By Charissa Luci-Atienza
As Congress resumes sessions on Monday, May 4, only 25 members of the House of Representatives are allowed to physically participate in the plenary session, while the rest will attend the session through video conferencing.
This was based on the seven-page memorandum issued by the Office of the House Secretary-General Atty. Jose Luis Montales on May 1. The memorandum provides the guidelines on the Lower Chamber’s operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on the guidelines, House leadership is expected to adopt a system for choosing the House members who will physically attend the session.
“The procedures used during the Special Session shall govern attendance, debates, and all other aspects of a session,” according to the guidelines.
The House conducted its virtual plenary session last March 23 when they passed its version of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
Only 25 people, including Secretariat employees, media personnel, and guests
shall be allowed inside the Session Hall, it said.
In a memorandum, which provides the guidelines on the Lower Chamber’s operations, Montales sought the strict implementation of operational guidelines “that are designed to balance the continuing performance of the institution’s functions and the provision of necessary protection for its
Members, employees, and the general public.”
He said the House will be imposing restrictions, limitations, and changes “for everyone’s safety.”
“Activities have to be restricted, personal interactions limited, and work arrangements and processes changed,” Montales said.
Based on the guidelines, committee hearings, technical working group meetings, administrative meetings, political caucuses, and press conferences will be conducted through
A physical meeting or a combination of physical meeting and videoconferencing with the number of physically-attending participants will be allowed “for compelling reasons.”
Under the guidelines, the House will strictly implement the no-face-mask, no-entry policy, and the protocols on social distancing.
“There could be gaps in these guidelines — confusion and misunderstanding, even. Please bear with us and with each other as we all try to adjust to the new normal and to the changing circumstances,” Montales said.
Based on the guidelines, appropriate health screening, sanitation, and disinfection protocols shall be undertaken.
On the entry of House members, employees and guests to the Batasang Pambansa Complex and buildings, there will be separate lines for Members in all building entrances.
“Members, employees, and guests shall be subjected to health screening and
disinfection protocols, as follows:
– Body temperature shall be taken. Persons with temperature reading of 37.5°C or higher shall be denied entry, directed to quarantine tents, and attended to by HRep medical personnel;
– All will apply alcohol or sanitizers, which will be provided in all entrances.
– Face mask shall be required. A no-face-mask, no-entry policy shall be followed.
– All will step on footwear disinfection mats.”
The House advised that only guests with confirmed appointments shall be allowed entry to House of Representatives premises and buildings.
“Offices must provide the Office of Sergeant-at-Arms their guest list at least one hour before the guests’ expected arrival,” it said.
It required the guests to submit duly accomplished Health Declaration Form.
“While the form will be made available in every building entrance, guests should be encouraged to download the form from our website and accomplish it before going to House of Representatives,” it reminded.
The House said it continues to receive visitors seeking assistance “only during Thursday.”
“The reception of visitors seeking financial, medical or other assistance from Members shall be allowed only during Thursdays and done only at the first level of the North Multi-Level Parking,” the guidelines said.
The House members were also advised that “only official travels that are necessary in the performance of House of Representatives’ mandate and travels that are needed for personal or medical emergencies shall be authorized or granted clearance.”
“Members and employees who travelled shall strictly follow the quarantine protocols prescribed by the Department of Health,” according to the guidelines.
Under the guidelines, violators shall be subjected to “appropriate administrative and criminal sanctions.”