Monday, March 23, 2020

Allocation of funds is the solution, not delegation of extra powers to the President

Workers who were forced into home quarantine without subsidies, in collective agony, already have a full view and had a taste of how disruptive and repressive Presidential power works during emergencies. The people never asked for it in the first place, nor will locked-down communities today demand for a more extensive quarantine measure from the President.

Quarantine subsidy, free mass testing and treatment as well as adequate support to our front-liners are clearly what the working people need today. Sadly, however, as we obey social distancing policies at home, what we find sorely lacking from the President's declaration of public health emergency and the implementation of lockdown policy is FUNDING, which under the Constitution, is the primary duty of Congress and not of the President.

Now is the time, therefore, for Congress to do its part in the COVID-19 battle. It should, as a matter of obligation, allocate more funds for the frontline workers, their safety and their supplies, and subsidies for the millions in forced home quarantine. In particular, Nagkaisa is urging the leadership of both houses of Congress to allocate funds for:

1. 10,000-peso Quarantine Subsidy to each worker in the formal and informal sector for their food and essential needs. We estimate that 225 billion pesos would be needed to provide this level of subsidy.
2. 10 billion pesos for mass testing, treatment, and adequate support to our front-liners, including their PPEs, transport needs, quarantine and proper accommodation.
3. Prepare the 2021 budget prioritizing measures versus pandemics and establishing the Center for Disease Control and Protection in the long term.

We further believe that addressing this policy gap in the fight against COVID-19 does not require the granting of emergency powers to the President as realignments and new fund allocation properly belongs to Congress. You might as well consider doing sessions in quarantine in Batasan rather than staying at home without pay like ordinary workers.

We also urge Congress not to allow any attempt to clip the powers of the LGU’s just to ensure national compliance to standards which in principle must also consider local application based on local conditions. We would rather prefer local innovations than presidential sanctions. As a matter of fact, most LGUs, especially those outside NCR, also need to augment their resources for general welfare to promote health and safety under section 16 of the Local Government Code.

As to the taking over of public utilities, the Constitution already allows the President to take such extreme measure when public interest so requires.

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