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ECQ to have huge effect on priority bills — Sotto

Robertzon Ramirez, Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
ECQ to have huge effect on priority bills â Sotto
“We will play it by ear, we are not worried about ourselves; we are worried about our employees. Many Senate employees commute to get to work. We will decide on the matter,” Sotto said in an interview over dwIZ.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo, file

MANILA, Philippines — With the re-imposition of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on Aug.6 seen to affect priority legislative measures, senators are preparing to discuss their work setup during the two-week ECQ period to maximize their accomplishments, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a radio interview yesterday.

“We will play it by ear, we are not worried about ourselves; we are worried about our employees. Many Senate employees commute to get to work. We will decide on the matter,” Sotto said in an interview over dwIZ.

“We will be hit hard, maybe we will work overtime this week so that we can finish the public services act. Hopefully, Sen. Aquilino Koko Pimentel can have a meeting on retail trade liberalization, and then we will also finish the foreign investment act, at least for a period of interpellation and then a period of amendments,” Sotto said.

The ECQ will be in effect until Aug. 20.

The two-week lockdown was intended to arrest the rise in COVID-19 cases, particularly the more infectious Delta variant.

On Friday, Metro Manila was placed under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions.

The new quarantine restrictions are expected to displace workers in the National Capital Region.

Despite disruption in voters’ registration due to the lockdown, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon made it clear yesterday there will be no more extension of the registration period in areas to be placed under ECQ.

“No, Sept. 30 is the deadline,” Guanzon said when asked if the Comelec was considering extending the deadline for voters’ registration in ECQ areas including the NCR.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said registration would resume after the lifting of ECQ.

While the lockdown will significantly affect the number of new voters, it will still be above the four million target.

“The return of NCR to a state of ECQ will undoubtedly have an impact on voter registration numbers. However, it bears remembering that the Comelec has, in fact, already exceeded expectations – and not just its own – for voter registration during a pandemic,” he said.

“More than four million newly eligible voters are already included in the voter rolls, and we have already blown past earlier and lower projections of the total number of voters registered for the 2022 national and local elections,” he added.

Jimenez also said that they are still open to suggestions regarding the conduct of elections, including the possibility of setting up polling places inside COVID-19 wards as well as setting new protocols for political rallies and voting in quarantine centers.

He said there might be legal impediments to holding elections away from designated voting centers, “but again, no ideas are off the table for now.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court said all courts and judicial offices in the NCR would be physically closed during the ECQ period and “shall continue to operate online and conduct videoconferencing hearings” for urgent cases.

The SC said urgent cases include the application for bail, releases due to dismissal of cases or acquittal, habeas corpus, applications for temporary protection orders for Violence Against Women and Children cases, and analogous circumstances, among others.

For important matters, the SC said that the courts are accessible through their respective hotlines and email addresses posted on the official website of the high court.

“The time for filing and service of pleadings and motions during this period is suspended and shall resume after seven calendar days counted from the first day of the physical reopening of the relevant court,” the SC said.

All courts and judicial offices outside NCR that are under ECQ and modified ECQ will only be operational online.

For areas under GCQ and modified GCQ, all courts and judicial offices will be physically open with an in-court skeleton workforce of at least 25 to 50 percent.

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