SPEAKER Lord Allan Velasco has expressed confidence the House of Representatives will “rise and soar as an institution” above the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) crisis.
During the culminating activity of HRep Month which marked the 113th founding anniversary of the Lower Chamber on Friday, Velasco also rallied congressional employees to support him as he strives for a stronger, inclusive and united House of Representatives.
“I am confident that by working together, by supporting one another, and by believing in each other, we can build a stronger 18th Congress that will help the nation rise from the present crisis,” Velasco told House employees as he addressed them for the first time since he assumed the speakership post.
Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero also commended the gesture of the House leadership under Velasco and Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin G. Romualdez for paying tribute to sitting and former congressmen and House employees who died in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic this year due to various reasons.
“We honored yesterday (Friday) four of the 18th Congress’ brave lawmakers who left us in the last six months. May souls of Cong. Nestor Fongwan (Benguet), Congresswoman Marissa Andaya (Camarines Sur), Congresswoman Ditas Ramos (Sorsogon) and Cong. Jun Datol (Senior Citizens party-list), former House members and House employees rest in peace,” Romero, President of the 54-strong Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI).
Velasco commended House employees for their continuous delivery of services to lawmakers and the public even in the midst of the pandemic, saying such commitment spoke clearly of their dedication, competence and professionalism.
“Some employees are even braving the commute to report for work every day, from our very dedicated Accounting and HR staff to security personnel. They are our version of essential frontliners,” he said.
The Speaker assured that the House will continue to make adjustments in the delivery of public services by “striking a balance between our health and safety, and the performance of our duty to serve our people.”
So far, at least 85 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the House, including 10 legislators.
Almost all of them have recovered except for two lawmakers and three employees who succumbed to the disease.
Amid the health threat posed by COVID-19, the HRep Month was celebrated in a toned down manner and all of the activities during the month-long celebration were held via videoconferencing app Zoom.
Velasco said the activities for the HRep Month have rightfully focused on the welfare and well-being of House employees.
“I assure you that under my leadership, you, the employees of the House of Representatives will be rightfully regarded as valued partners of the House members in performing our institution’s mandate, and that your welfare and well-being shall be a primary concern,” Velasco said.
“We celebrate the men, women and non-binaries of the House Secretariat and congressional staff. The House functioned throughout these trying times because of you,” he added.
In 2000, lawmakers adopted House Resolution No. 89 declaring October 16-22 as House of Representatives Week. The annual celebration was then extended for the whole month of October since 2008.