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Senators file reso allowing sessions via teleconferencing amid COVID-19 crisis

/ 02:47 PM April 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Majority of the senators on Monday filed a resolution that would allow the Senate to conduct its sessions and committee hearings via teleconferencing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

At least 15 of 24 senators signed Senate Resolution No. 372.

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“The imposition and extension of an enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region and specified provinces, until the 15th May 2020, and its attendant limitations should not prevent Congress from exercising its Constitutional mandate to enact laws and authorize appropriations, especially those necessary for the national government to respond to this national emergency the safety and well-being of the affected population,” the resolution read.

The resolution, once adopted, would amend the rules of the Senate to add a provision under Rule 14 allowing the chamber, with the consent of the House of Representatives, to “convene and hold session through teleconference, video conference, or other reliable forms of remote or electronic means, using appropriate information and communications technology systems, due to force majeure or the occurrence of an emergency which may prevent the convening of the Senate or the physical presence of its members of its members in the session hall.”

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Under the resolution, the Senate president would also be allowed to postpone the holding of a session on a day to day adjournment given that he consults both the Senate Majority Leader and the Senate Minority Leader first.

The resolution also seeks to amend Section 22 of Rule 11 that would likewise authorize committees to conduct meetings and hearings “through teleconference, video conference, or other reliable forms of remote or electronic means, using appropriate information and communications technology systems” in the event of unforeseeable circumstances or emergencies that “may prevent the senators from physically attending the committee meetings or hearings.”

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The 15 senators, in their resolution, also asked the Senate secretary to “recommend the appropriate information and communications technology system and, upon the Senate President’s approval, oversee the setting up thereof.”

The Senate secretary was also urged to “provide for relevant safety measures to protect the integrity the plenary session and committee hearings, the security and reliability of the technology used, and the proper archiving of the audio-visual or electronic recording of the sessions and hearings as part of the records of the Senate.”

Below are the senators who signed the resolution:

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon
Senator Sonny Angara
Senator Nancy Binay
Senator Pia Cayetano
Senate Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian
Senate Lito Lapid
Senator Imee Marcos
Senator Manny Pacquiao
Senator Grace Poe (may amend during May 4 session)
Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
Senator Joel Villanueva
Senator Cynthia Villar

Among the senators who did not sign the resolution are Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and Senators Christopher “Bong” Go, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Panfilo Lacson, Francis Pangilinan, and Francis Tolentino.

Senator Leila de Lima, who has been detained over drug-related charges since February 2017, was also not a signatory to the resolution.

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Sotto earlier said that the extended quarantine in Metro Manila and other “high risk” areas would not affect the scheduled resumption of the regular session of Congress on May 4.

“As far as Congress is concerned, it does not matter. We have to convene,” Sotto told reporters in a Viber message last week.

Sotto also said some senators were “not comfortable” with holding sessions virtually, adding that the matter would need to be discussed first due to “legal and other questions” that may arise.

EDV

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