By Ellson Quismorio
The House of Representatives is suspending work from March 16 to April 12, House Secretary General Jose Luis Montales said in a statement on Friday night.
Montales said the directive came from Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano himself, “with the health and safety of the employees of the House of Representatives (HRep) in mind.”
The House leadership’s move was “parallel to the one to be implemented by the Executive Department as announced by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on 12 March 2020,” he said.
The President announced on Thursday night a virtual lockdown of Metro Manila from March 15 to April 14 in an effort to slow down infections related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
His orders included the suspension of classes and government work in the executive branch during that period, plus a strong recommendation for private companies to observe a work-from-home schedule.
“The Office of the Sergeant at Arms – Legislative Security Bureau, Finance Department, Engineering and Physical Facilities Department, and Information Communications Technology Service shall implement a rotating skeletal workforce for the duration of the work suspension,” Montales said.
He said those not on the rotating skeletal workforce shall be allowed to work from home but are required to timely submit their assigned outputs using telecommunication and online technologies.
“As there is an equally urgent need to ensure continuity in the delivery of public service, all HRep employees shall be on-call and may be required to report to the office to perform their official duties for the welfare of the public,” Montales said.
“Committee hearings, briefings, and conferences may be conducted in HRep to help address the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact. In those events, measures that would minimize risks by facilitating social distancing shall be strictly implemented,” the statement read.
Montales said the new work arrangements “are meant to balance our concerns for the health and safety of the HRep personnel, and our duty to the nation as public servants.”
House members or congressmen began their annual summer recess last March 12. While the next scheduled session is on May 4, it is not unusual for lawmakers to hold hearings or meetings during the interim.
The House leadership enjoined everyone to stay calm as the government takes all necessary actions to curb the spread of COVID-19.