Reading the statements of Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, the special session on Monday, 23 March 2020, will not after all approve a supplemental budget but will only empower President Rodrigo Duterte in a bill to realign funds in the Executive Department and offices which are already provided for in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
No new funds will be appropriated even as the President is allowed to juggle funds to meet the health emergency consequent to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The projected bill will only be valid if:
The House and the Senate will have a quorum to conduct business.
Any suspension or amendment of the Rules of the House to allow a virtual plenary session and long-distance voting can only be legal if a quorum is present and the requisite votes are garnered. Under Rule XIV of the House, the suspension of the Rules upon motion of the Committee on Rules requires a “vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the Members present, there being a quorum”. Under Rule XXVII, an amendment of the Rules requires “a majority of all the Members of the House” or an absolute majority of the total membership.
The constitutional provision under Sec. 25 of Article VI prohibiting any transfer of appropriation is strictly observed.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN