Senate ‘not keen’ on special session, says Sotto

Published July 8, 2020, 3:08 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is no longer keen to hold a special Congress session for the proposed Bayanihan 2 since lawmakers are set to resume sessions this month.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sotto, in an online forum on Wednesday, July 8, said the Palace’s supposed call for a special session “will not really have a big effect at this point.”

“It should have been called a month ago, or even about two weeks ago,” he said.

Congress is scheduled to open its second regular session on July 27, on the day of President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said last Thursday, July 2, that a special session will still be called but after the executive department has ironed out its proposals for the continued grant of special powers to President Duterte for the country’s COVID-19 response.

Sotto shared with reporters last June 30 that the Senate had received the executive department’s proposals for the Bayanihan 2.

The Senate chief said lawmakers were planning to take up the Palace’s proposals, as well as the differences with the House of Representatives version, after both chambers of Congress have approved their respective Bayanihan 2 bills upon their resumption.

“We will approve it on third reading and we will call for a bicam[eral conference committee], dahil iba ang version ng House (because the House has a different version),” Sotto bared.

He said his colleagues also found that some of the proposals sent by the executive branch and the contents of the House bill could be separated from the Bayanihan 2.

Sotto assured that only those discussed and agreed upon by lawmakers during the bicameral meeting will be included in the final version of the COVID-19 measure.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act expired last month.

Before adjourning sine die last June 4, the Senate approved on second reading its proposed “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” which proposes a P140-billion standby fund for programs addressing the pandemic and its impact.

It retains most of the contents of the Bayanihan 1, such as the emergency subsidy for low-income households, but also expanded the assistance to teachers and students, and other affected sectors.

Malacañang, however, did not certify the bill as urgent.