Senate enforces ECQ-like lockdown, suspends session for 15 days | Inquirer News
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Senate enforces ECQ-like lockdown, suspends session for 15 days

/ 09:09 PM August 03, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday declared a two-week suspension of plenary sessions in the chamber and placing its building in Pasay City under lockdown akin to an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

The move was in support of healthcare workers who earlier called for a “timeout” amid the continued surge of COVID-19 cases in the country.

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The ECQ in the Senate was officially enforced after Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri formally moved to suspend session in the chamber for 15 days, as earlier proposed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also voiced his support for the proposal.

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“I wish to join the majority leader and second his motion to join the call of medical frontliners for a timeout. Indeed, the medical community has appealed for the return of strict community quarantine because they sense that we are losing the battle against COVID-19,” Drilon said.

Earlier, the healthcare workers appealed for a reimposition of a strict lockdown in Metro Manila to give them time to recuperate from exhaustion due to the continuous surge of COVID-19 cases nationwide, which had already breached the 100,000 mark.

Following the plea of the medical community, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the reimposition of a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and other nearby provinces.

Sotto then thanked his colleagues for their unanimous support for his proposal to suspend sessions until August 18.

An early resumption of sessions would still be possible should the Senate need to tackle “important and pressing legislative matters,” Zubiri, meanwhile, noted.

Senate probes still a go

Sotto, in an online interview with reporters before Monday afternoon’s session, clarified that the ECQ would not cover investigations that would be undertaken by the Senate.

He said the scheduled probe into allegations of “widespread corruption” in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) would push through.

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The Senate is set to constitute itself into a committee of the whole on Tuesday, August 4, to investigate reports of massive corruption within PhilHealth.

The bicameral conference committee of senators and House lawmakers for the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act will also not be covered by the ECQ.

“It will be confined to the Senate as a whole, not only the senator’s offices, but the entire secretariat na ECQ na muna, but we will allow the virtual committee hearings para hindi rin completely ma-stop yung mga trabaho dahil yun nga, parang ECQ pa rin yun,” Sotto said during the interview.

(It will be confined to the Senate as a whole, not only the senator’s offices, but the entire secretariat will also be under ECQ for the meantime but we will allow the virtual committee hearings so that work will not be disrupted, just like when Metro Manila was under ECQ before.)

“And then of course there will be two exemption,” he added, referring to the PhilHealth investigation and the bicam for the Bayanihan bill.

On Monday afternoon, the Philippines recorded 106,330 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of the number, 65,821 have recovered while 2,104 have died from the respiratory disease. [ac]

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