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I. Rules for the Functioning of the National Legislature under Emergency Measures
The Rules of the Philippine House of Representatives provide that the Speaker, in consultation with the Majority and Minority Leaders and their Senate counterparts, may convene the House in session at any time during a recess or between sessions in order to consider urgent legislative matters. These rules also provide that when not in session, the House must convene within 24 hours following the proclamation of martial law, the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or the occurrence of a national emergency. The House of Representatives and the Senate have the authority to expedite the legislative process when it becomes necessary to address urgent matters.
II. Arrangements for an “Emergency Parliament”
As of the time of this report, no information could be located on a current arrangement whereby a designated subgroup of members could constitute an “emergency congress” with devolved powers from the whole congress to address crisis situations, excluding the whole Congress for the duration of the crisis.
III. Measures Taken to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic
On March 9, 2020, the Philippine Senate suspended regular sessions in an effort to “prevent further spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing as a whole institution.” On March 11, the Philippine Senate went on recess until May 4, 2020. Similarly, the House of Representatives ordered the suspension of regular sessions from March 23 to April 12, 2020, and instituted the following measures applicable to House operations during such period:
The Office of the Sergeant at Arms, Legislative Security Bureau, Finance Department, Engineering and Physical Facilities Department, and Information Communications Technology Service must implement a rotating skeletal workforce for the duration of the work suspension.
Those not on rotating skeletal workforce must be allowed to work from home but are required to timely submit their assignments using telecommunication and online technologies.
As there is an equally urgent need to ensure continuity in the delivery of public service, all House of Representatives employees must be on-call and may be required to report to office to perform their official duties for the welfare of the public.
Committee hearings, briefings, and conferences may be conducted in the House of Representatives to help address the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact. In those events, measures that would minimize risks by facilitating social distancing must be strictly implemented.
On March 23, the House of Representatives held a special session to consider a measure declaring a national emergency and granting the Philippine president pertinent powers to address the coronavirus outbreak. For the first time in the House’s history, this session took place in a “virtual” manner in order to observe social distancing measures. About 20 members attended personally, while 279 other members joined online by teleconference. Votes on this measure were to be made via text messaging and other online means. Reportedly, this measure was passed by the House the same day. The Senate was still analyzing this measure as of March 23.
IV. Operation of Legislative Offices when Members and Staff Are Unable to Travel and Movement is Restricted
No information was located concerning a pre-established law or regulation specifically addressing how the Philippine Congress is to operate its offices when members and staff are unable to travel or are restricted in their movement and interactions. However, the information provided in the previous section addresses ad-hoc measures taken due to the current COVID-19 situation.
Prepared by Gustavo Guerra
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
 Id. § 86.
Last Updated: 12/30/2020