MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is seeking to obtain 5,000 doses of Gamaleya Research Institute’s COVID-19 jab for the vaccination of its employees to ensure that legislative work would not be “paralyzed,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
“Mahuli na po ang mga senador. Unahin na muna natin ang ating mga (The senators can go last, we will prioritize our) staff…All the senators can do teleconferencing. Still, in the absence of our staff, especially the secretariat, we cannot pass legislation. If we cannot pass legislation, one branch of government is paralyzed,” Zubiri said during Wednesday’s plenary session.
“If we have no staff, we have no stenographers; we cannot have hearings, we cannot pass legislation. Without legislation, we cannot pass key, important measures, including the national budget,” he added.
Zubiri said he had already contacted Malacañang and the heads of the government’s vaccination rollout regarding the inoculation of the Senate’s employees.
“Hopefully, with this batch of Sputnik V [from] Gamaleya coming to the Philippines next month, or this month…we were appealing if we can buy an allotment of 5,000 doses. That’s good for 2,500 staff and members of the Senate and the secretariat to inoculate them,” the majority leader said.
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“Para pagbalik natin (So when we return) in May, everybody could start coming back to work knowing fully well that they are protected from this dreadful virus,” he added.
Wednesday was the Senate’s last session day before it goes on break. Congress will resume sessions on May 17.
‘We are frontliners’
Zubiri brought up the topic of vaccinating Senate employees after lamenting reports that barangay officials and volunteers in Metro Manila are already being vaccinated.
“Nauunahan pa ng mga barangay volunteers ang Senado at ang mga miyembro ng Kongreso and the representatives’ secretariats [These barangay volunteers are getting vaccinated even before the Senate, members of Congress as well as the representatives’ secretariat]. We already have several, dozens of members of the Senate staff and secretariat and also members of the Senate that natamaan ng [who catched] COVID,” he said.
“With due respect to people who will say that senators and their work and the members of the secretariat of the Senate are not frontline workers, excuse me, Sirs and Ma’ams, we are frontline workers,” he added.
“We passed Bayanihan 1 that give the ‘ayuda’ packages to the people. We also passed Bayanihan 2 that gave additional ayuda, assistance not only to people but industries as well,” he further said.
The senator went on to say that he is only concerned with the chamber, emphasizing that the “business of legislation cannot be delayed.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who reiterated that the Senate employees will be prioritized, said the chamber’s secretariat has already contacted Gamaleya about the matter.
“And they agreed already but the problem is with the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) mabagal ang aksyon (They are slow to act). We have no word yet,” Sotto added.
“Hindi kaya tayo natatagalan sa IATF dahil binabatikos nang binabatikos ng mga kasama natin?” he quipped.
(Could it be that the reason the IATF is slow to act on this matter is that our colleagues have been criticizing them?)
READ: Senators call for revamp of COVID-19 response task force
The Senate has been under lockdown due to the rising number of employees infected with COVID-19.
READ: Senate to remain under lockdown during Holy Week amid COVID-19 surge
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