The Senate will hold its session at 10 a.m. today with enough members physically present to constitute a quorum while the 300-member House will conduct its proceedings with only key leaders present, and the rest participating and voting online or through text messaging.
Miguel de Guzman
Senate, House to hold special session online today
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate and the House of Representatives will hold a special session today to grant President Duterte powers to immediately mobilize a P200-billion warchest to fund the urgent campaign to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as the number of cases in the country continues to rise.

The Senate will hold its session at 10 a.m. today with enough members physically present to constitute a quorum while the 300-member House will conduct its proceedings with only key leaders present, and the rest participating and voting online or through text messaging.

As of yesterday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III was reviewing the chamber’s rules to check if they could be relaxed somehow or which sections could be dispensed with to allow the session as well as the voting to proceed as swiftly as possible, with even less physical presence of senators, without violating any legal or constitutional provisions.

“There are many parliamentary strategies that can be done so we can do this (session) safely and quickly,” Sotto told reporters via Viber.

He said he would call for the session at 10 a.m. to present the bill on first reading, then suspend, and reopen shortly to pass the measure on second, and third and final reading.

The Senate president added that there are efforts to gather all the information and materials needed before today’s session so that senators could propose their amendments, and possibly make their decision and vote before the end of proceedings.

It is not yet clear if everything will be wrapped up today or will continue this week or until both chambers finish their tasks but Sen. Panfilo Lacson told dzBB that they would try their best to do everything today to minimize contact among themselves and their respective staff.

Lacson said Sotto made a headcount and informed his colleagues that they must be physically present during the roll call, and may disperse after that, and continue the session possibly online.

Some of the senators are stranded outside Metro Manila, like Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, who is in Davao City. Only 13 senators are needed to constitute a quorum.

The session comes after a meeting at Malacañang among leaders of both chambers led by Sotto and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano as well as from the executive branch led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado.

Sen. Pia Cayetano will sponsor the measure that may be called the “Heal As One Act” or the “Bayanihan Act.”

“We will work toward legislation that will make available P200 billion, mostly as financial assistance to the 16 million families – mostly coming from the informal sector, like street and market vendors, agricultural workers, etc., to allow them to buy food and other essentials,” Cayetano said in a statement.

She added that the meeting will also discuss the funding for the immediate procurement of medical supplies and equipment that are in acute shortage.

The House will pass its counterpart bill and Lacson expressed hope that there will be no disagreeing provisions on the versions passed by both chambers to obviate the need to convene a bicameral conference committee to reconcile them. – With Delon Porcalla, Helen Flores

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SENATE
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