By Mario Casayuran
Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘’Bong’’ Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, threw last night his full support behind the urgent passage by Congress of Senate Bill (SB) No. 1418, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act bill, to battle coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
This bill, according to Go, aims to empower and give the government the flexibility it needs to address the present health emergency.
‘’Further, it seeks to grant authority to the President to do what may be deemed necessary in accordance with the law to fund measures to address and respond to the threats of COVID-19 and the economic impact that comes with it,’’ he said.
In his co-sponsorship speech of the bill last night, Go said the
measure also allows for needed realignments in the budget of concerned agencies so they could prioritize the provision of immediate healthcare needs, as well as food and cash assistance to affected Filipinos, particularly those belonging to vulnerable sectors.
Excerpts of his speech follow:
‘’As a legislator, allow me also to emphasize to my former colleagues in the Executive Branch: We are passing this measure out of trust and we hope that your conscience will guide you in implementing this measure. Nagtitiwala kami sa inyong kakayahan at katapatan. (We trust in your capability and integrity.)
‘’In line with granting these resources and the authority and flexibility needed to utilize them as deemed necessary, we want the Executive to make sure that this is done in the most transparent manner and that every centavo should be accounted for.
‘’Sa Department of Trade and Industry, please ensure the unhampered movement of basic goods and necessities. Bantayan ninyo ang supply, ang presyo, at itigil ninyo ang lahat ng nagsasamantala sa panahong ito.(Watch the flow of supplies, their prices, and stop those who will take advantage of the current crisis.)
‘’We want everyone to ‘stay home.’ But for that to happen, we have to make sure that we are able to sufficiently provide them with the necessary means to take care of their families and ensure the security they need in order to remain in their homes.
‘’Tulad nga ng sinabi ng ating (As our) Senate President (said) – Cash is Food. Food is security. Security is peace and order.
‘’Ito ang prayoridad na dapat maibigay kapag inimplementa ang batas na ito (These are the priorities that need to be given when this law is implemented) – provide immediate healthcare needs to solve the health problem and defeat the virus and, at the same time, to provide cash and food assistance to those who are affected the most in this crisis.
‘’As to the public, the authority to be given to the President must be for a limited period only, subject to restrictions, and solely to be exercised within what is deemed necessary to put an end to this crisis and to support those who are affected by it.
“The Constitution and all other laws that protect the rights of the people will remain in full force and effect.
“Mr. President, gamitin po natin ang pondong meron tayo para mabigyan ng proteksyon at alaga ang ating mga health workers, doctors, nurses at iba pang frontliners tulad ng pulis at military. Gamitin natin ang pondo para sa PPEs, hazard pay, at pagkain para sa kanila.
(Let us use the funds to protect our health workers, doctors, nurses, and other frontliners such as the police and military. Let us use the funds for personal protective equipment (PPEs), hazard pay, and meals for them.)
“Our frontliners chose to work and serve their country. This is the least we could do to help them.
‘’Maraming salamat po sa inyong serbisyo (Thank you for your service). We commend all our frontliners – health workers, doctors and nurses, who have sacrificed their lives to save their fellow Filipinos. Kayo ang mga bayani sa giyera na ito (You are the heroes of this war).
‘’To the police and military, I commend you for your patience and hard work; and for always being ready to protect and serve our people. We are facing trying times, so please exercise maximum tolerance.
‘’And, of course, sa mga (to the) local government units (LGUs), governors, vice governors, mayors, vice mayors, barangay officials na nag-aasikaso sa kanilang mga (who take care of their) constituents.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to address our Overseas Filipino Workers: The Philippines is your home and you will always be welcome and taken care of here.
“Ang stand po ng ating Pangulo ay tanggapin niya ang mga Pilipino na gustong umuwi, dahil kung pati sa sariling bansa nila ay ayaw sila tanggapin, saan pa sila pupunta?
(The President’s stand is he will accept any Filipino who wants to come home, because if they will not be accepted by their home country, where else will they go?)
“To my fellow servants in the government, particularly those in local government units and those leading our barangays, this is the time to set aside politics. Let us be accountable to, and united for our people. Unahin natin ang buhay at kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino. (Let us put the life and welfare of every Filipino first.)
‘’To reiterate the points that I have raised here today: (1) Siguraduhin natin na magamit ang pera ng bayan ng tama. (2) Siguraduhin natin na makarating ang tulong sa pinaka-nangangailangan at pinaka-mahihirap nating mga kababayan. (3) Siguraduhin natin na walang pinipiling oras ang ating pagtulong at pagserbisyo sa bayan.
(Ensure the correct use of the taxpayers’ money. Ensure that the aid goes to the neediest and the poorest of our countrymen. Ensure that we don’t choose the hour that we help and serve the country.)
‘’I appeal to my fellow Filipinos: magtiwala po kayo sa inyong gobyerno. Sumunod po tayo sa mga patakaran ng Inter-Agency Task Force (for Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases). Wala po kaming ibang hangarin kung hindi ang kapakanan ninyo at kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino.
(Let us trust in our government. Let us follow the policies of the IATF. We have no other motive except your well-being and the health of every Filipino.)
‘’To quote President Duterte: “We are now in the fight of our lives.” Kung hindi tayo magkakaisa at kung hindi natin tutulungan ang ating gobyerno, siguradong matatalo tayo ng COVID-19.
(If we are not united and we don’t help our government, we will be defeated by COVID-19.)
‘’Nakita naman natin sa ibang bansa na mas mayaman at mas moderno kesa sa Pilipinas, pati sila tinamaan pa rin. Wala pong pinipili ang sakit na ito. Kaya napaka-importante ng kooperasyon ng bawat isa sa atin.”
(We have seen that nations richer and more advanced than the Philippines are hard hit. This disease does not choose its victims. That is why each one’s cooperation is very important.)