The public health emergency caused by the novel coronavirus, subsequently named Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19), is the first of its kind in our lifetime. The request for emergency powers to address a national emergency, however, is not the first of its kind. On 23 March 2020, the House of Representatives started its deliberations on House Bill No. 6616, declaring a national emergency and granting emergency powers in favor of President Rodrigo Duterte. Three decades earlier, Congress passed a law declaring a state of national emergency and granting emergency powers to the President.
On 20 December 1989, President Corazon C. Aquino signed Republic Act No. 6826, which is “An Act to Declare, in View of the Existence of a National Emergency, a National Policy in Connection therewith and to Authorize the President of the Republic of the Philippines for a Limited Period and Subject to Restrictions, to Exercise Powers Necessary and Proper to Carry Out the Declared National Policy and for Other Purposes.”
[See also: Emergency Powers of the President; Government Take-Over of Private Businesses; and Full List of Emergency Powers Granted to the President under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (Republic Act No. 11469)]
While R.A. 6826 provides in its title that the grant of emergency powers is “for a limited period,” it does not specify the period of its effectivity. Here are the salient points of R.A. 6826:
State of National Emergency
On 1 December 1989, a rebellion committed by certain elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), aided and abetted by civilians, gave rise to an emergency of national proportions.
The emergency continues even with the cessation of military hostilities. More than 2,000 persons who participated in the failed coup, including the masterminds and plotters, are said to be still at large. There is a clear threat to national security posed by the rebels who have just “returned to their barracks”, and the fence-sitters among the military. Bombings in Metropolitan Manila continue causing loss of lives, maiming of limbs and destruction of property.
On 6 December 1989, Proclamation No. 503 was issued by the President declaring a state of national emergency.
Meanwhile, secessionist elements in Mindanao, seeking to establish a common cause with rebels and their sympathizers, or taking advantage of the instability occasioned by the coup, are reported to have taken overt acts to dismember the country.
Communist rebels have taken advantage of the situation by attacking Government personnel and installations.
The economy has suffered and continues to suffer a serious setback, severely disrupting the momentum of our economic recovery.
A state of national emergency is hereby declared.
Emergency Powers Granted to the President
Pursuant to Article VI, Section 23 (2) of the Constitution, and to implement the declared national policy, the President is hereby authorized to issue such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry out any or all of the following powers:
1. To protect the people from hoarding, profiteering, injurious 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, medicine and medical supplies, office and schools 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, whether imported or locally produced or manufactured;
2. Towards the above ends, (a) to purchase any of the articles or commodities hereinabove mentioned, for storage, sale, or distribution for the relief of hunger and want of the population, and/or to stabilize the prices of such foodstuffs, articles and other commodities; (b) to fix the maximum selling prices thereof; (c) to regulate the fees charged by establishments in connection with the production, processing, milling, storage and distribution of such articles or commodities; (d) to seize and confiscate hoarded foodstuffs and commodities: Provided, That goods which are determined to have been seized wrongfully shall be subject to the subsequent determination and payment of just compensation; and, (e) to call upon and deputize recognized non-government and people’s organizations and volunteers as well as local government units to assist the Government to carry out these powers through the monitoring or implementation of orders, rules and regulations, as the case may be;
3. To temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest that violates the herein declared national policy: Provided, however, That to the extent feasible, management shall be retained, under the direction and supervision of the President or her duly designated representative who shall render a full accounting to the President of the operations of the utility or business taken over: Provided, further, That whenever the President shall determine that the further use or operation by the Government of any such public service or enterprise is no longer necessary under existing conditions, the same shall be restored to the person entitled to the possession thereof;
4. To liberalize the importation and/or grant incentives for the manufacture, assembly, reconditioning, or importation of needed vehicles or vessels, including the necessary parts thereof, for public transportation to relieve the transportation crises;
5. To ensure the availability of credit to the productive sectors of the economy especially in the countryside through measures such as, but not limited to, lowering the effective lending rates of interest and reserve requirements of lending institutions;
6. To stagger the working hours of, and adopt a flexible working schedule for, employees and workers in government, and whenever it becomes necessary, in the private sector;
7. To conserve and regulate the distribution and use of power, fuels and energy and ensure adequate supply of the same;
8. Subject to the provisions of paragraph 5, Section 25, Article VI of the Constitution, to decrease expenditures of the Executive Department of the National Government and government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries through the suspension of services, activities or operations which are of no immediate necessity, and for this purpose the President shall order that all departments, agencies and instrumentalities of the government create a reserve fund equivalent to ten percent (10%) of their respective appropriations, except those pertaining to personnel services, construction and repair of school buildings and hospitals: Provided, however, That in all cases, the security of tenure of civil service employees shall be respected;
9. To issue lawful orders for the recovery and accounting of all firearms, explosives and military equipage, including, but not limited to, those belonging to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police and licensed firearms which have fallen into the possession of unauthorized persons or entities, or are being used by theirs holders for unlawful purposes, and pursuant thereto, adopt such measures as are reasonably necessary to take custody of such firearms, explosives and equipage and/or otherwise accomplish the purposes herein stated: Provided, That this authority can be exercised only upon specific orders of the President or her duly authorized representative;
10. To ensure that military uniforms, equipment and supplies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police are possessed and used only by authorized officers and members thereof pursuant to law; and
11. To undertake such other measures as may be reasonable and necessary to enable the President to carry out the declared national policy subject to the Bill of Rights and other constitutional guarantees.
Construction or Interpretation
R.A. 6826 expressly provides that “nothing in this Act shall be construed or interpreted as a restriction of the Bill of Rights or of the Constitution.”
Promulgation, Effect and Enforcement of Rules and Regulations
R.A. 6826 provides that the rules and regulations promulgated by the President pursuant to this law, which have the force and effect of law, shall be numbered consecutively and shall take effect two (2) days after their publication in case of rules and regulations that are denominated “urgent”, and five (5) days in case of those without such denomination. The publication shall be effected in at least two (2) newspapers of national circulation.
Rules and regulations with a penal clause shall be duly published in Filipino and English in at least two (2) national newspapers of general circulation.
Said rules and regulations shall cease to be in force and effect upon the expiry date provided in Section 9 hereof without prejudice to benefits and rights that may have vested, and culpabilities and liabilities that may have been incurred and established after due notice and hearing.
Any violation of the rules or regulations issued pursuant hereto, shall be punishable with imprisonment of not less than five (5) years but not more than ten (10) years or a fine of not less than fifty thousand pesos (P50,000) but not more than five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000) or both such imprisonment and fine at the discretion of the Court: Provided, however, That if the offender is a corporation, association, partnership or any other juridical person, the penalty shall be imposed upon the president, directors, managers, managing partners, as the case may be, who participated in tile commission of the offense or who shall have knowingly permitted or failed to prevent the commission of the same. If the offender is an alien, he shall, in addition to the penalties herein prescribed, be deported without further proceedings: Provided, further, That if the offender is a public official or employee, he shall, in addition to the penalties prescribed herein, suffer perpetual or temporary absolute disqualification from office, is the case may be.
Reports to Congress
The President, within ten (10) days from the issuance of any of the executive acts, orders, rules and regulations promulgated and issued by her under the powers herein granted shall report to Congress the issuance thereof and the justification therefor: Provided, That within the first ten (10) days of every month, the President shall likewise submit a monthly report to Congress of all acts performed pursuant to this Act during the preceding month.