Sotto requires all senators to attend session resumption on Monday

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 2) – Senate President Vicente Sotto III wants complete attendance of senators on Monday during the resumption of the Senate session.

Sotto said the physical presence of 23 other senators on Monday is required to pass a resolution allowing Senate sessions, hearings and meetings through teleconferencing.

“Attendance via teleconferencing will only be allowed after the passage of a resolution allowing such,” reminded Sotto.

The Senate President assured the public that he will be physically present in all Senate sessions until June 5, when the two legislative chambers will adjourn until the 4th Monday of July.

“Kailangan kong maging physically present sa lahat ng session days, Monday to Wednesday, hanggang June 5 dahil may mga procedures sa session na hindi pwedeng gawin via teleconferencing. Kailangang may mag-preside from the Senate session hall,” added Sotto. “Being 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.”

[Translation: I need to be physically present in all session days, Monday to Wednesday, until June 5, because there are session procedures that are not possible via teleconferencing. There is a need for someone to preside from the Senate session hall.]

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he will attend the Senate session on Monday, but insisted on passing a resolution via the teleconferencing of Senate sessions, hearings and meetings because there is no need for such legality.

Drilon is also worried about whether all senators will be able to attend on Monday, due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. One of their colleagues, Sen. Sonny Angara, tested positive for the virus for the second time on Saturday.

“Ang isang problema diyan, kapag nag-roll call sa Lunes at walang quorum? Kapag kailangan ang physical presence at walang enough warm bodies sa session hall, paano mo ipapasa yung resolution?” said Drilon.

[Translation: A problem is what if there is no quorum on Monday? How could you pass the resolution if there are no enough warm bodies in the session hall?]

Drilon added the House of Representatives convened via teleconferencing without passing such resolution. He emphasized there are no legal hurdles in holding such electronic way of meetings, sessions, and hearings in the Senate.

“May kapangyarihan ang Senado to set the rules of procedures. Iyan ay nasa Saligang Batas at hindi pwedeng kwestyunin ng Korte Suprema. Mayroon ng precedent diyan, yung special session na ipinatawag ng Pangulong Duterte kung saan doon sa HoR, nagkaroon ng session through teleconferencing,” said Drilon.

[Translation: The Senate has the power to set the rules of procedures. That is enshrined in the Constitution and cannot be questioned in the Supreme Court. It also has a precedent, which is a special session called by President (Rodrigo) Duterte to the HoR to have a session through teleconferencing.]

Sotto emphasized senators who plan to work from home and participate through teleconferencing need to inform the Senate Secretary or any member of the secretariat for attendance purposes.

Senators who will be on teleconference can sponsor committee reports, participate during the interpellation and period of committee and individual amendments, and cast their votes.

The Senate President reminds that any senator who wishes to deliver a privilege speech should be physically present at the Senate session hall.

Sotto also announced that members of the Senate Secretariat who have primary functions during sessions and employees of the Senate technical and public information bureaus and security office are required to report to work at the Senate.

He assured the senators, their staff, and all employees who will report for work at the Senate will go through health protocols to ensure the health and safety of everyone.