As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continued to swell in the Philippines, some netizens rejected granting President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for emergency as solution to the outbreak.
Duterte has called on Congress to declare a “national emergency” and grant him the “emergency powers,” saying it is a “necessary” move to address the crisis.
The draft bill, which both chambers of Congress deliberated during a special session on Monday, March 23, seeks to allow Duterte to “reprogram, reallocate, and realign” funds. It would also allow him to “temporarily take over or direct the operation” of privately-owned utilities or businesses needed to address public needs during the coronavirus emergency, among others.
As Congress deliberated on Monday, the hashtag #NoToEmergencyPowers trended on Twitter in the Philippine, reaching over 21,200 tweets as of early Monday afternoon.
Several netizens pointed out that emergency powers weren’t needed since the President had not even made full use of the powers and resources currently at his disposal. (READ: #MassTestingNow: Online petition calls for urgent action on coronavirus outbreak)
Others pointed out how local government units had managed to put in place effective measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus and heed the needs of those deeply affected without resorting to emergency powers. (READ: [EDITORIAL] Emergency measures? Show us the plan first)
In a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Philippine government placed the whole island of Luzon, home to over 57 million people, on lockdown.
The burden of implementation has been placed on local governments. Among the crucial tasks given to them is to find ways to feed residents and to bring workers in essential fields and services brought to their workplace.
Netizens urged Duterte to focus on empowering local government units, to help address needs on the ground, instead of requesting for emergency powers.
Duterte earlier warned local officials struggling to enforce a Luzon-wide lockdown to follow all the national government’s orders, or risk facing administrative cases.
The reminder came after several national officials rejected Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto’s appeal to exempt tricycles from the travel restriction placed on public utility vehicles, so these can transport health workers and people in need of medical attention. (READ: #ProtectVico trends as netizens defend Pasig Mayor’s coroanvirus measures)
Marikina City plans to set up its own testing center, using test kits from a local private biotechnology firm, but the Malacañang wants it and other LGUs with similar plans to first run this through with the national government first. (READ: Where are testing centers for coronavirus in the PH?)
Other netizens were worried that Duterte’s proposal for emergency powers was a thinly veiled attempt at enforcing martial law. They urged the President to direct his attention to pushing for better health policies in light of the outbreak. (READ: Filipino scientists call on government to conduct mass testing for coronavirus)
As of Saturday night, March 21, the country had 380 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 25 fatalities.
Despite the increasing number of cases, the Department of Health maintains there is no need to implement mass testing, even when it has procured more than a 100,000 kits from China, South Korea, and Brunei.
The Philippines only has 5 facilities approved by the World Health Organization to process coronavirus samples. The country, so far, has a testing capacity of 950 to 1,000 tests per day.
Here’s what other netizens have to say about the matter:
Do you believe emergency powers are necessary for the President to address the coronavirus outbreak in the country? Sound off in the comments section or in the replies below! – Rappler.com