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No statute can create or grant competent leadership, relentless political will and requisite efficiency even as there are sufficient funds and powers available to President Rodrigo Duterte to combat the COVID-19 pandemic without the need of an enabling law.

The “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” granting additional powers to the President to address the contagion is superfluous and unconstitutional.

In the first place, there is no need for the President to ask the Congress to declare a state of national emergency in the wake of the deadly virus because he himself has the authority to make such a declaration.

In David vs. Macapagal-Arroyo (G.R. No. 171396, May 3, 2006), the Supreme Court held: “Clearly, they (framers of the 1987 Constitution) did not intend that Congress should first authorize the President before he can declare a ‘state of national emergency’. The logical conclusion then is that President Arroyo could validly declare the existence of a State of National Emergency even in the absence of a Congressional enactment.”

In fact, much earlier on December 6, 1989, or 31 years ago, President Corazon C. Aquino issued Proclamation No. 503 “Declaring a State of National Emergency throughout the Philippines”, without waiting for congressional authorization, to address military adventurism.

Moreover, President Duterte virtually declared a national emergency when he issued Proclamation No. 922 dated March 8, 2020 “Declaring a State of Public Health Emergency throughout the Philippines” and Proclamation No. 929 dated March 16, 2020 “Declaring a State of Calamity throughout the Philippines due to Coronavirus Disease 2019” and an “Enhanced Community Quarantine throughout Luzon beginning 12 midnight tonight until 12 April 2020”.

There are multi-billion peso funds available in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) which the President can readily order to be implemented without the need for realignment as COVID-19 response because these funds are precisely allocated to meet contingencies and calamities like the President’s P12-billion Contingent Fund and the P16-billion National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF) or calamity fund.

Moreover, funds for social amelioration to help affected citizens, displaced workers and/or distressed small businesses are provided for in the following Departments, among others:

  1. P600-M replenished Quick Response Fund of the Department of Health (DOH).

  2. P8,733,927,000.00 fund for “protective services for individuals and families in especially difficult circumstance”; P108,765,970,000.00 for “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program”; and P1,250,000,000.00 Quick Response Fund in the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

  3. P9,941,858,000.00 for “Workers Protection and Welfare”; P6,787,305,000.00 for “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers – Government Internship Program” (Tupad-GIP) and P423,126,000.00 livelihood program in the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

  4. P1,500,000,000.00 fund for “Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso Program” for small enterprises in the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); and

  5. P1,015,000,000.00 for “Tulong Trabaho Fund” in the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

There are also additional funds for the anti-coronavirus campaign from the: (1) Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) of P12-billion in addition to an initial P2.5-billion; (2) Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) of P1-billion; (3) Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) of P30-billion; (4) Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) of P300-billion for economic stimulus; and (5) donations from domestic corporations and foreign countries.

It is a surplusage to restate the current coverage and effectivity of existing laws like the:

  1. Price Act or RA No. 7581 which authorizes the fixing of mandated price control of basic or essential commodities and prohibits price manipulation to protect consumers during emergencies;

  2. RA No. 6124 prohibiting and penalizing profiteering, hoarding and other acts in restraint of trade;

  3. Exemptions from the procurement requirements during emergencies or calamities as provided for in Sec. 53(b) of RA. No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act;

  4. Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 or RA No. 9485; and

  5. Universal PhilHealth Coverage.

The grant is also superfluous because the President has express and inherent powers as Chief Executive which he has been exercising without any impediment and before the passage of the “Bayanihan Act” like:

  1. The initial lockdown in the National Capital Region which was extended to the entire Luzon;

  2. Land, air and sea travel and transportation restrictions;

  3. Engagement of uniformed personnel to implement emergency policies;

  4. Availment of the services of frontline health professionals and medical care workers;

  5. Emergency purchases of test kits, personal protective equipment, face masks, drugs and medicines;

  6. Requiring the assistance of local government units;

  7. Adoption of alternative or flexible work schedules;

  8. Extension of the filing of tax deadlines;

  9. Suspension of the payment of rental fees for residential leases and selected commercial leases; and

  10. Deferral of the payment of bank loans and corresponding interests.

The President also has the authority to use legitimate savings to augment deficiently-funded projects and programs in the Executive Department under Sec. 66 of the General Provisions in the GAA.

Aside from being superfluous, the so-called “Bayanihan Act” is constitutionally infirm because:

  1. The authority granted to the President to generate forced savings by his “discontinuance of appropriated programs, projects or activities” in the GAA is in derogation of the constitutional power of the purse of the Congress, and consequently an invalid delegation of power;

  2. The authority granted to the President to “reprogram, reallocate and realign” budgetary allocations constitutes “transfer of funds” which is prohibited under Sec. 25 of Art. VI of the Constitution; and

  3. The three-month duration of the grant of additional powers to the President is a violation of Sec. 23 (2) of Art. VI which provides that “[u]nless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next adjournment thereof” (of the Congress), which in this case is on June 6, 2020 before the end of the legislated three-month period.