[OPINION] Why is the military taking the lead in the National Action Plan?

Susan Villanueva

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[OPINION] Why is the military taking the lead in the National Action Plan?
The Bayanihan law that was signed to address the coronavirus directs a multi-pronged government strategy

The public outcry against the original drafts of the emergency power bills led to a better version of the law, thanks to the intervention of the progressive bloc in the House of Representatives and the amendments made by the Senate.

The Bayanihan law, as passed, is no longer the vague bill that granted broad and unfettered powers to the President that was drafted with a prolonged lockdown in mind. The original bill especially of the House was favored by the country’s security control apparatus led by the police-military establishments and appealed to the hammer-minded President. That is why it was focused on security concerns.

But the Bayanihan law as passed goes beyond security measures and is multi-pronged in strategy: health, economic, and security directions with the budget needed to achieve them.

The actual powers granted to the President under the Bayanihan Law can be divided into the following:

Health strategy
The Bayanihan Law is heavy on health strategy. The health strategy appears to focus on a shift to massive testing (with contact tracing and isolation) as opposed to prolonged lockdown as the solution to fight the pandemic:

  • Streamlining of accreditation of test kits
  • Prompt testing of persons under investigation (PUI) and persons under monitoring (PUM)
  • Compulsory and immediate isolation and treatment of patients
  • PhilHealth coverage for all COVID-19 treatments
  • Ensuring that donation of health products is not delayed
  • Priority procurement, allocation and distribution of medical goods such as test kits, PPEs, medical devices (i.e. mechanical ventilators), and medicines (i.e., vaccines)
  • Allocation of these medical goods to COVID-19 referral hospitals
  • Engage volunteer health workers who shall get compensation plus hazard pay
  • Special Risk Allowance for all public health workers on in addition to the hazard pay
  • Cash compensation of P100,000 to public and private health workers who may contract severe COVID-19 infection on duty, and P1 million to public and private health workers who may die fighting the COVID-19 epidemic.
  • Limited take-over with proper compensation of the following, if they unjustifiably refuse or are incapable of operating during the COVID-19 crisis: private hospitals; establishments for the purpose of housing health workers; transportation of frontliners. 

Economic strategy
The law also recognizes that an economic solution is needed to complement the health strategy. This includes:

  • Emergency subsidy of P5,000 to P8,000 to 18 million low income households all over the country
  • Enforce anti-hoarding and profiteering measures for food, clothing, medical supplies etc
  • Availability of credit and lower interest rates for production
  • Incentives to manufacturers/importers of healthcare supplies
  • Ensure supply chain of food and medicine
  • Residential rent freeze for 30 days without penalties, interests, and other fees
  • Authorize alternative work arrangements for both government and private sector
  • Lift the 30% limit on the Quick Response Fund

The security strategy is not the focus of the law but appears to be complementary to the health and economic strategies. It includes:

  • Ensure compliance of local government units (LGUs) while still respecting their autonomy
  • Regulate transportation and traffic

To enable the multi-pronged strategies, the law sources the funds to achieve the strategies:

  • Additional budget from the Executive branch for the Department of Health (DOH); UP PGH; calamity fund; Department of Labor and Employement (DOLE) for the displaced workers; Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for its Livelihood Seeding Program; Department of Agriculture for its Rice Farmers Financial Assistance; Department of Education for the School Based Feeding Program; Department of Social Welfare and Development for Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations; LGUs for their Quick Response Funds.
  • Use of Special Purpose Funds for COVID-19 response
  • Report to Congress the amounts, realignment of funds every Monday of the week.

If this is the law that addresses COVID-19, why is the national implementing authority all military officers? (READ: What we know so far: PH National Action Plan on coronavirus)

Where is the DOH and DOST for health? The DTI, DOLE, and the National Economic and Development Authority for economic strategy? The Department of Budget and Management for budget?

Why is the implementing agency monopolized by the government’s security apparatus when the law directs a multi-pronged strategy, with security just complementary to health and economic strategies? – Rappler.com 


Susan Villanueva is a practising lawyer and professor at the UP College of Law. She first posted this piece on Facebook

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