World Newsletter

23 March 2020



MANILA — Congress is meeting on Monday, March 23, for a special session to,

according to a letter from the Palace, "authorize the president to exercise

powers necessary to carry out urgent measures to meet the current national

emergency relating to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)."

According to a leaked draft bill, Congress may grant the chief executive the

power to take over the operations of any privately-owned public utility or

business affected with public interest.

The proposed measure, which needs a counterpart bill at the House of

Representatives, grants Duterte the authority to regulate all forms of

transportation, telecommunications, and the distribution of power, fuel,

energy and water if needed.

He may also purchase more testing kits and construct properties without

passing through the usual procurement processes.

Among the powers proposed in the bill are:

Power to "ensure" that all local government units are "acting in line with

the rules and regulations issued by the National Government"

Adopt measures against hoarding and profiteering

Procure goods, including medical equipment and supplies

Lease property to house health workers or serve as quarantine centers

"Liberalize" incentives for manufacturers and importers of supplies

Regulate traffic on all streets

Cancel programs and reallocate funds from 2019 and 2020 budget bills to

generate savings

The House and Senate will be meeting separately.






MANILA - The Senate's special session meant to bolster the Philippines'

fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was stalled for more

than an hour on Monday, as the chamber struggled to muster enough members to

declare a quorum.

The Senate was supposed to convene in a special session at 10 a.m. to pass a

bill that would authorize the executive department to do away with

procurement laws during the coronavirus crisis, but under the chamber's

rules, a Senate session cannot be held unless more than half of the

24-strong chamber is present.

"We need to wait for 2 more colleagues," Senate President Vicente Sotto III

told senators present in the plenary at around 10:30 a.m.

The lawmakers who were already present in the session hall were Sotto,

acting majority leader Sherwin Gatchalian, senators Pia Cayetano,

Christopher "Bong" Go, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Manny Pacquiao, Grace

Poe, Ralph Recto, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., and Francis Tolentino.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and

Social Welfare Rolando Bautista also attended the session as resource


Sotto called a caucus shortly after session opened and invited the Cabinet

members to the Senate lounge while they wait for other lawmakers to arrive.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier told Sotto that he could

not attend the session because he was an identified carrier of COVID-19.

Sen. Sonny Angara was reportedly feeling unwell, while Sen. Risa Hontiveros,

who came in contact with Zubiri, is still on self-quarantine.

Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa earlier told ABS-CBN News that he could not attend the

session because he was "locked down" in his hometown Davao City.

Other senators have yet to confirm if they will attend the Senate's special


Sotto earlier said he was confident that the March 23 special session will

push through, saying senators committed to attend physically to pass

necessary laws needed to provide monetary aid for some 18 million low-income

Filipino families who lost their jobs after Luzon was placed on a month-long

lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19.

As of 11:20 a.m., the Senate's special session is still suspended.






MANILA -- The special powers that President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking will

allow him to "direct" businesses only as a "last resort" if they refuse to

help the government fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, Speaker Alan Peter

Cayetano said Monday.

Malacanang over the weekend asked Congress to pass a measure that would

declare a national emergency and allow government to tap privately-owned

utilities and businesses. A joint session of the Senate and the House of

Representatives will tackle the proposal on Monday.

With such power, government can direct establishments like gas stations to

stay open if they refuse to, and use hotels as quarantine sites for COVID-19

patients or as lodging for health workers, said Cayetano.

"Iyon pong isang sasabihin mo na halimbawa special power: iyong power to

direct businesses 'pag ayaw sumunod," he told DZMM.

"Ang nasa draft, hindi i-take over -- kundi as a last resort, 'pag hindi

nag-cooperate, saka iti-take over kasi nasa Konstitusyon iyon... Pero binago

na nga namin pati iyong wording to simply 'direct' businesses," he added.

The measure, he said, also sought to set aside "a little bit less than P200

billion" and give some 18 million families P5,000 to P8,000 each, depending

on the cost of living in their regions, said Cayetano.

"Ang gagawin po namin hindi appropriations, kundi bibigyan po ng leeway ay

gobyerno ayusin iyoong budget at off-budget items natin para puwedeng

gamitin," he said.

The joint session, scheduled at 10 a.m., will also seek additional funding

for the government's fight against the disease, which as of Sunday claimed

25 lives in the Philippines. A total of 380 cases were confirmed and 17

patients recovered.






MANILA - Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo denied rumors that the

government will impose a nationwide lockdown next week and ration food to

contain the spread of COVID-19.

A message that has since made the rounds on chat groups and text messages

claimed that the supposed "nationwide lockdown" will include all wet markets

to stop people from going out, and that food will be rationed every 3 days.

“That’s why here in Manila they’re distributing passes. Advise is to stock

food for 2 weeks,” the message read.

“Absolutely not true. Stop believing false news and information,” Panelo

said in a text message.

Senator Bong Go also denied any government plan of an impending nationwide

lockdown, calling the information a classic example of fake news.

“Classic example again of fake news. 'Di nakakatulong. Dagdag na naman sa

mga iisipin ng kababayan natin at dagdag sa problema. Pabigat at 'di

nakakatulong. Please quarantine their mouth,” Go said in a text message.

President Duterte is asking Congress to grant him special powers to address

the spread of COVID-19.





MANILA — The Department of Transportation on Monday morning apologized for

its post sharing the link to a poem “thanking” the coronavirus, which has

claimed thousands of lives globally.

“We apologize for the recent post we shared featuring the poem and video of

Polish vocalist/writer Riya Sokol, which is meant to provide an enlightening

and awakening narrative into this pandemic,” DoTr said in a statement.

Earlier Monday, DoTr posted a link on its social media pages to the video

featuring a poem, part of which said: “Thank you corona virus. Thank you for

shaking us and showing us we’re dependent on something much bigger than we


DoTR said that Sokol’s post made rounds in social media because “it presents

a different perspective, one which gives humanity a reflective pause and

appreciate what really matters in our lives.”

“We acknowledge that not all of our audience appreciate the underlying

message of the poem and video, and we understand that some view it as an

insensitive act. For that, we sincerely apologize,” DoTr also said.





MANILA — The director of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM)

is staying, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday morning.

“Dr. (Celia) Carlos will remain. I corrected that already,” Duque said in a

phone interview.

The health chief was reacting to the Department Order 2020-1011, a copy of

which made rounds in social media on Sunday, supposedly appointing Health

Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago as officer-in-charge of RITM.

"The circulating an erroneous draft of the document which was

inadvertently posted but immediately taken down," the Department of Health

(DOH) said in a separate statement.

RITM houses the country’s lone testing center for coronavirus disease-2019

(COVID-19) in Muntinlupa, and many speculated that the order assigning

Santiago as OIC, which essentially meant Carlos being booted out, was

because Carlos refused to prioritize VIP patients in testing.

Duque, for his part, said a new department order will be issued to formalize

Santiago's appointment to assist Carlos on improving the Philippines'

testing capabilities.

“He (Santiago) is really put there as an oversight... His job is to help Dr.

Carlos to expand the number of testing centers,” Duque clarified.






MANILA – ABS-CBN was able to raise a total of P236,997,391 on Sunday as more

than 100 Kapamilya stars came together for a virtual fundraising concert.

The broadcast giant launched the "Pantawid ng Pag-ibig" campaign last March

20 to assist local governments provide food and basic necessities to poor

families unable to source livelihood as a result of the Luzon lockdown amid

the COVID-19 pandemic.

It aims to raise money by mobilizing private companies and individuals

willing to help.

The amount was announced at the end of the three-hour concert, which aired

live on ABS-CBN, ABS-CBN S+A, ANC, MYX, DZMM Teleradyo, as well as AM radio

station DZMM Radyo Patrol 630, FM radio station MOR 101.9, and streaming

service iWant.

The government has imposed a Luzon-wide lockdown to contain the spread of

the pneumonia-like disease, which was described by the World Health

Organization as a pandemic after it killed and infected thousands of people


Several local governments in the Visayas and Mindanao have implemented their

own measures, such as community quarantines and lockdowns, to fight the

spread of COVID-19.





MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday clarified that there

is no mention of "emergency powers" for President Rodrigo Duterte in the

Senate version of a bill, which seeks to authorize the executive branch to

tap funds from government-owned and controlled corporations to boost the

Philippines' fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19.)

Documents cited in earlier reports were draft versions thumbed down by the

Senate, Sotto told DZMM.

"Wag sila matatakot dun sa emergency powers sa bill. Walang emergency powers

dun sa bill. Ako ang author e. 'Yung pinag-uusapan nilang kopya ay draft e,

draft ng kung sinong abogado," he said.

Under the Senate version filed by Sotto on Monday, the executive branch will

be only be allowed to use additional funds to provide aid for some 18

million indigent families, the Senate President said.

Each indigent family is expected to receive about P8,000 monthly for 2

months, he said.

"Nilagyan namin ito ng oversight. May oversight ang Congress ditto. Wag sila

mag-alala safe na safe ito," he said.

The Senate will tackle Sotto's bill in a special session on Monday.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, is leading a separate special session in

the other legislative chamber, said their version may include special powers

for Duterte "as a last resort."

"Iyon pong isang sasabihin mo na halimbawa special power: iyong power to

direct businesses 'pag ayaw sumunod," he told DZMM.

"Ang nasa draft, hindi i-take over -- kundi as a last resort, 'pag hindi

nag-cooperate, saka iti-take over kasi nasa Konstitusyon iyon... Pero binago

na nga namin pati iyong wording to simply 'direct' businesses," he added.






MANILA — A national state of emergency does not suspend human rights and the

writ of habeas corpus in the country, the Commission and Human Rights said.

This follows Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Martin Diño’s

remarks in a radio interview that “human rights are withdrawn during State

of Emergency.”

Clips of Diño’s interview with DzBB on March 21 are making rounds online,

where he said: “Wala na hong karapatan. Tandaan niyo, State of Emergency

ngayon. Ang karapayan pantao ay nawawala pagdating ng State of Emergency...

‘Pag ka ho may state of emergency, ‘yung writ of habeas corpus ay nawawala

na po yan.”

In a statement, the commission said “there may be acceptable restrictions”

during the state of national emergency, such as freedom of movement in

support of social distancing.

“But restrictions must also follow human rights standards, such that they

should be lawful, necessary, proportionate, and should not be used to target

specific groups, minorities or individuals,” the Commission stressed.








PARIS — Relatively obscure singers were the first to react musically to the

coronavirus with a small army of unknowns going viral with videos of

hand-washing dance numbers and riffs on "It's Corona Time" posted to social


But now the big stars are emerging from the hermetically sealed safety of

their mansions to get in on the act, with Bono and Michael Stipe leading the


Never has the 1987 R.E.M. hit "It's the End of the World as We Know It"

seemed more appropriate, and the band's former frontman Stipe appeared

slightly disheveled on a video on his website to sing its chorus on Saint

Patrick's Night.

Showing several days' beard growth, Stipe announced that he had quarantined

himself, but like the song's subtitle, said, "I feel fine."

"I'm bunkering. I'm quarantining. I'm Q.S.Q. -- quasi self-quarantined --

for several days now and that's going to continue because I don't want to go

outside," the singer told his fans as he urged them to do the same.

"I don't want to be responsible for getting someone else sick if I'm already

sick. I don't think I am, but none of us know if we are," he added.





MANILA – Mensahe ng pagmamahal at pagbibigay-pugay ang ibinahagi ni Robin

Padilla para sa kanyang ina na si Eva Cariño-Padilla na nagdiriwang ng

kanyang ika-84 kaarawan.

Ibinahagi ito ni Robin sa kanyang post sa Instagram nitong Lunes.

Hiling ni Robin ang magandang kalusugan ng kanyang ina na itinuturing niyang

“ilog” ng kanilang buhay.

“Example of true love, loyalty and devotion to her husband kahit magkalayo

na sila at nasa magkaibang mundo ng buhay at kabilang buhay nananatli siyang

nabubuhay sa alaala ng kanilang tipan ng pag-iibigan. Mahal na mahal namin

kayo mahal na ina. Ikaw ang ilog ng aming mga buhay. Dasal namin at salmo sa

Panginoong Maylikha na biyayaan po niya kayo ng mas magandang kalusugan,

lakas, tiyaga at katahimikan sa piling ng iyong mga anak, apo at mga apo sa

tuhod. Pasensya na po kayo hindi tayo natuloy sa ating pag-uwi sa ninunong

lupa ng Baguio para sa thanksgiving ng inyong birthday. Hindi man ngayon in

shaa Allah sa pahintulot ng Panginoong Maylikha pagkatapos nitong giyera sa

corona virus,” ani Robin.








TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said for the first time on Monday

that the Tokyo Olympic Games may need to be postponed if the event cannot be

held in its "complete form" due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Sunday after an emergency

meeting that it is stepping up its "scenario planning" for the 2020 Games

due to start on July 24, including a possible postponement.

Abe said that while cancelling the Games was not an option, a delay was now

on the cards if that was the only way to hold the event in its complete


"If that becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing

the Games," he told parliament.

He said he had conveyed his views to Tokyo Games chief Yoshiro Mori on

Sunday evening, who then discussed the issue with IOC President Thomas Bach.

Under mounting pressure from athletes, federations and national committees

to postpone the Games, the IOC did a partial U-turn on Sunday after long

insisting, with Tokyo organisers, that the Games would go ahead as planned.

Tokyo 2020 organisers have started drafting alternative dates for the

Olympics, sources have told Reuters.

More than 13,000 people have died globally since the coronavirus outbreak

began in China late last year, with the epicentre now in Europe.

As of Sunday morning, Japan had 37 deaths and 1,055 coronavirus cases,

excluding those from a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo last

month and returnees on chartered flights from China, a tally by public

broadcaster NHK showed.

Abe said all travelers from the United States, including Japanese citizens,

would be asked to go into quarantine for 14 days after their arrival in






It better befits a man to laugh at life than to lament over it. 

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