With Congress granting President Duterte the much-needed special powers to better tackle the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019), Malacanang asked Filipinos to be on guard against people who are out to sow disorder and undermine government efforts by circulating fake news through social media.
“Once again, we urge our countrymen to be wary of rumors and false news designed to create panic and confusion propagated by the enemies of peace and order,” Presidential Spokesman and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.
The Palace was reacting to numerous fake reports that are popping in social media sides that make people worry, including an alleged plan by Duterte to impose food rationing as he implements his emergency powers.
The two houses of Congress have already passed the bill titled “Bayanihan To Heal As One Act” granting stand-by powers to the President to carry out effectively the national policy of stopping the spread of COVID-19.
“There is an urgent need to implement measures that will help address the health scare brought about by the spread of COVID-19 in our land. They include the effective detection of the virus among the populace, prompt testing by health facilities of patients, protection and access to transportation in favor of our health workers who are at the frontline of this battle, maintenance of availability and pricing of essential and basic commodities for consumers, and provision thereof to those belonging to the vulnerable sectors of society, among others,” Panelo said.
The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act authorizes the President to immediately implement measures, such as:
Effective education, detection, protection, and treatment of Filipinos versus COVID-19;
Expediting the accreditation of testing kits and facilitating the prompt testing by public and designated private institutions;
Providing allowance or compensation and shouldering medical expenses in favor of public and private health workers;
Directing establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, or relief and aid distribution locations, as well as public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel;
Ensuring the availability of essential goods, in particular food and medicine, and protecting the people from illegal and pernicious practices affecting the supply, distribution and movement of certain essential items;
Directing the extension of statutory deadlines for the filing of government requirements and setting grace periods for payment of loans and rents; and
Providing subsidy to low-income households and implementing an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilya Program.
Panelo assured the Filipino people that the powers granted the President shall be enforced strictly in accordance with the Constitution. “The grant of powers is for a limited period and subject to the restrictions contained therein.”
President Duterte, in a taped message, said: ”I particularly thank Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for the strong and decisive leadership you have demonstrated in shepherding this measure to fruition during this critical time in our national history.”
“To the members of both houses of Congress who sponsored and voted for this measure, I express my sincerest gratitude to all of you for granting our most urgent requests. Finally, the Executive Department can move, decide and act freely for the best interest of the Filipino people during this health crisis.”