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House members lauded for support to COVID-19 fight

Martin Romualdez
Martin G. Romualdez

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin G. Romualdez on Sunday commended his colleagues for their hard work in passing quality legislation to support President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s response to coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) since the opening of the 18th Congress in July 2019.

Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, said the creation of the Defeat COVID-19 Committee was one of the best decisions that the House of Representatives have made in addressing the needs of the people during the pandemic.

“I commend my colleagues for their hard work in introducing legislative measures and producing laws that helped us survive the present crisis. Based on our public consultations, we were able to come up with legislative measures that focus on three major theme: Kaligtasan, Kabuhayan, and Kaunlaran. These measures made sure that our people are safe, free from financial worries, and bound for recovery the soonest time possible,” Romualdez, who co-chaired the DCC with then Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, said, recalling that mitigating the devastating effects of COVID-19 dominated the House work from April to September 2020.

“Through that committee, we were able to conduct public consultations and hear directly from our people their concerns with regard to the virus outbreak. The marathon hearings provided us with the real grasp of issues, which allowed us to focus on what needs to be prioritized,” Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).

Under Cayetano’s leadership, the House of Representatives got a very impressive popularity rating.

Cayetano, the chief organizer of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) in December 2019 where the Philippines emerged as the overall champion, also got 64% approval and 62% trust ratings in a Pulse Asia survey in 2019.

Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), said the passage of Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1) during a special session in March 2020 and RA No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) in September 2020 was the best achievement of DCC.

“I consider the two Bayanihan laws as the most significant products that came out of the DCC and plenary deliberations. Without these laws, the national government would have found it difficult to address our people’s immediate needs,” Romualdez pointed out.

On March 24, 2020 Cayetano formed the DCC to discuss all measures address the pandemic.

The panel is composed of five clusters: the new normal, health and COVID response, social amelioration, economic stimulus response, and peace and order clusters.

The DCC also approved House Bill (HB) No. 6815 which seeks to establish an economic stimulus strategy for the country’s growth and development in the aftermath of COVID-19; HB 6816 that would ensure Philippine financial industry resiliency against the COVID-19 pandemic; HB 6817 seeks to prohibit the discrimination of persons who are declared confirmed, suspect, probable, and recovered cases of COVID-19, HB 6864 proposes a “better normal” in the workplace and public places by establishing new policies, regulations, and public health safeguards; HB 6865 mandates the conduct of baseline polymerase chain reaction COVID-19 testing for vulnerable members of the society to stop the transmission of the disease; HB 6920 establishes the CURES fund, instituting mechanisms for the implementation thereof and appropriating funds therefor, and others.

The Bayanihan 1 authorized President Duterte to reallocate, realign, and reprogram almost P275 billion from the 2020 national budget – among other things – in order to respond to the pandemic, including the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) or dole-out to those who were hit badly by the pandemic and government-imposed lockdown.

The Bayanihan 2 provides for a stimulus package of P140 billion in regular appropriation and P25 billion as stand-by fund.

Last December, the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, who assumed the House’s top post only last October, passed a bill extending until June 30, 2021 the validity of Bayanihan 2.