Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo

Malacañang spokesman Salvador Panelo on Sunday rushed to clarify President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for emergency powers from Congress. Panelo said in a message sent to reporters:

“The letter to Congress signed by the Exec. Sec. (Executive Secretary) says powers necessary to carry our urgent measures to implement the national emergency, not emergency powers.”

While the words “emergency powers” were not explicitly used by Medialdea, the president’s letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, dated March 21, 2020, certified the “necessity of the immediate enactment” of an act declaring a “State of National Emergency.”

“Emergency powers” is mentioned however in Section 3 (Declaration of Policy) of the draft bill attached to Medialdea’s transmittal letter to Congress.

Sections 3 and 4 of the draft emergency powers bill attached to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea’s letter to Congress, which Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo might have overlooked.

Section 4 of the draft bill grants 18 “authorized powers,” including the takeover of utilities and private businesses such as telecommunications companies and hotels.

The bill, which proposes at least a two-month period for the state of national emergency, contains similar language to old laws that had granted emergency powers to the Executive, such as Republic Act 6826 that gave President Corazon Aquino emergency powers to crush a military rebellion and secessionist movements in December 1989.

Article VI, Section 23(2) of the 1987 Constitution vests the power to declare a state of emergency on Congress:

(2) In times of war or other national emergency, the Congress may, by law, authorize the President, for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as it may prescribe, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy. Unless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next adjournment thereof.

Section 7 of the draft bill provides that nothing in the emergency powers act shall be “construed or interpreted as a restriction of the Bill of Rights or of the Constitution.” (