NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Boholhas granted Governor Arthur C. Yap in what appeared to be “extra” power in abid to fight the dreaded coronavirus even the Capitol has repeatedly touted that the province has zero COVID-19 positive case.
It is entitled is “Bayanihan To Heal as One Act” and granting authority to the governor to carry out emergency measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, subject to the limitations provided by law, and for other purposes, as sponsored and presented by BM Frans Gelaine Garcia.
The said legislative measure was passed with the suspension of the three-reading rule.
However, the Ordinance, under section8, “shall be in full force and effect only for three (3) months, unless extended” by the provincial board.
One of such “extra” power of the governor is that “the Provincial Governor may direct the discontinuance of appropriated programs, projects and activities (PPAs) of the Provincial Government, the allotments for which remain unobligated, and utilize the savings generated there from to augment the allocation for any item directly related to support the operations and response measures which are necessary or beneficial in order to address the COVID-19emergency, consistent with the herein policy adopted from the declared national policy in RA 11469, subject to the existing rules regulations of the Commission on Audit (COA) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) under emergency situations,” under Par.aa, section 4 of the ordinance.
The above mentioned provision maybe carried out only if the funds of disaster risk reduction fund and trust fund are exhausted.
As a check-and-balance, the Ordinance provides for an oversight function to review the reports of the governor “to determine whether such acts, orders rules and regulations are within the restrictions.”
A fine of P5,000 and imprisonment for a period of One (1) year are imposed to any person, natural or juridical, who unjustifiably prevents, either directly or indirectly the Provincial Governor from exercising the foregoing authorized powers, or unjustifiably disobeys or defies his lawful orders pursuant to this authorized powers.
The Ordinance provides P1 million from the general fund of the Capitol for the implementation of Section 4, letter “z” “to grant monetary reward in the amount of P10,000.00to any person who shall provide any information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of any offender, violators and their cohorts or anybody a betting the commission of any acts in violation of the imposition of the travel ban of inbound passengers to Bohol.”
Meanwhile, some members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan have expressed doubts over the legitimacy of the proposed legislative measure granting authority to the governor to put in place emergency countermeasures to curb COVID-19 from spreading.
Provincial Board Member Dr. Elpidio M. Jala said that he“ understands why some of us doubt the legality of the proposed ordinance.”
Jala argued that Bohol has zero covid-19 positive, report of the Committee of the whole showed.
“The ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine) in Bohol is not consistent with the requirements because supposedly, ECQ will only be declared when there are at least 2 COVID-19 positive patients,” he said.
“Bohol should not have been declared with on the State of Calamity because it is 0 positive of COVID-19,” he added.
But despite his insistence, the said ordinance —- adopting the National Policy under Republic Act No. 11469, known as “Bayanihan To Heal as One Act” and granting authority to the governor to carry out emergency measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, subject to the limitations provided by law, and for other purposes —- was approved by the SP without objection as presented and sponsored by Board Member Frans Gelaine Garcia.
(a) Adopt and implement measures to prevent or suppress further transmission and spread of COVID-19 through effective education, detection, protection and treatment following World Health Organization (WHO) and Department of Health(DOH) guidelines and best practices;
(b) Facilitate the prompt testing of Persons considered as COVID SUSPECT CASE and COVID PROBABLE CASE;
(c) Compel the immediate isolation and treatment of patients;
(d) Provide an emergency subsidy to low income households affected by the pandemic, subject to availability of funds;
(e) Subject to availability of funds, provide public health workers with a“COVID-19 special risk allowance” in addition to the hazard pay granted under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers (RA No. 7305);
(f) Subject to availability of funds, provide compensation to public and private health workers who may contract severe COVID-19 infection or die while in the line of duty, retroactive to February 1, 2020;
(g) Ensure that component LGUs comply with the rules, regulations and directives issued by the national and provincial government;
(h) Implement standards of community quarantine consistent with the protocols laid down by the national and provincial government;
(i) Coordinate with privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities in the Province, including passenger vessels, hotels and other establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations, or other temporary medical facilities, and public transportation to ferry health, emergency and frontline personnel and other persons;
(j) Provide reasonable compensation to owners of privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities in the Province, including passenger vessels, hotels and other establishments, used to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations, or other temporary medical facilities, and public transportation used to ferry health, emergency and frontline personnel and other persons;
(k) In coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), enforce measures to protect the people from hoarding, profiteering, in jurious speculations, manipulation of prices, product deceptions and cartels, monopolies or other combinations in restraint of trade, or other pernicious practices affecting the supply, distribution and movement of food, clothing, hygiene and sanitation products, medicine and medical supplies, fuel, fertilizers, chemicals, building materials, implements, machinery equipment and spare parts required in agriculture, industry and other essential services, and other articles of prime necessity;
(l) Ensure that the donation, acceptance and distribution of health products intended to address the COVID-19 public health emergency are not unnecessarily delayed. Provided, that donations coursed through the Provincial Government shall be subject to the accountability and transparency requirement;
(m) As the need arises, procure goods necessary to combat the disease in the most expeditious manner as exemptions to the default mode of public bidding pursuant to RA No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, and other relevant laws;
(n) To the maximum extent possible, ensure the availability of essential goods, especially rice and staple foods and medicine, by adopting measures asmay be reasonably necessary to facilitate and minimize disruption of its supply chain;
(o) Ensure continuous and regular food production activities by allowing farmers, fisherfolks and other agri-fisheries stakeholders to continue producing food or conduct other related agri-industrial activities, including, but not limited to, continuous operation of fertilizer and veterinary-related businesses, subject to the provision on quarantine protocol;
(p) Partner with the City, Municipal and Barangay Local Government Units (LGUs), as well as the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), as the primary humanitarian agency that is auxiliary to the government in giving aid to the people, subject to reimbursement in the distribution of goods and services incidental in the fight against COVID-19;
(q) Engage temporary Human Resources for Health (HRH) such as medical and allied medical staff to complement or supplement the current health workforce or to man the temporary medical facilities that may be established in worst case situations;
(r) To the maximum extent possible in law, ensure the availability of credit to the productive sectors of the economy, through coordination with lending institutions;
(s) Require businesses to prioritize and accept contracts, subject to fair and reasonable terms, for materials and services necessary to promote the herein policy;
(t) In coordination with the appropriate national government regulatory agencies, regulate and limit the operation of all sectors of transportation through land, sea or air, whether private or public;
(u) Implement the regulated traffic on all roads, streets and bridges, and access thereto, and perform all other related acts;
(v) Authorize alternative working arrangements in the Provincial Government, and whenever necessary, coordinate with component LGUs and other government agencies and the owners of businesses and industries in the private sector in its implementation;
(w) In coordination with the appropriate national government regulatory agencies, conserve and regulate the distribution and use of power, fuel, energy and water, and ensure adequate supply of the same;
(x) Ensure that individuals and groups shall not create, perpetrate or spread false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms that have no valid and beneficial effect on the population, and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear, or confusion;
(y) Ensure that those participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the current crisis situation to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails or other similar acts shall be dealt with pursuant to RA 11469;
(z) Considering the issuance of Executive Orders No. 8 and 14 as amended by Executive Order No. 22, all Series of 2020, from the governor, to allow him to grant monetary reward in the amount of TEN THOUSANDPESOS (P10,000.00) to any person who shall provide any information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of any offender, violators and their cohorts or anybody abetting the commission of any acts in violation of the imposition of the travel ban of inbound passengers to Bohol, subject to the Implementing Rules and Regulations as may be drafted by the Provincial Emergency Management Administration (PEMA). (rvo)