Lawmakers, Malacañang to discuss allowing Duterte ‘flexibility’ to deal with pandemic

Aika Rey
Lawmakers, Malacañang to discuss allowing Duterte ‘flexibility’ to deal with pandemic
Key Senate and House leaders will meet on Saturday, March 21, with senior Cabinet officials on 'how to empower the government' during this crisis, says Senate President Tito Sotto

MANILA, Philippines – Congressional leaders are set to meet with senior Cabinet officials in Malacañang on Saturday, March 21, to consider giving President Rodrigo Duterte the power to address the coronavirus outbreak “with flexibility.”

“[Special session is] postponed – converted to a meeting in the Palace with House counterparts,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters late Friday, March 20.

Sotto said that Senator Pia Cayetano, the Senate ways and means committee head, will attend the meeting with him, because Senator Sonny Angara, the Senate finance panel head, could not go.

The meeting on Saturday at 2 pm will also be attended by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

Duterte initially called for a special session to approve the supplemental budget that the Department of Health (DOH) had requested to address the coronavirus outbreak. 

“We will discuss tomorrow [March 21] how to empower and give the government the flexibilty to address the present crisis,” Sotto said.

Asked whether an emergency powers bill will be tackled at the meeting, Sotto said: “Hindi naman emergency powers. (It’s not really emergency powers.) They want to discuss the parameters para malinaw at mabilis kaya (so it’s clear and quick so) we meet with House counterparts and executive department muna (first) to finish the draft bill.”

The Senate President said that the meeting will be done because the “terms could not be finalized.” He did not elaborate.

Duterte declared a state of calamity in the Philippines and a total lockdown on the island of Luzon, as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the country.

Several provinces, cities, and municipalities in the Visayas and Mindanao had likewise declared localized lockdowns.

As of Friday afternoon, there are 230 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, 18 of whom have died. –

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at