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A Mindanao congressman on Sunday urged lawmakers to convene in a “virtual session” to approve measures to contain the spread of coronavirus disease-19 (Covid-19) and to help affected sectors.

“I am suggesting that the House and the Senate meet in a special session through video-teleconferencing and other technological means since President Duterte has prohibited mass gatherings and banned travel from the provinces to Metro Manila,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

He said such a special session could materialize through a call from the President, who can exercise such power whenever Congress is on adjournment or recess.

He said both chambers should set up the infrastructure to enable them to hold a virtual session.

Rodriguez pointed out that an assembly of 300 congressmen at the House plenary hall is considered a “mass gathering” that is not permitted under the President’s order, while the travel ban prevents lawmakers already in the provinces from flying to Metro Manila.

“The prudent thing to do is to stay home and work from home to avoid getting infected by this virus. This is much like telecommuting or working from home via computer technologies, which a 2018 law encourages the private sector to do lessen traffic congestion and so much inconvenience on the part of employees,” he added.

He stressed that lawmakers cannot wait until May 4, when they reconvene under their legislative calendar, to pass urgent measures like the proposed P1.7-billion fund augmentation that would allow the Department of Health to procure badly needed personal protective equipment for health workers and other supplies.

He said Congress also has to tackle proposed stimulus packages for workers affected by the community quarantine in Metro Manila and other local government units, and for small businesses suffering from dwindling number of patrons who are understandably afraid of Covid-19.

Rodriguez has filed three bills seeking a total of P23 billion in assistance – P3 billion for distressed workers, P10 billion for small tourism-oriented establishments and another P10 billion for other small and medium-scale businesses.

“If we wait for May 4 to consider these measures, it might be too late to help the affected sectors,” he said.

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