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Villafuerte: Special session to set example for Pinoys

By Ellson Quismorio 

Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd Rep. LRay Villafuerte has underscored the need for lawmakers to set an example on how to work while observing the health and safety protocols set by government in connection with the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Rep. Luis Raymund "LRay" Favis Villafuerte Jr. (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte

“We all have to adjust, including Congress, on how best we can function but keeping in mind protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF),” Villafuerte said in a statement on Sunday.

“We should be an example to our people that while we continue to work, we as members of Congress will strictly follow safety and health protocols,” he stressed.

Earlier, Malacañang called on both chambers of Congress–the House of Representatives and the Senate–to hold a special session in order to address the COVID-19 crisis in the country. The solons began their summer recess last March 12.

Most congressmen are now in their various districts all over the country, Villafuerte noted. “Since land, air, sea travel and public transportation are suspended, it will be very difficult to require physical presence of members to attend. Thus, we are using digital technology to do online/digital session, which will be the first time in history that it will be done.”

The House is composed of 302 congressmen. “If we do the normal session, we will not be able to fit in the plenary as per social distancing guidelines,” Villafuerte said.

He said there would be at least 1,000 people exposed to the contagion since the attending House members would also have to bring their respective staff, driver, and bodyguards.

“We would rather have our security personnel and front-liners focus on more important tasks than be worrying about passage of the members of Congress [at checkpoints],” the Deputy Speaker said.

The House Committee on Appropriations last week approved a P1.65-billion supplemental budget to help the Department of Health (DOH) respond to the current public health crisis.

The agency originally sought P2.35 billion. Health Undersecretary Roger Tong-An, however, said that the DOH actually needs P3.1 billion to procure more test kits, personal protective equipment (PPEs), and pay the salaries of additional frontline personnel recruited to battle the virus.

One of the younger House members, Rizal 2nd District Rep. Fidel Nograles, backed the idea of using technology as a way to muster a quorum during these challenging times.

“Suportado natin ang panawagan na special session unang-una para maaksyunan ang supplemental budget na hinihingi ng [DOH] para matugunan ang COVID-19 (We support the appeal for a special session to first and foremost act on the supplemental budget that the DOH is asking for in response to COVID-19),” said Nograles.

“Nariyan ang teknolohiya na tutulong sa atin (Technology is there to help us). I’m sure we can work through a virtual session that the public can also access through social media, among others,” he said.

“Ang mahalaga, makapagpulong kami sa lalong madaling oras. Hindi lang ito usapin ng dagdag na budget. Kailangan din na magkaroon pa ng dagdag na mekanismo para matulungan ang mga mahihirap na limitado ang kakayanan na harapin ang panganib na dala ng sakit na ito,” Nograles added.

(What’s important is for us to convene immediately. This is not only about increasing the budget. There’s a need to add another mechanism to help the poor, who has limited capacity to face this pandemic).

Source: Manila Bulletin

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