Congressmen to donate part of their salaries for Batanes quake victims

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2019   •   1210

Photo by Dominic de Sagon Asa

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the House of Representatives are looking to raise some money to help the victims of twin earthquakes that rattled Batanes over the weekend.

In a statement issued on Tuesday (July 30), House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said leaders of the lower chamber have agreed to kick off a fund drive for the relief operations in Batanes, and urged their colleagues to donate a portion of their salary.

Each lawmaker is expected to contribute a minimum of P5,000 from his or her salary. The House, which has 300 members, is expected to raise at least P1.5 million or higher.

Aside from the monetary contribution, Romualdez said some congressmen have also expressed interest in donating relief goods collected from their staff and other House employees.

“It (contribution) has been the practice whenever a district is hard-hit by a calamity, in this case Batanes. This voluntary effort on the part of the congressmen to contribute has been done in the past through salary deduction. This has been initiated for the benefit of the casualties’ loved ones and injured residents of Batanes,” said Romualdez.

During a session on Monday, the House of Representatives adopted Resolution No. 139 expressing its “profound sympathies” and “deepest condolences” to those affected by the twin temblors that jolted Batanes.

The resolution also called on the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and other relevant organizations to expedite humanitarian assistance and restore normalcy to the affected areas.

The resolution was authored by Speaker Alan Cayetano, Romualdez, and House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante, Jr.

A manifestation was also made before the plenary about the “signature sheet” that shall be circulated for House members so they can write the amount of their voluntary contribution.

Last Saturday, nine people were killed and 63 others were injured when strong earthquakes hit Itbayat town in Batanes. President Rodrigo Duterte earlier promised to give P40 million to help reconstruct its local hospital damaged by earthquakes.

House records 98 new cases after COVID-19 mass testing

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Ninety-eight individuals in the House of Representatives tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) following a mass testing conducted in the lower chamber.

In a statement on Tuesday, House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza said the number represents nearly five percent of 2,000 House lawmakers and employees who underwent reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing since November 10.

Mendoza, however, did not say how many of these individuals were House lawmakers and personnel.

“It’s the first time a mass testing was conducted in the House since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, and this happened less than one month after Speaker [Lord Allan] Velasco assumed office,” he said.

According to Mendoza, almost all COVID-19 positive cases were asymptomatic.

“All those who tested positive were directed to self-isolate to avoid passing the virus to others and immediate tracing of their close contacts was conducted,” he said.

Prior to November 10, the House already registered more than 80 COVID-19 cases since March. Almost all of them have recovered, except for two lawmakers and three employees who succumbed to the disease.

The testing laboratory commissioned by the House has reported the cases to the Department of Health, while the chamber’s in-house medical service made proper coordination with concerned Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams, Mendoza said.

The Lower House will also continue to operate under strict health and safety protocols as it coordinates with the Quezon City government for the conduct of a more extensive contact tracing, he added.

Visitors are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before they can be granted access to the offices inside the complex.

All those entering the House need to wear masks and face shields, pass through thermal scanners and disinfection machines, and observe physical distancing at all times.

House members, employees and guests are required to submit an accomplished health declaration form to inform the chamber of their health status before being allowed to enter its premises.

All offices and buildings within the complex are also disinfected daily.

The House of Representatives is conducting a hybrid session that combines physical presence with teleconferencing to tackle legislative measures.

Quezon City gov’t, Congress to work closely to Batasan COVID-19 cases

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Quezon City government and the House of Representatives have agreed to work closely to control and manage the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the lower chamber.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Monday said House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco have committed to provide the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU) with a copy of the reported COVID-19 cases in Congress for contact tracing purposes.

To assist the House of Representatives, the city government will dispatch its mobile testing UNIT that will administer PCR swab test to its employees.

Velasco previously instructed the team in-charge to prepare a comprehensive report on the results of the mass COVID-19 testing conducted in Congress and submit it immediately to the city government.

Before Congress resumed session in November, Velasco initiated the COVID testing in the lower chamber.

“We wanted to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the Batasan Complex – House Members, employees, and even guests— while the legislative chamber carries out its constitutional duties in these critical times,” he said.

The city government earlier learned that the Lower House recorded 28 Covid-19 cases.

“Contact tracing is important so we can isolate possible carriers and to protect communities,” Belmonte said.

House names contingent to bicam panel on proposed 2021 national budget

Robie de Guzman   •   November 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives said it has formed a 21-member contingent to the bicameral conference committee on the proposed P4.506-trillion nation budget for 2021.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the contingent will make sure that the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will be signed into law before the year ends.

“We have to make sure the GAB lands on President Duterte’s desk for his signature before the year ends to prevent a reenacted spending program that could slow economic growth and hamper the delivery of government services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Velasco said in a statement Wednesday.

The House contingent, led by Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap, will represent the lower chamber to the bicam panel tasked to reconcile the provisions of House Bill 7727 or the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2021.

Yap will be joined by vice-chairpersons Deputy Speakers Salvador “Doy” Leachon and Mikee Romero, and 16 members from the majority, namely, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo “Rimpy” Bondoc, Rizal Rep. Michael John Duavit, Deputy Majority Leader Bernadette Herrera, Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona, Negros Occidental Rep. Francisco Benitez, Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison.

The contingent also includes Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, Assistant Majority Leader Kristine Singson-Meehan, Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno, Deputy Speaker Jose “Lito” Atienza, Batangas Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain, Valenzuela Rep. Eric Martinez, Abra Rep. Joseph Bernos, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, and Valenzuela City Rep. Weslie Gatchalian.

Also joining the contingent were Minority Leader Joseph Stephen “Caraps” Paduano and independent lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

The designation of the House contingent was in anticipation of the Senate approval of the 2021 GAB, Velasco said.

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