Speech by João Oliveira in Assembly of the Republic

On the request of authorization for declaration of state of emergency

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Mr. Speaker,
Mr. Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament,

Under the Constitution and the law on the state of siege and emergency, the declaration of a state of emergency should not be decided on the basis of abstract or theoretical considerations, it requires the substantiated findings of the existence of an exceptional framework that can justify such a decision and the specifically identified measures that can only be implemented following that declaration.

Looking at the reality that the country lives today, it appears that the measures meanwhile defined in the scope of prevention and containment of the epidemic outbreak have been broadly and voluntarily carried out by the populations and by the various public and private authorities and institutions.

We highlight the professionalism and abnegation with which professionals from various fields have made a decisive contribution so that the measures decided are complied with and the country continues to function as normally as possible in the context resulting from them. Also noteworthy are the many genuine expressions of solidarity with which the Portuguese people have found solutions so that those who are in a situation of greater vulnerability do not remain abandoned and have their needs met.

It is essential that, at the political level, the necessary and appropriate measures are taken to address the problems of public health, the workers, the economy, and the general functioning of society.

There is the possibility of adopting new measures that prove to be adequate and necessary to respond to all these problems.

The Constitution and the law - namely the Basic Law of Civil Protection and the Public Health Surveillance System - provide for the possibility of adopting more vigorous prevention and containment measures, and the corresponding procedures are also foreseen to guarantee their compliance. The alert, contingency and calamity regimes provide for these possibilities with some amplitude.

In this scope we highlight the possibilities of

a) Taking indispensable exceptional measures in the event of a public health emergency, including restricting, suspending or shutting down activities or separating people who are not sick, means of transport or goods, which have been exposed, in order to avoid the possible spread of infection or contamination;

b) issue guidelines and regulatory standards in the exercise of power of authority, with immediate executive enforcement, in the context of emergency situations in public health with the purpose of making viable the contingency rules for epidemics or other measures considered indispensable, the effectiveness of which depends on speed for its implementation;

c) requisition of all surveillance and risk detection systems, as well as bodies and institutions, whatever their nature, whose knowledge may be relevant for forecasting, detection, warning and risk assessment and emergency planning;

e) civil mobilization of people, for fixed periods of time;

f) setting down limits or conditions for the movement or permanence of people, other living beings or vehicles, namely through subjection to collective controls to prevent the spread of epidemic outbreaks;

g) fixing security sanitary fences;

h) rationalization of the use of public transport, communications and water and energy services, as well as the consumption of essential goods;

i) possibility of temporarily requisitioning goods or services according to the urgency and public and national interest that justify the requisitioning;

j) possibility of free access by civil protection agents to private property as well as the use of private natural or energy resources; or recourse to a special regime for contracting public works, supplying goods and purchasing services.

This wide range of prevention and containment measures can and should, under the terms of the law, be adopted gradually in the face of developments that escalate the epidemic outbreak.

Their adoption must be considered under the terms provided for in the Constitution and the law for each of the situations of alert, contingency and calamity, and the Government must evaluate in each circumstance the application of each of these specific regimes.

Only in the event of non-compliance of the measures decided or the need to adopt measures restricting rights, freedoms and guarantees should the declaration of a state of emergency be considered in appropriate and proportionate terms. As we have already said, the PCP does not set aside the possibility of resorting to the state of emergency being necessary, but will abstain on the proposal whose terms are now presented.

Lastly, we want to underline an aspect that becomes increasingly clear in national life and that, revealing the difficulties that the country is facing and the need to immediately take the measures that the law already foresees to face them, simultaneously requires essential changes in the political options to be implemented.

It is not admissible for companies that produce medical, clinical or pharmaceutical material to blackmail the State regarding increased production and put their present and future profits ahead of the needs of healthcare services and of patients.

It is not admissible that the actions of economic groups can threaten the distribution chains of essential goods, leaving the needs of the people in the background and deciding to concentrate their activity on what most profitability can guarantee immediately.

It is not admissible that sectors and services that correspond to imperative social needs to be threatened with stoppage as a result of decisions to abandon production or for private companies to close doors without any type of State intervention to safeguard the consequences of such decisions for the people and the country.

These problems demand that the Government use the mechanisms it already has at its disposal today to place the rights of the people and the national interest ahead of the goal of profit by those who seek to take advantage of this situation.

But they are also striking examples that the logic of capitalism and the rules of its markets do not correspond to the interests of the workers, the people and the country and that the abandonment by the State of strategic sectors for decades now shows with remarkable crudity like a sword hanging over the head of our collective destiny as a country and as a people.

There is now no chance to simply prevent the consequences of these wrong options of right-wing policy, but there are conditions to find, in response to the crisis situation that we face, the bases of an alternative policy that serves the interests of the workers and people and the society we need to build.

  • Economia e Aparelho Produtivo
  • Regime Democrático e Assuntos Constitucionais
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