Lord to decide fate of Defeat COVID-19 panel

Published November 5, 2020, 2:13 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

A ranking congressman believes that the future of the Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee – a brainchild of former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano – should be left up to his successor, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (HOR / MANILA BULLETIN)

“It should be up to Speaker Velasco whether he’d like to utilize the Defeat COVID-19 Committee or if he’d prefer that COVID-19 related measures go through the regular standing or special committees,” Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo said Thursday.

“Whether a measure is tackled by an ad hoc committee, like the DCC, or a regular committee, the legislative process is actually the same, although there is some special attention or emphasis for measures that the House creates ad hoc committees for,” said Romualdo, a deputy majority leader in the 18th Congress.

The House leadership under Cayetano formed the DCC in late March to show the public the chamber’s immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is comprised of five clusters – the new normal, health and COVID response, social amelioration, economic stimulus response, and peace and order clusters.

Cayetano and Majority Leader Martin Romualdez are co-chairmen of the mother DCC panel which has been instrumental in the tackling of pandemic-response measures. This dominated House work before the solons shifted their attention to passing the 2021 General Appropriations Bill or GAB last September.

The DCC ultimately helped pass six House bills on third and final reading – the proposed Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines (ARISE) Act; Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act; COVID-19-Related Anti-Discrimination Act; Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities, and Public Spaces Act; Crushing COVID-19 Act; and the COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act.

But with Cayetano’s ouster last month as leader of the 301- member House, the future of the special panel is now unclear.

“I think the House will always give special attention to COVID-19 related measures, whether there’s an ad hoc committee or not. So it’s really up to Speaker Velasco and he should have a free hand on how he wants measures to be considered by the House,” Romualdo said.

Velasco took over the reins from Cayetano last Oct. 13. It is expected that a shakeup in the committees would take place once House members reconvene later this month.

Marinduque Rep. Velasco and Taguig-Pateros Rep. Cayetano had a term-sharing agreement for the Speakership in the 18th Congress. Among the running questions of the Speakership drama are: What tasking would be given to Cayetano once Velasco takes over? Will such tasking be even accepted?

Asked if the former Speaker should at least be allowed to retain his co-chairmanship of the DCC, Cayetano ally Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said “yes.”

“But the committee may not be relevant anymore under the present circumstances,” Defensor said.

A total of 244 measures have been referred to the DCC.