House hearings to continue but with limited number of guests
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday said hearings at the House of Representatives will continue despite the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) but the number of guests will be limited.
Cayetano said that the hearings would be conducted in a “roundtable-style” with fewer guests invited than the usual.
“We will be holding hearings but it is not the usual hearings na napapanuod niyo (that you watch). It will be a more roundtable style. We will only have four, at most five members of Congress present, we will only have one department at a time,” Cayetano said in a press briefing.
The Department of Health (DOH) will be the subject of the hearing on Wednesday. But as a part of its rules, Cayetano said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III could not bring more than five people to the hearing.
“The Secretary [of Health] could not bring more than five people and I will ask the media to have the same arrangement so that sa isang kwarto na ganito (in one room like this) that usually fits 150 to 200 people or 100 to 200 people will not have more than 30 to 40 people in the room at a time,” Cayetano said.
During the press briefing, House leaders were clearly observing social distancing as they allotted a big space between each other. Social distancing was also observed among media personnel who covered the briefing.
Meanwhile, Cayetano also assured that “there will come a time for accountability” but for now, the Speaker said the focus should be on helping the most vulnerable.
He also reiterated the lower chamber’s readiness to hold a special session if President Rodrigo Duterte decides to call one.
“Kung kailangan ng special session, kung magpapatawag ang Pangulo, we’re talking to the Majority Leader kung puwedeng i-amend ang rules na ang Speaker na lang at Majority Leader, Minority Leader ang nasa Congress,” Cayetano said.
(If there is a need for a special session, if the President will call for it, we’re talking to the Majority Leader if we can amend the rules that we can only have the Speaker, Majority Leader, Minority Leader in Congress.)
“Then ang botohan ay electronic and through Facebook transmission or media na lang ‘yung discussions, if and when there are urgent bills na kailangan ipasa,” he added.
(Then voting would be electronic and through Facebook transmission or media for discussions, if and when there are urgent bills that need to be passed.)
The House committee on appropriations earlier approved a P1.6-billion supplemental budget for the country’s response against COVID-19.
However, Congress was not able to fully approve the budget before its Lenten break began last week.
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