Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri expressed support for teleconferencing amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID) pandemic.
“I fully support some of our colleagues’ push for sessions via teleconferencing, which is now being done in many parliaments around the world during this pandemic,” said Zubiri in a statement Friday.
First of all, there is no public transport, and 80 percent of the 2,000 employees of the Senate use public transport, and therefore have no means of going to work, he said.
“So we need to operate with a skeletal staff for all offices, as we don’t want to put our employees at risk, many of whom are senior citizens and at-risk personnel,” said Zubiri.
“Secondly, we don’t want to also put our Senators at unnecessary risk, as we have members that have underlying medical conditions and, even if some won’t admit it, are senior citizens, which even the IATF considers under its priority stay-home orders. Remember that three Senators had already contracted COVID-19 due to our exposures in the Senate, dealing with our work as legislators. We have even lost a distinguished former Senator, Senator Heherson Alvarez, due to this deadly virus,” he said.
Zubiri said the House of Representatives is also planning the same arrangements to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The last thing we want to do is expose our members, staff, and secretariat personnel in the legislature and make the virus spread like wildfire in the communities where they live. That will not only defeat the purpose of the quarantine lockdown, but will put more of our medical personnel at risk and further fill up our strained medical facilities,” said Zubiri.
Zubiri said a draft resolution is being prepared and should be routed to all members for further comments and amendments.
“We may still need to attend the opening on May 4 to tackle this resolution as well as a resolution honoring our former colleague Sen. Heherson Alvarez,” he said.
“Once we reach a consensus on video sessions, we can then tweak our video equipment at the Senate and set up Zoom-like conferences with our members and secretariat officers to conduct our business for the day,” said Zubiri.
Everything would be strictly recorded and would be considered as part of the Senate Record and Archive.
“While we await a vaccine for this deadly virus and the spread of this disease continues, this may be the new normal for the meantime,” Zubiri said./Stacy Ang