By Ellson Quismorio
Now is the time to stop all coup talks in the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel said Monday as he alluded to growing public concern over the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“I totally agree that Congress should put to rest the coup issue,” said Pimentel, spokesperson of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party.
“We should buckle down to work on several pressing concerns,” he said, noting that both chambers of Congress will begin their lengthy summer recess on March 11.
The Mindanaoan, who in past weeks has said that PDP-Laban isn’t aware of a coup plot against House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, also acknowledged that “something bigger” is happening outside the halls of Congress in the form of the COVID-19 menace.
Over the weekend, the Department of Health (DOH) announced additional new cases of COVID infections, including the first local transmission of the deadly disease in the country. The Philippines now has 20 confirmed COVID infections.
In order to maximize the remaining session dates, several ranking House members have pitched the passage of the supplemental budget that could be tapped by Health authorities for the purpose of halting the spread of the virus.
This includes additional money for the purchase of face masks and other protective equipment for frontline health workers.
“We have not discussed it yet but if there is approval from the Speaker, I’m sure we can pass it,” Pimentel said.
House leaders spent much of their energies last week either attesting to or denying an alleged ouster plot against Speaker Cayetano. Such a coup d’etat would supposedly favor PDP-Laban stalwart, Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Alan Velasco, with whom Cayetano has a term-sharing pact.
Under this “gentleman’s agreement,” Velasco will take over the House’s top post after Nacionalista Party (NP) member Cayetano’s 15th month in office, or sometime after October 2020.
“We are committed to support Speaker Cayetano during his incumbency as Speaker,” Pimentel said, adding that the coup allegations were “baseless and unfounded.”