Senate regular session resumes amid strict community quarantine classification

Published August 21, 2021, 4:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Despite perils to its employees by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel ‘’Migz’’ Zubiri said the Senate resumes regular session on Monday in its attempt to finish many pending bills and resolutions.

Despite strict community quarantine classification for the National Capital Region (NCR), Zubiri said the Senate would function though with a skeletal force.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) downgraded its Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) status for the NCR to a ‘’milder’’ Modified Enhanched Community Quarantine (MECQ) classification.

Zubiri said the Upper House would take up the proposed 2022 P5 trillion national budget and complete its hearings this September because the offices of the Senate would be closed in October.

October is the month scheduled for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2022 national and local elections.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said he expects the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to see him on the budget on Monday.

The House of Representatives has the first crack a t money bills, particularly the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA or national budget), after which the Senate does its own probes and analysis on the budget in a Q & A (question and answer) format with government officials in attendance.

Also to be taken up, among others, ‘’are economic bills, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, foreign services at public services, department of Overseas Filipino Workers, increase ng statutory rape age, adoption law,’’ Zubiri said.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee resumes its hybrid

public hearing on the incompetence of the Department of Health (DOH) in the handling of P67 billion for its COVID-19 response program as flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA).

‘’Talaga kailangan na po naming makapasok sa lunes alam ko medyo delikado, may mga staff pa nga ako na positive pero no choice napakaraming panukala na nakabinbin at kailangan namin aksyunan (We need to go to work on Monday despite risks to COVID-19 infections. We have some staff members who are COVID-19 positive but there is no choice because there are many bills that are pending and needing resolution),’’ he said.

‘’By Monday skeletal force. iilan lang ang papasok para walang hawahan sa senado at di rin sila mahirapan makapasok. walang nag iba sa ecq at mecq parang pareho pa rin, naiba lang ang pangalan (By Monday skeletal force, Very few will be going to the Senate so that there would be no infections and Senate employees would have easy access to the Senate complex. There is actually no difference between ECQ and MECQ, just the nomenclature),’’ he pointed out.

Zubiri predicted a heated debate on the 2022 national budget because of what happened to the DOH and other agencies flagged by COA because of discrepancies..

As a result, the Senate has to work double time from the middle of November to the middle of December where both legislative chambers are expected to have a consolidated budget bill for approval by Malacanang.