POSTSCRIPT / March 26, 2020 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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When all things fail, the Filipino prays…

AFTER he has done everything within his limited means to protect himself and others against the onslaught of the deadly coronavirus, what does the Filipino do? He prays.

The Filipino may have been missing many Sunday masses, but in his darkest moments he would be somewhere, not necessarily in church, fervently praying for divine help and guidance. In times of need, like now, he invariably turns to God.

In this time of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) when as many as 35 out of the 552 Filipinos known to be infected as of yesterday have succumbed to the disease — if the statistics are right – even a nominal Catholic collects himself and prays.

But the beleaguered Filipino is not alone on his knees. Throughout Christendom, the faithful have been praying together for their common intentions.

From the Vatican where sits the successor of St. Peter, the rock upon which the Church was built, Pope Francis calls the flock to plead together with the Father, reciting the Lord’s Prayer that Christ Himself had taught them.

The archdiocese of Manila said the overwhelming response of Filipinos to the worldwide praying of the Holy Rosary has inspired the local Church to initiate a healing prayer rally every Wednesday.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has affirmed Filipinos’ response to the call of Pope Francis to recite together the “Our Father” starting yesterday, the feast of the Annunciation, in “a pandemic of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness.”

The Pontiff said: “Let us remain united. Let us make our closeness felt toward those who are the most lonely and tired. In these trying days, while humanity trembles due to the threat of the pandemic, I would like to propose that together we lift our voices towards Heaven.

“On that day on which many Christians recall the annunciation to the Virgin Mary of the Incarnation of the Word, may the Lord listen to the united prayer of all of His disciples who are preparing themselves to celebrate the victory of the Risen Christ.”

Tomorrow, the Pope will preside over a moment of prayer in St. Peter’s Square at 6 p.m. He will offer readings from the Scriptures, prayers of supplication, and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Pope Francis will conclude with his Urbi et Orbi (“to the City [of Rome] and to the World”) blessing granting plenary indulgence. Imparted from the balcony of the basilica, the blessing will be broadcast live at noon (6 p.m. in Manila).

In Bicol, meanwhile, Caritas Sorsogon is gathering the needy for prayer and giving them fish, rice and canned goods. Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said they are targeting poor communities affected by the month-long COVID-19 lockdown.

The Duyog Marawi in Iligan has activated in partnership with the Redemptorists another “kindness center” giving out rice packs to needy families. “It’s a small start, but we hope to make kindness a contagious virus,” said Rey Barnes, Duyog Marawi executive director.

 Duterte armed with enhanced powers

BEFORE the crowd outside could demand a lockdown of the Congress for doing nothing to roll back the surging coronavirus, the Senate and the House of Representatives approved Monday night a bill arming President Duterte with enhanced powers to lead the war against COVID-19.

The House passed practically in toto by a 284-9-0 vote the administration bill carrying the cayetanic title “Bayahinan to Heal as One Act.” The Senate approved it by a 12-0-0 vote stripped of some of its contentious provisions and beefed up by some safeguards.

The bill declares a state of national emergency “in view of the continuing rise of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the serious threat to the health, safety, security, and lives of our countrymen, the long-term adverse effects on their means of livelihood, and the severe disruption of economic activities.”

The amendments inserted include extending state assistance to health workers who have been or are likely to be infected with the coronavirus, and giving financial aid to families of health workers who had died of the disease.

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. is directed to shoulder all medical expenses of public and private health workers if they had been exposed to COVID-19 or any other work-related injury or disease during the emergency.

The bill authorizes the president to exercise powers that are “necessary and proper” to carry out the declared national policy, including the reprogramming, reallocating, and realigning of funds in the 2020 national budget to respond to the emergency.

The president is also authorized to allocate cash, funds and investments held by any government-owned or controlled corporation or national government agency as necessary to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Under the bill, any unobligated amount in the budget, whether released or unreleased, shall be considered to have their purpose abandoned or fulfilled as of the date of the declaration of the state of emergency, and may then be reallocated.

The bill authorizes the president to mobilize at least P200 billion to help over 24 million mostly poor individuals. It also creates an emergency subsidy for 18 million low-income households across the country amounting to P5,000 to P8,000 each for two months.

The president is authorized to direct the operation of private hospitals, medical and health facilities, as well as passenger vessels, for their use for housing health workers or as quarantine facilities, or for medical relief and aid distribution.

The president is authorized to direct the operation of public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel.

The powers given to the president will be effective only for three months, unless extended by the Congress.

The president is required to submit to the Congress a weekly report on all acts performed under the measure. His report must include “the amount and corresponding utilization of the funds used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated and realigned.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 26, 2020)

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