Tell it to SunStar: A lawyer’s perspective

AMID all this controversy on the VIP testing of politicians and/or high ranking government officials, I don’t find myself against it. I cannot read minds, so I don’t know the motivation of the senators and more particularly Senator Francis Tolentino’s motivation in getting tested whether it was for selfish reasons or was it for the national interest.

It is important for the country to have a functioning government. It means that we need healthy government officials.

Some critics ask why should legislators get tested when their job is to enact laws and they are not on the ground? It is a waste of resources, they say.

I completely disagree with the critics. We are faced with an unprecedented situation. We are adjusting to the situation day-by-day. We do not know what it will be next week, next month and etc.

In order to cope with an unpredictable situation, we will need quick legislation and execution. Legislation from the legislative department, execution from the executive department. Pending now before Congress is the very urgently needed emergency powers bill.

Article Six of our Constitution contains the provisions for the legislative department. Section 16 paragraph 2 provides:

“A majority of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day and may compel the attendance of absent Members in such manner, and under such penalties, as such House may provide.”

Section 16 paragraph 4 provides:

“Neither House during the sessions of the Congress shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.”

Thus, for the legislative to function we must have a majority of them present in the building of the Senate and the building of the House of Representatives. They cannot adjourn to any other place to do business.

At present, Senator Miguel Zubiri has tested positive; Senators Gatchalian and Binay are on quarantine as they have been in contact with a positive person. Now, imagine if they were not tested and continued working in the Senate in the same room as all other senators, the possibility of all of them getting infected becomes very high or at least a majority of the Senate getting infected.

Once this happens, the Senate cannot function. Important necessary legislation, like the emergency powers bill, to deal with this pandemic cannot be passed. Additional budgets cannot be made (the legislative department has the power of the purse).

This is the importance of why we have to ensure that every legislator and their staff and whoever enters the buildings of Congress is safe. It will even be a good idea to let the non-infected members of Congress and their staff quarantine themselves in Congress to the exclusion of anybody else, again, because it is of utmost importance that we have a functioning government at this time.

We also need the executive department tested.

The executive department executes the laws passed by the legislative. This is the President all the way down to the barangay tanod. It is their job to keep society from going into anarchy.

Governors, mayors, barangay captains, police officers, etc. deal with hundreds of people on a daily basis during this pandemic. Now if any of these government officials are asymptomatic carriers of the virus by the nature of their work, they can potentially infect thousands and thousands of people.

In order to protect the citizens, just like the medical frontliners, these people in the executive department should be tested and should wear protective clothing. They need protective clothing not only to protect themselves but more on so they will not be able to transmit the virus to other people if they are asymptomatic carriers.

The crab mentality is very strong in social media now criticizing some government officials for seeking “special treatment” and I do get where they are coming from.

The reality is we need them healthy because we need government to continue functioning otherwise our country will go into anarchy.


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