COVID-stricken solon calls for suspension of Congress sessions

Published August 10, 2020, 10:57 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

A congressman who tested positive for COVID-19 has backed calls to temporarily suspend sessions in the House of Representatives to mitigate the spread of the disease.

House Deputy Speaker Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)(MANILA BULLETIN FILR PHOTO)

“I fully support the idea to suspend the sessions once all COVID-19 mitigation measures have been passed,” Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel said on Monday.

“Every week, the cases of COVID are rising in Congress,” he said, pointing to the steady increase in positive cases since the second regular session of the 18th Congress began last July 27.

“If not, perhaps we can do a Zoom meeting on all the sessions to prevent the spread of the virus,” Pimentel suggested.

At least 17 positive cases of COVID-19 from the House have been recorded since July 27, accounting for nearly half of the total number of congressmen and employees who have contracted the illness since the pandemic began.

That was the same day President Duterte delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SoNA) before a heavily scaled-down Joint Session between House members and visiting senators at Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.

Currently, House sessions at “Batasan” are carried out from Monday to Wednesday in a mixed live and virtual manner wherein a handful of ranking officials are physically present at the plenary. Majority of the 300 congressmen participate via videoconferencing app Zoom.

Asked about the current state of his health, Pimentel said, “I’m doing fine, Monday is my 14th day of quarantine. OK na ako (I’m OK now).”

The House leader, who has remained asymptomatic during self-isolation, is set to take a swab test Tuesday.

The Lower Chamber is expected to approve on third and final reading this week House Bill (HB) No. 6953, the proposed “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act,” the much-awaited follow up to the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.”

Simply dubbed as “Bayanihan 2,” HB No.6953 allocates P162 billion for the government’s COVID-19 response measures, including some P10.5 billion to enable the hiring of additional healthcare workers, as well as to provide additional allowances and benefits to medical frontliners.