Solon pushes for ‘virtual session’ amid coronavirus scare

Mar. 16, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez urged lawmakers to hold a “virtual session” to discuss legislative measures to restrain the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

“I am suggesting that the House and the Senate meet in a special session through video-teleconferencing and other technological means since President Duterte has prohibited mass gatherings and banned travel from the provinces to Metro Manila,” Rodriguez, this city’s second district congressman, said in a statement Sunday (March 15).

He said both chambers of Congress should set up the telecommunications infrastructure to enable their members to hold online discussions on bills and matters that have to do with addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

Rodriguez considered that an assembly of 300 legislators at the House plenary hall is a “mass gathering” not permitted under Duterte’s order.

He added the fact that lawmakers from outside Metro Manila could not travel due the lockdown imposed in the National Capital Region by the government starting March 14,Sunday until April 14.

“The prudent thing to do is to stay home and work from home to avoid getting infected by this virus. This is much like telecommuting or working from home via computer technologies, which a 2018 law encourages the private sector to do lessen traffic congestion and so much inconvenience on the part of employees,” he added.

The lawmaker cited bills that needs to be urgently pass such as the proposed P1.7 billion fund augmentation that would allow the Department of Health to procure badly needed personal protective equipment for health workers and other supplies, proposed stimulus packages for workers affected by the community quarantine in Metro Manila and other local government units, and for small businesses suffering from dwindling number of patrons who are understandably afraid of Covid-19.

“If we wait for May 4 to consider these measures, it might be too late to help the affected sectors,” he said.

To date, the lawmaker has filed three bills seeking a total of P23 billion in assistance for those affected by the coronavirus – P3 billion for distressed workers, P10 billion for small tourism-oriented establishments and another P10 billion for other small and medium-scale businesses.

He said that House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano got the nod of the congressmen when asked to work during the break.

Congress has adjourned its session for the Lenten recess on Wednesday night.

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