Cayetano open to flexible legislative calendar

Published April 15, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has expressed openness to a flexible legislative calendar that would respond to the needs of the country during the national health emergency.

House speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)
House speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Cayetano told House reporters via Zoom Tuesday that the chamber is prepared to hold sessions ahead of the scheduled re-opening of Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) on May 4, if needed, in order to enact urgent legislation to address the impact of the socio-economic crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cayetano revealed that Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri had contacted him about the possible adjustment of the legislative calendar as a result of the pandemic.

“Two weeks ago, Senator Migz Zubiri, the Majority Leader, already communicated that ‘let’s play it by week, kung kaya sa May 4 (Maybe we can resume May 4),” he said.

“But let me assure the public that if ever we move the calendar we will act responsibly and practice social distancing…we will tackle that week by week,” added the Speaker.

The 302-member House is still on summer recess, which runs from March 12 to May 4. Incidentally, the recess period has coincided with the ongoing Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.

The chamber has already demonstrated twice that its members can get legislative work done by convening remotely through videoconferencing.

The first instance was its marathon hearing last March 23 to ensure enactment of its version of Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

On Tuesday, April 14, Speaker Cayetano and members of the newly formed Defeat COVID-19 Committee again met virtually to start discussions on a P370-billion economic stimulus package to assist businesses that have been suffering from the ECQ-induced economic standstill.

“All of us are grappling (with) what will be the new normal, or do we go back on May 4 or virtual pa rin muna (or we do virtual sessions for the meantime). That’s being discussed but let me assure you, whatever is best for the nation, in however way we can help, [we will do it],” said Cayetano.

Deputy Speaker Rep. Luis Raymund ‘LRay’ Villafuerte (Camarines Sur 2nd district) lead author of RA No. 11469, echoed this assurance.

According to Villafuerte, its crucial for the Duterte administration to restart its “Build, Build, Build” program during the extended ECQ because infrastructure investments have the highest multiplier effects on the economy, including the creation of jobs.

“Infrastructure is really the fuel that will drive our economy back on its feet,” said Villafuerte.