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House urged: Drop Cha-cha, focus on vaccine rollout
“To increase vaccine acceptance, legislators should initiate or join information campaigns in their districts to persuade would-be vaccinees that the vaccines are safe, and are necessary to eventually contain the pandemic,” Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said over the weekend.
AFP/Alain Jocard

House urged: Drop Cha-cha, focus on vaccine rollout

Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - March 22, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, the House of Representatives leadership under Speaker Lord Allan Velasco should just “drop” its move to amend the 1987 Constitution, and focus instead on the immunization of the general public.

“To increase vaccine acceptance, legislators should initiate or join information campaigns in their districts to persuade would-be vaccinees that the vaccines are safe, and are necessary to eventually contain the pandemic,” Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said over the weekend.

He said it would be best if the super majority coalition “do their part in helping the Duterte administration implement its inoculation program,” especially in the wake of the “serious surge in COVID-19 caseload.”

According to Villafuerte, the vaccine rollout should be the House leadership’s “number one priority concern right now,” where no less than the Speaker placed the entire Batasang Pambansa complex on a four-day lockdown due to the spike in coronavirus cases.

“Travel bans, curfews and checkpoints are back; the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) has shuttered driving schools, gaming arcades and museums, and reduced the capacities of restaurants, cafes and DOT (Department of Tourism)-accredited establishments; churches are back to 30 percent capacity,” he said.

“And the DOH (Department of Health) is considering sending patients to Southern and Central Luzon hospitals amid the swelling COVID-19 bed occupancy rate of hospital ICUs (intensive care units) in Metro Manila,” Villafuerte said.

He said the Charter change initiative looks like a futile political exercise because Senate President Vicente Sotto III and other Senate leaders already said recently that constitutional reform is not their priority amid the pandemic.

But as far as Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez is concerned, the lower legislative chamber “can finish economic Cha-cha this year.”

“Since we will have a break next week on March 25, the deliberations will be continued when we resume sessions on May 17. Speaker Velasco is affording the opportunity to all members to participate in the deliberations,” the Cagayan de Oro City congressman said.

The resolution containing the proposals would then be transmitted to the Senate.

Rodriguez, a former constitutional amendments House committee chairman and law dean, pointed out that the Senate will then have enough time to consider economic Cha-cha once the consolidated measure is sent to it.

The proposed amendments are contained in Resolution of Both Houses 2, authored by Speaker Velasco.

The resolution seeks to empower Congress to change constitutional limitations on foreign participation in certain sectors of the economy like telecommunications, public utilities, media, advertising and education, except land which will continue to be only for Filipinos.

“The changing of those restrictions will hasten the country’s recovery from this crippling pandemic. It will help attract more foreign investments and provide more employment to our people which are really the objectives of Speaker Velasco’s RBH-2,” Rodriguez said.

He said several senators have expressed support for the “lofty goal” of the Speaker’s resolution.

“That is why I am confident that the Senate will tackle our amendment proposals once transmitted to them and will eventually consider approving them,” he said.

Rodriguez reiterated the Speaker’s assurances that the House will propose only economic amendments.

“Our plenary discussions for the past three weeks now have been limited to RBH-2. No one among the 300 members of the House has suggested any political amendment,” he said.

He also reiterated that the House and the Senate will vote separately and not jointly on economic cha-cha proposals.

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