Senate to convene on May 4 despite extended COVID-19 lockdown: Sotto

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 24 2020 11:03 AM | Updated as of Apr 24 2020 11:06 AM

MANILA - The Senate will reconvene as scheduled on May 4 despite the extended coronavirus-related lockdown in the Philippines, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Friday.

Despite the extension of the enhanced community quarantine until May 15, Congress needs to reconvene in 2 weeks as "it is a mandate of our legislative calendar," Sotto told reporters in a text message.

"As far as Congress is concerned, it does not matter. We have to convene... and I don't have to ask," the Senate President said.

Under Senate rules, at least 12 senators have to be "physically present" to muster a quorum.

Senators "will play by ear after resumption" if the Senate needs to shift to teleconferencing or virtual sessions to abide by the government's physical distancing policies, Sotto said.

The chamber also needs to discuss if media will be allowed to enter the Senate building to cover sessions, he said.

"Pag-uusapan pa. Malamang hindi [puwede] because puwede naman [mag-cover via] internet," he said.

(We have to discuss it. Most likely we will not allow media to physically cover because they can do that via internet.)

Sen. Sonny Angara earlier said that there were "strong opinions about postponing actual, physical sessions" as a means of precaution against the possible spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the Senate.

"I think we have to find a way to be creative about the rules... It's really risk management," said the senator, who recently recovered from COVID-19.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian earlier said that the Senate might temporarily defer from holding hearings to avoid the influx of resource persons and guests in the building.

"Feeling ko hindi muna puwede ituloy 'yun (hearings) kasi ganitong mga binbin we have to call people. At 'yun ang mahirap. 'Pag nag-umpisa ka magpatawag ng tao, hindi natin mako-control kung saan manggagaling ang mga tao," he said.

(I think we can't do that yet because that requires calling on people. That's the hard part. When you start calling on people to appear, we can't control where they're coming from.)

Gatchalian and other senators were placed under isolation last month after a resource person in a March 5 hearing tested positive for COVID-19.

At least 3 senators -- Angara, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Koko Pimentel-- contracted the disease shortly before the chamber suspended for a 2-month break in March. Three staff members tested positive for the disease last month, with 1 employee succumbing to the disease.