Senators look to hold plenary sessions, committee hearings online

Published April 27, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Terrazola

Fifteen senators have agreed to the proposal seeking to authorize the Senate’s conduct of plenary sessions through teleconferencing.

Senate of the Philippines building (Senate of the Philippines official Facebook)
Senate of the Philippines building (Senate of the Philippines official Facebook)

The senators filed on Monday, April 27, Senate Resolution No. 372, which seeks to amend the rules of the Upper Chamber and allow its members to hold sessions online in light of the extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila to May 15.

The signatories were: Sens. Ralph Recto, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Franklin Drilon, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Ronald dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Manuel Lapid, Imee Marcos, Emmanuel Pacquiao, Grace Poe, Ramon Revilla Jr., Joel Villanueva, and Cynthia Villar.

The measure proposes to include a provision in the Senate rules allowing the conduct of committee hearings or plenary session through teleconferencing and other electronic means, when there is a “force majeure,” or extraordinary situations, or an emergency that prevents senators to physically attend meetings.

The Senate President would also be authorized to postpone, in consultation with the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader, the holding of the session on a daily adjournment.

The resolution also sought to get the consent of its co-equal House of Representatives for the holding of online plenary sessions.

The Senate secretary, meanwhile, would be tasked to provide necessary communications technology systems for this move, and ensure that the audio and visual recordings of the online session will be included in the chamber’s records.

In pushing for teleconferencing, the senators said that the imposition and extension of the ECQ 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 the national emergency while ensuring the safety and well-being of the affected population.”

They are expected to discuss and vote on the resolution when Congress resumes sessions on May 4.