Drilon says convening May 4 session to violate lockdown rules

Aika Rey
Drilon says convening May 4 session to violate lockdown rules
Senate President Tito Sotto says following Drilon's proposal to hold a virtual session on May 4 might put the proceeding in question

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon is pushing for a virtual session on Monday, May 4, saying that senators may violate quarantine rules should they convene physically.

In a statement, Drilon argued the Constitution allows for the Senate to determine how they will achieve quorum. Article VI, Section 16(3) of the charter states: “Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings.”

“If convened and conducted in the usual manner, the May 4 Senate session will certainly require and result in the assembly of Senators, Senate officials and skeleton staff numbering at least a hundred in the Session hall and nearby work areas, which would violate the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) rule on mass gatherings,” the minority leader said.

“The holding of the May 4 session in the usual manner will be very risky for everyone. The session could drag on for hours, which the WHO (World Health Organization) considers a high-risk activity,” he added.

Drilon also cited the March 23 special session when the House of Representatives conducted a hybrid meeting, where only a number of congressmen attended physically while the rest joined through a video call. The Senate didn’t follow suit. Drilon didn’t attend that plenary session.

The minority leader raised that 8 senators are over 60 years and above, including himself, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and senators Richard Gordon, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Imee Marcos, Francis Tolentino, and Cynthia Villar.

“It also safe to assume that some Senate officials and employees who will attend the session have comorbidities or underlying health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, asthma and other similar ailments,” Drilon said.

But Sotto was unperturbed by Drilon’s interpretation of the Constitution.

“Some wise guy in the future can question our proceedings if I agree to Frank’s proposition. We will allow virtual attendance and participation after Monday,” Sotto said.

Sotto said he expects more than 12 senators will attend Monday’s session.

Fifteen senators have filed a resolution seeking to amend the Senate rules to allow video conferencing to convene committee hearings and plenary sessions during a emergency situations.

Historically, the Senate has never conducted virtual sessions, even after Drilon and Lacson filed a resolution in 2019 seeking to allow detained Senator Leila De Lima to join plenary sessions from Camp Crame.

That resolution remained pending, and even with the proposed virtual sessions, Sotto argued De Lima’s not under their jurisdiction. (READ: De Lima says excluding her from Senate virtual sessions mere ‘petty politics’– Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.