Sotto says to go to Senate to preside session Monday with or without ‘physical quorum’

3 years ago 0 Comments

MANILA – Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Saturday he would go to the Senate on Monday to preside the session as Congress resumes, even while a quorum may not be reached as some senators were concerned of quarantine protocols as the enhanced community quarantine remains in effect in Metro Manila. 

In a statement, Sotto said he would "physically" preside over all session days until Congress adjourns on June 6, saying some procedures in sessions may not be permitted through teleconferencing.

"…[B]eing the Senate President, I have the responsibility to ensure that all sessions are conducted as mandated by the Rules of the Senate and by the Constitution," Sotto said.

Congress resumes session on May 4, but some lawmakers have called for alternative ways for them to meet, including online meetings. 

It would be the first time for the Senate to hold session since the outbreak, which also coincided with the start of its break.

Three senators- Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senators Sonny Angara and Aquilino Pimentel III- earlier contracted the disease. The Senate's offices in Pasay City had to be closed after a carrier was confirmed to have appeared in a committee hearing, forcing lawmakers and their staff to go on quarantine.

Sotto, in calling for physical attendance of his colleagues, cited Senate rules requiring the presence of at least 12 senators before a quorum could be declared. The legislative body can only hold virtual meetings after this rule is amended, Sotto said.

Monday's session seeks to discuss such amendment.

"Once the resolution is approved, senators can attend sessions and hold hearings or meetings even without being physically present at the session hall, for the sessions, or the committee rooms for the hearings and meetings," the statement said. 

Should senators choose to work from home, Sotto advised them to inform the Senate secretary or any member of the Secretariat "so their presence can be recorded for quorum purposes." 

Members of the Senate Secretariat "who have primary functions during sessions," employees who will "play essential roles" during sessions such as people in public information and technical bureaus are required to be present once session starts, the statement said. They will also undergo health protocols to help contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

Office staff not required to be physically present may continue telecommuting. 

"I am fully aware of the concerns of Senate employees about going to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to assure everyone that necessary health safeguards will be enforced and social distancing and hygiene protocols will be strictly followed during the sessions," Sotto said. 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier raised the possibility of “breaching quarantine protocols” should the Senate start convening physically. 

The country’s health department earlier advised public and private establishments to mount work-from-home arrangements for employees as the highly-contagious virus can easily spread in crowded areas through the transmission of droplets from COVID-19 carriers. 

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