Senate mulls 2-week suspension of session in support of frontliners

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THE Senate leadership is considering suspending session for two weeks to heed the call of medical frontliners to place Metro Manila again under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

A group of physicians made the appeal to the government to further prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Sources said Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd was now consulting his colleagues on declaring a two-week ECQ in the Senate “as a show of support and concern for the frontliners.”

If the plan pushes through, the scheduled hearing on Tuesday regarding alleged anomalies at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will be postponed.

There will be a skeleton force from the Office of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms (OSAA).

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he supports the medical frontliners’ call for an ECQ of 15 days to stem the spread of the virus.

“Last time we were on ECQ we had an average of just 200 cases a day, today at GCQ it’s an average 3,000 to 4,000 cases a day,” the senator said in a text message.

“Kawawa na ang mga duktor at mga nurses sa mga ospital na punong puno na (I pity the doctors and nurses who continue to work in hospitals that are already in full capacity),” Zubiri said.

He added, “We understand the need to give importance to business and economy, especially to those who might lose their jobs [if Metro Manila goes back to ECQ] but there is a need to keep workers safe to have a robust economy.”

He noted that the Senate has passed on third and final reading the Bayanihan 2 law to further provide aid to workers who might lose their jobs under an ECQ.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said, “Since there appears to be a consensus among majority of senators, including the minority bloc, we might formalize the decision during our 2 p.m. caucus and 3 p.m. session (most probably virtual) tomorrow (Monday).”

“Since we cannot adjourn for more than three session days without the consent of the HoR (House of Representatives) as provided under Article 6, Section 16 paragraph 5 of the Constitution, we will have to resolve our way forward in this regard,” Lacson said in a text message.

The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) on Saturday appealed to Malacañan Palace to again place Metro Manila under ECQ, even just for two weeks, to give health workers time to recuperate from exhaustion due to the non-stop admission of Covid-19 patients in hospitals.

Dr. Maricar Limpin, PCP vice chairman, pointed out that cases started to rise after the ECQ was relaxed into the modified community quarantine. She added that aside from physical exhaustion, many hospital workers were also experiencing depression.

President Rodrigo Duterte has retained the general community quarantine (GCQ) over Metro Manila until August 15.

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