Amid ECQ, Senate on overtime for vital bills

OVERTIME work and best efforts even in the limited virtual settings are necessary to fast-track passage in the Senate of key pieces of legislation, especially Palace-certified ones, as a result of the two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in the National Capital Region (NCR Plus) from August 6 to 20, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said over the weekend.

“The two weeks will have a huge impact on our work,” Sotto acknowledged in an interview with DWIZ at the weekend. He added that “most likely, we will work overtime this week while it is still possible,” referring to the general community quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions that is good until August 5, or before the ECQ starts running.

The overtime work is necessary, he added, “so that we can finish the Public Service Act (PSA). I hope Senator [Koko] Pimentel can meet with the bicameral conference committee on retail trade liberalization (RTL), and then I hope we can also finish, this week, the Foreign  Investments Act (FIA)— at least up to the period of interpellation, and then period of amendments,” Sotto said partly in Filipino.

The two weeks of ECQ will “eat up a huge part of our timetable, since we still have pending key bills,” he noted.

The amendatory bills for the PSA, FIA and RTL are Palace-certified bills, and were mentioned in President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 26 as among those he hoped the Senate could pass. They have been approved on third and final reading in the House of Representatives.

“Well, we will see kasi hopefully those three, as well as the bills related to seniors citizens,” Sotto said, of the priority bills’ chances of passing.

Meanwhile, he is not worried that 12 reelectionist senators will no longer be able to devote time and attention to priority legislation once October 1 kicks in, or the filing of certificates of candidacy for the May 2022 national elections.

“On October 1, that’s just the filing, it does not mean that it’s already the campaign period so we will keep working. Our work only stops during the Christmas break, and we may extend work by one or two days [and cut that break]” in case, he said, the senators really feel it imperative to meet deadlines on more priority measures.

“The campaign period does not start till February 6, therefore, we are not allowed to campaign from the time that we filed up to February 6. Trabaho, trabaho lang muna [Work, work, that’s all we’ll be doing],” he assured.

Charter change

Asked by DWIZ about the Charter-change proposal from the House, Sotto said he committed to Speaker Lord Allan Velasco that they will still tackle the proposed Joint Resolution of Both Houses despite the initial sentiment among senators not to approve it.

“What I can promise is that we can take it up. We will take it up. I cannot promise the opinion of my colleagues so, I have promised Speaker Velasco we will take it up. And our discussion is that, according to him at least by January or before the break, February 6, since it’s a Joint Resolution, it’s not a bill. So therefore, if we approve it what happens is that the question will be included in the plebiscite.”

Earlier, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon declared that the House’s Charter-change proposal is “dead on arrival” in the Senate, where majority of senators believe that passage of the three economic reform bills —the FIA, PSA and RTL—would meet the purported need for Charter change in order to liberalize the economy and make it globally competitive.

Meanwhile, Sotto explained they are finalizing plan to mobilize Senate workers this week and during the two-week ECQ, given the risks to their workers of exposure to the Delta variant.

“We will play it by ear if we can go virtual or not,” the Senate leader told DWIZ. “If not, we have to suspend during the time of the ECQ because we are not worried about ourselves, we are worried about the employees of the Senate.

Even in virtual sessions or hearings, certain employees must be physically present at the Senate building in Pasay City, but Sotto said even if most are vaccinated, the commuting will expose them to the Delta variant, hence, the careful study of their mobilization.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Article

House panel to rush bill on mandatory Covid jabs

Next Article

Duterte OKs placing Apayao, Laguna, Aklan under MECQ

Related Posts

Read more

PBBM pushes LBP-DBP merger

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is now pushing for the merger of Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) as part of government efforts to cut costs and boost the efficiency of its banking operations.