Senate goes overtime to tackle priority bills amid upcoming ECQ
August 04, 2021 02:50 PM
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III says the Senate will be working overtime to pass important bills before the start of the two-week-long enhanced community quarantine.
“The two weeks will have a huge impact on our work."
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said that overtime work will be necessary for members of the Senate so they can expedite the passage of important measures, especially the ones considered priority bills by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The National Capital Region will be under a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) once again from August 6 to 20.
“The two weeks will have a huge impact on our work,” Sotto told reporters over the weekend.
“Most likely, we will work overtime this week while it is still possible... So that we can finish the Public Service Act. I hope Senator [Koko Pimentel] can meet with the bicameral conference committee on retail trade liberalization, and then I hope we can also finish, this week, the Foreign Investments Act— at least up to the period of interpellation, and then the period of amendments,” the Senate chief elaborated.
The Public Service Act, Foreign Investments Act, and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, are all priority bills according to the Palace, as noted during the President's last State of the Nation Address (SONA). The said measures have already been approved on third and final reading in the House of Representatives.
On passing key legislation, Sotto said, “Well, we will see [because] hopefully those three, as well as the bills related to seniors citizens."
According to the Senate chief, the two weeks of ECQ will “eat up a huge part of our timetable, since we still have pending key bills."
Sotto, meanwhile, said that he is not concerned about the chamber's 12 reelectionist senators who might become preoccupied with running their campaigns for next year's national elections.
“On October 1, that’s just the filing, it does not mean that it’s already the campaign period so we will keep working. Our work only stops during the Christmas break, and we may extend work by one or two days," Sotto said.
He added, “The campaign period does not start till February 6, therefore, we are not allowed to campaign from the time that we filed up to February 6. Trabaho, trabaho lang muna (Work, work—that's all until then)."
Chance for Cha-cha?
Regarding the Charter change proposal from the House, the Senate leader said that he and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco will continue tackling the Joint Resolution of both Houses despite the disapproval from several senators.
“What I can promise is that we can take it up. We will take it up. I cannot promise the opinion of my colleagues so, I have promised Speaker Velasco we will take it up. And our discussion is that, according to him, at least by January or before the break, February 6, since it’s a Joint Resolution, it’s not a bill. So, therefore, if we approve it, what happens is that the question will be included in the plebiscite," Sotto explained.
Senate during ECQ
The Senate, Sotto said, is still going over its plan to keep the chamber operating amid the two-week ECQ, however, even if senators will be attending the session virtually, some Senate employees will still be required to be physically present at the Senate building.
“We will play it by ear if we can go virtual or not... If not, we have to suspend during the time of the ECQ because we are not worried about ourselves, we are worried about the employees of the Senate," Sotto told reporters.
Even if most Senate workers are already vaccinated, Sotto said there is still a chance for them to be exposed to the virus during their commute.