'I'm not without power': Duterte says police can take over hotels to house COVID-19 patients

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 15) – The national government has the option to use its constitutionally mandated police power to take over hotels and use them as additional facilities to house COVID-19 patients, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday.

"I can even use the police power of the State. I can order authorities to take over operations of hotels kung wala na talagang mga kama (if there are no available beds)," Duterte stated in his national address.

The police power of the State is provided under Article 12, Section 17 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, allowing it to temporarily takeover an operation of any "privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest" in times of national emergency and when the public interest requires.

"I am not without power. When we are pushed to the wall, I can always order the military and police to go there and confiscate the operation of hotels... but that is not really a remedy desired in a democratic state," Duterte said.

The President promised to "clean" the hotels once the government is done using them as quarantine facilities for people infected with COVID-19.

"After that, I will clean it up. I will decontaminate everything, like to its former glory," he said.

In his national address last Monday, Duterte also floated the idea of ordering the police and military to take over hotels as he invoked the government's power to expropriate private businesses for public interest.

"Government can expropriate 'yung mga hotels, motels, whatever kung kulang ang... ang mga halfway houses natin 'yong naghihintay (if we are lacking [in quarantine facilities]... and our halfway houses are waiting). So we kind of have the power. The government has the power to just expropriate. Puntahan na lang at sabihin gagamitin (We just go there and tell them we will use those)," the President said.

Health Sec. Francisco Duque III told the President on Monday he has ordered hospitals to reserve hotel rooms that can house doctors and nurses who'll test positive for COVID-19.

In an interview with CNN Philippines last April 5, Philippine College of Physicians Vice President Dr. Maricar Limpin appealed to Duterte to convert hotels into temporary hospital facilities amid the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Limpin explained this would help accommodate more COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate cases while lessening the burden of hospitals already admitting severe cases.

Meanwhile, Philippine Hotel Owners Association president Arthur Lopez said all hotels in Metro Manila are already "fully booked" as the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration tapped them as quarantine facilities for returning overseas Filipino workers. He added hotel owners saw at least an 80% drop in revenues since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

RELATED: Hotels in NCR Plus already exhausted, group rejects temporary hospital proposal

The country's total COVID-19 cases rose to over 900,000 on Thursday with an additional 11,429 patients. The Health Department said 20% of the total 904,285 confirmed infections are currently sick or considered as active cases. The country has been listing over 100,000 ill patients daily since March 26.

At least 96% of the active cases have mild symptoms, 2.8% have no symptoms, 0.5% are severe infections, 0.4% are in critical condition, and 0.30% are in moderate condition.