Senate President Vicente Sotto III will preside the session on Monday when Congress resumes its regular sessions, even in the absence of a physical quorum at the Senate session hall.
Sotto said he will physically be present during the Monday session and during all session days until Congress adjourns sine die on June 5.
The first agenda on Monday will be the approval of proposed Senate Resolution No. 372 authored by 15 senators seeking to amend the Rules of the Senate to allow, among others, the conduct of sessions, hearings and meetings through teleconferencing or the use of electronic platforms.
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.
Sotto said that while senators will be permitted to participate in the sessions from their homes, there is still a need for him to be physically present at the Senate as there are procedures that cannot be done via teleconferencing.
Among these traditions are the procedures contained in the agenda mandated by the rules for each session day.
“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. And 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,” Sotto said.
Sotto said senators who will work from home need to inform the Senate Secretary or any member of the Secretariat that they will participate in the session through electronic means so their “presence” can be recorded for quorum 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.
However, any senator who wishes to deliver a Privilege Speech should do so at the Senate session hall.
Aside from Sotto, members of the Senate Secretariat who have primary functions during sessions will also be present at the Senate.
Employees from the different departments and units who will play essential roles in the conduct of the sessions, such as those in the technical and public information bureaus and the Senate security office will also be required to be at the Senate.
Staff of offices that do not have any participation in the sessions will continue their current work at home arrangements.
Each senator will decide on their respective offices’ work setups.
Sotto said 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.
“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.
Sotto stressed that senators, even during this time of a national health crisis, cannot shirk from their mandate of making laws especially since the people need to be assured that their government leaders are working to help them survive and recover from the COVID-19 scourge.
“More than anytime, we need to let our people know and feel that we are here to serve them and look out for their welfare. Hindi namin tatalikuran ang sinumpaan naming mandato na pagsilbihan ang sambayanan, lalo na sa panahon ng ating pakikipaglaban para masugpo ang coronavirus,” Sotto said./Stacy Ang