COVID-19 Op-ed

Bayanihan To Heal As One Act: Weaponisation against Covid-19 or the People?

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Jyrus CimatuResearch Editor –
UST Law Review (A.Y. 2019 – 2020)
Doctor of Jurisprudence
Candidate, University of Santo Tomas – Faculty of Civil Law
Assistant II – Human Rights Victims’ Board (2017)
Assistant – Public Attorneys’ Office: Special and Appealed Cases Division

order to respond “effectively” against CoVID-19, the Philippine government
enacted Bayanihan To Heal As One Act (BaHO Act), which
grants the President powers to address the dilemma. It is guided by Par (a),
Sec. 6 of such law, which states that the President is encouraged to flatten
the curve through education, detection, protection, and treatment. The powers
granted may be classified as: capacity-building, relief, regulation, and
budgetary which individually may have one, some, or all of the aspects
combined in order to achieve Bayanihan (which loosely
means community solidarity) holistically.The pandemic served as an impetus
for the exertion of the police power which greatly interferes with the exercise
of civil and economic liberties. It is only imperative that its
constitutional foundations be critically examined.A preliminary but
primordial discussion must be concerned as to how the emergency response will
be funded as the national budget is already enacted under the
General Appropriations Act  which the President
cannot further modify as the power of the purse is solely lodged in the
Legislature. Guided by the jurisprudence of Araullo v. Aquino
and Belgica v. Ochoa, Congress, in wielding
its police power, specifically the power of the purse, delegated its
authority over the budget to the President in order to curb bureaucracy and
streamline the change of appropriations for effective implementation.This,
however, begs the question as to whether the delegation is constitutional.
The delegation of  powers is not a legal quagmire as the Supreme Court
in Araneta v. Dinglasan and Disini v.
Secretary of Justice
spells out the limits thereof. To have
constitutional imprimatur, it must pass the tests of completeness and
sufficiency. The completeness test states that the law must be complete in
all its terms and conditions such that no ambiguity will ensue and the only
thing be done is its implementation. The sufficiency test commands that
powers be delineated with safeguards, limitations, and guidelines in order to
determine its extent and prevent abuse thereof.The BaHO Act passes the
completeness test as it specifically enumerates the powers and the
corresponding standards on which it should be guided upon with the ultimatum
that the exercise thereof shall not supersede Constitutional rights. It also
passes the test of sufficiency as it empowers the Congress to have oversight
in requiring the President to report weekly and that the emergency powers
will terminate after three months or sooner.Capacity-building spearheaded by
the Executive aims to enable and promote the health sector to operate in a
safe, efficient, and effective manner and not overburden the hospitals which
may cripple its performance and result to loss of lives. This is manifested
in the streamlined acquisition of necessary goods in dealing with the
pandemic that is an exception to the bureaucratic process of procurement set
by law.Relief powers are given so that socio-economic safety nets may be
properly placed to provide support for the informal sector, sustain general
welfare, and establish peace and order so that during the lockdown where
access to labor and market is severely restricted, acts of violence in order
to obtain basic necessities would not be resorted to which would violate the
social distancing policy espoused by health authorities.Regulatory powers are
also granted to control all forms of transportation and mobility in order to
reduce rates of transmission. This contemplates the power of oversight over
local government units (LGUs) which serves as the frontline in providing
basic necessities to the communities and helping keep the peace within their
jurisdiction in a time of social unrest.While the BaHO Act aims to eradicate
the health crisis, it is noted that the law is a double-edged sword which
while presumably legislated for benevolent purposes may malevolently executed
by authorities for their own ulterior motives. The weaponization of the law
is utilized to legitimize violation of basic civil liberties.As of writing,
the numbers of infection are skyrocketing even without mass testing and there
is a proliferation of human rights violation such as police brutality
committed by public officials against quarantine violators paired by
discrimination against health workers. Politicization in the guise of
sanitization is also present in the undue investigations of LGU officials
which tends to disable support at the community level. Socio-economic relief
is also not justly implemented with families receiving little to no support
which resulted to rallies not conforming to social distancing measures which
is also coincided by the suspension of the labor department to dole out
monetary support to workers affected. Social distancing measures are also
loosely implemented by the LGU and national government with reports of
cockfighting events and boxing matches being held compromise public
health.The issue of public health in the time of crisis is also an issue of
human rights wherein science cannot be separated from politics. Human rights
cannot be compromised for the sake of public health and of public order. It
is supplementary in dealing with the systemic problem of inequality and
injustice of the system. By allowing abuse and violence to be entrenched
during a crisis, we are breeding a culture and system that would be
detrimental in the future that violates our altars of freedoms and basic
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v. Secretary of Justicee, G.R. No. 203335, February 11, 2014Ileto, Reynaldo,
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Woolcock, The Politics and Process of Rule of Law Systems in Developmental
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vs. Vico Sotto a ‘useless political distraction’ amid COVID-19 crisis, DILG
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Cash-strapped DOLE suspends cash aid but DBM said funds are coming,,
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Cop relieved for punching curfew violators,,
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