By Charissa Luci-Atienza
House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate proposed on Thursday (March 12) that all areas of the House of Representatives (HOR) be thoroughly sanitized and disinfected before they hold committee hearings during the seven weeks’ break.
He made the call as Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House leadership is willing to amend the legislative calendar and hold sessions to tackle pressing matters affecting the country.
“Kung meron lang committees na mag-conduct ng hearing, ang panawagan natin ngayon asap (as soon as possible), puwede bang magkaroon muna ng sanitizing dito sa House, dahil this is a public place. In the past days in and out ang mga tao dito. Hindi natin alam kung merong carrier so we are all exposed,” Zarate told reporters in a press conference.
(If there will be committees that will conduct hearings, our call now as soon as possible is can we first have sanitizing done here in the House because this is a public place. In the past days, people are in and out here. We don’t know if there is a carrier so we are all exposed.)
“I understand that they’re meeting now. We are recommending asap na magkaron ng sanitation dito sa House to disinfect all public places. Napakalaking public place itong HOR. Every day alam naman natin na may mga pasyente na pumupunta dito humihingi ng medical assistance,” the opposition lawmaker said.
(We are recommending asap to have sanitation done here in the House to disinfect all public places. The HOR is a huge public place. Every day, as we all know, many patients come here to ask for medical assistance.)
Zarate expressed the readiness of the Makabayan bloc of lawmakers to work even during the break.
“After that, kung magawa ang mga protocol na ganyan, kung kailangang magtrabaho ang mga miyembro ng Kongreso para matutukan ang mga very important bills, ay puwedeng gawin yan during the break,” he said.
(After that if such protocol will be established, if the members of Congress need to work to prioritize very important bills, that can be done during the break.)
He also asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to fast track the validation of the COVID-19 test kits developed by the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health (UP-NIH), after the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
He also called on the government to conduct random testing among the communities to prevent the spread of the disease.
“This would entail resources, but we have to do this. Because if we don’t do this, we might suffer the same fate [as] that of countries in Europe which have rising cases. I hope in the coming days, aggressive measures will be put in place,” Zarate said.
Zarate and Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago also cited the need for the government to intensify its massive information campaign on COVID-19.
“We need a massive information campaign to calm down our people. This time, they should already have come up with informercials about COVID. Exhaust all the government resources,” Zarate said.
Elago warned against a “militarized” response against COVID, referring to around 40,000 policemen who will be deployed in case Metro Manila is locked down.
In the press conference, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro asked the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider cancelling graduation ceremonies for the safety of the school children.
“Since COVID is already a pandemic, the DepEd should think if these scheduled graduation rites will push through. Maybe they can think of other ways that will not gather [a] mass congregation of people,” she said.