.

"I was told they will issue a certification of the measure. They're just waiting for the committee report. They want to see the version we pass at the committee level. We have an assurance," he said during a joint virtual hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

He admitted the Senate may not be able to pass all stimulus measures next week due to limited time. He added they are prioritizing the bill extending the validity of the Bayanihan law as Congress only has until June 5 to pass the proposed law since they will adjourn sine die on that date.

In the House of Representatives, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed a similar bill on May 26.

Both bills seek to provide a three-month extension of the Bayanihan act, which was passed in March. It allows Duterte to continue to exercise power to realign "items in the national budget and provide emergency support for vulnerable groups and individuals, expand medical resources, and finance emergency initiatives to keep the economy afloat" during this public health crisis.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon seeks for the repeal of Section 6 of the Bayanihan Act, which penalizes crimes and disobedience linked to the COVID-19 crisis. He said law enforcer are using this provision to abuse their powers, citing the cases of killing of ex-soldier Winston Ragos who allegedly violated quarantine rules and the arrest of Cebu artist Bambi Beltran for writing a satirical Facebook post on COVID-19 cases in a sitio.

"The purpose of the law is to protect the health of the people, not per se, to punish a crime. We should not criminalize the Bayanihan Heal as One Law. The violators are driven by hunger and lack of jobs," he said.

He argued that the crimes cited in the specific section is already punishable under different laws.

Philippine National Police Chief Director General Archie Gamboa, who was a resource person in the hearing, said he "submits to the wisdom of the Senate" to remove the sanctions. He said, among the COVID-related cases filed against several violators, the PNP has not used the Bayanihan law as basis.

"I myself dissected this and true enough, we need the requirement of deputation of other government agencies for PNP to function," he said.

More than 15,000 people in the country have been infected by COVID-19 so far. Over 3,500 have recovered but 904 have died.