House to quiz Duque over defense vs virus

January 28, 2020

THE House of Representatives yesterday summoned Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to the plenary session this Wednesday to outline the Philippine government’s response to a possible Wuhan coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The congressmen unanimously adopted House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez’s proposal that Duque be invited to attend Wednesday’s plenary session as guest at its Question Hour.

Romualdez moved for the adoption of the Question Hour period after Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, chairperson of the House Committee on Health, delivered a privilege speech raising questions on the government’s preparedness in dealing with the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak that now affects several countries.

“I move that the Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III be requested to appear before the House of Representatives under the Question Hour. I further move that the said question hour be held tomorrow, January 29, 2020 at the Plenary Hall to answer questions from the members of the House of Representatives pertaining to the measures being undertaken by the Department of Health on the threat of novel coronavirus in the country,” said Romualdez whose motion was unanimously adopted by the plenary presided over by Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman.

Tan said “we need to know if the Department of Health is prepared, and not just prepared but fully prepared if ever cases of novel coronavirus are reported in the country.”

“Pursuant to Article VI Section 22 of the Constitution and Rule XVII of the House Rules of the 18th Congress, the House may request heads of departments to appear and be heard by the House on any matter pertaining to their departments, invoking its power to conduct question hour,” Romualdez explained.

The Question Hour is a period where lawmakers confront members of the Executive Department, particularly Cabinet Secretaries, and hold them accountable for their acts and the operation of the government.

While it was already practiced in previous Congresses, it will be the first time that the Question Hour will be held under the leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

“We have to clarify that the House is invoking its Question Hour privilege not in aid of legislation nor for investigation purposes. We are exercising our oversight function to allay the fears of our constituents brought about by reports of the Wuhan virus reaching our shores,” Romualdez pointed out.

“There are numerous reports about possible infection in several areas of the country. We need to know which of these are real and which is fake news. We are giving Secretary Duque a bigger platform to address the concerns of our constituents,” the Leyte lawmaker added.

According to published reports, citing the DOH and hospital authorities, 27 people are currently under investigation in the Philippines for suspected infection of the novel coronavirus. The cases were reported in Muntinlupa City, Pasay City, Kalibo in Aklan, Tacloban, El Nido in Palawan, Cebu City, and Camiguin.