Preparations for the President’s 2nd State of the Nation Address Monday will have to give way to the Special Joint Session of Congress on Saturday to consider the extension of martial law.

House of Representatives Secretary General Cesar Pareja said, “well there are some minor problems dahil of course were supposed to be right now  full blast ang gagawin for the SONA however we have to put some on hold  and prepare for the special session tomorrow medyo some physical arrangements but di naman sila ganun kagrabe para makagulo sa preparations sa SONA”

Right now, toilets are being constructed in the Batasan Pambansa main building along with other renovations. Pareja says not all the toilets will be available by Monday because procurement was slow which in turn delayed construction. “definitely sa toilets not all the restrooms  will be finished  ang pinaprioritized now would be ones in the main building  kung saan magkakaroon ng special session and the SONA and then yung offices nasa ground floor mostly we have to know na yung projection sa repairs ng restroorms ang TOR september matatapos lahat originally it was supposed to have been finished by  june july however because we have to follow the procrement law…medyo tumagall … tinamaan ng holy week  di naman like what were doing now di sabay sabay ginagawa”

Pareja however says there will be toilets available for use. “di pwede  isasara lahat dapat emrong restrooms every floor merong system na inayos kaya di pa matatapos lahat. but msotly especially yung dito sa main bldg and outlying areas ayos yung restrooms”

Pareja however doesn’t think the special session made preparations for the SONA harder. “

di naman nagpapahirap pero medyo nagkaroon ng konting adjustment dahil yung SONA kami sa house normal na every year pinaghahandaan yun… nagkataoon lang may special session yun yung dadagdag during the last few weeks before july right after our AIFOCOM nakahalos almost plantsado na lahat yan”

The plenary hall has also been thoroughly cleaned while the new parking buildings will be made available by Monday. “sa loob ng plenary theres not much change nilinis lang talaga may carpet  parang matagal na rin carpet  minsan may nagrereklamo may mites…outside ang aming major cocnern is the parking structure na were going to test kahapon pero umulan we have to wash muna yung debris but it will be tested today”

Pareja says the usual security arrangements for SONA will be in place. The President may arrive either by chopper or by land. House employees who wont be needed for the SONA won’t have to come to work. Only those with special IDS and car passes will have access.

The congressional welcoming committee will be designated during the regular sessions on Monday.

Guests can come in through the North and South lobbies. around 3000 guests are expected for the SONA—including the members of Congress.  the 1500 man capacity of the gallery will be increased by putting additional chairs. The House declined to release details of the menu for the reception, citing security risks. However, the dishes won’t be too different from last year’s.

For now only former President Aquino will be skipping the SONA. Vice President Leni Robredo has confirmed her attendance.

The Secretariats of the Lower House and the Senate have submitted to the Senate and House leaderships the draft rules of the joint session which will govern the conduct of the Joint Session. Pareja said, “some of the rules nabigay na namin sa aming principals… the senate and doon sa rules may nakitang kailangan iamend ihighlight or idefine ng mas malinaw we incorporated and were still waiting for the feedback para mafinal”

The adoption of the rules is crucial before they can proceed to the main agenda of the joint session. “iadopt pa lang nila tomorrow rules ng  both houses during the joint session.

di pa naman siya amendment mismo you will know that tomorrow kasi yung ginawa namin pa siya final eh draft lang siya.”

Pareja says part of the rules is allowing executive staff to make their presentations. “kasama sa pinagusapan sa proposed rules that they will allow technical staff or somebody from the OP or from malacanang to give a briefing statements im not sure how it will be done if its will be done directly by the cabinet member or by a member representing them”

Proponents of the extension from the House and the Senate maybe given 10 minutes to make their case, while the proposal is to allow either 3 or 5 minutes for interpellations from each lawmaker. “once we have the draft na approved pepresent sa body we have to reproduce that

proponent yung magpropose ng amendment ten minutes ish one froms enate form house, magtatanong nagtatalo pa kami kung 3-5 minutes and 3 minutes to explain after maannouce

then again this is just a proposal”

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas says  The proposed Rules are with the senate leaders already. “They’ll have to discuss that among themselves and bicameral leaderships will discuss it at breakfast tomorrow.”

ON Thursday, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao  predicted that the joint session could be over as early as noon time when asked how long Congress will take decide on Saturday  the matter of the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Casilao said, “fearless forecast. hindi na papabutin ng after lunch magmomove kaagad ng botohan kasi nga few hours na lang before the 10pm deadline definitely may mga ano na angayon ang leadership na mag eentertain lang ng several interpellationrs or opinions epro as early as possible imomove na yun for votation”

ACT Teachers’ party List Rep. Antonio Tinio concedes this is a numbers game, one the majority is poised to win. “di naman sikreto na usapin ito ng numbers ang sense naman nating lahat ay merong numbers so kung pakikinggan natin ang HoR kahit ang senador sa usapin ng pagbigay ng extension karamihan..payag sila..kung magkakron man ng debate kung gaano katagal ba.”

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas doesnt think the joint session will last till 10pm though he couldnt give timeline yet.”Hard to give time estimates as this will be a joint session with two sets of presiding officers, majority and minority leaders, and memberships, who will have the floor alternately. Thanks!”

Casilao says the plenary should invite a variety of resource persons, including residents, aside from the security and defense officials. “ang udnerstanding namin sa jt session..dapat it will include security briefing. whatever the items to be deliberated on saturday shoud be made in accordance doon sa schedule na lahat kami andoon.”

Farinas said, “On the part of the HOR, the same resource persons we invited during the Committee of the Whole meeting. Thanks!”

The Secretariats of both the House and the Senate met at the Batasang Pambansa Thursday to harmonize the draft rules from each chamber.

The House panel was led by Secretary General  Atty. Cesar Pareja while the Senate Panel was led by Secretary Atty. Lutgardo B. Barbo. The product of their discussions will still be subject to the approval of their principals.

The Senate President and the House Speaker will preside over the joint session together, which will be ran by their respective Majority Leaders. Farinas says one of the first things on the agenda is the approval of the rules of the sessiob. “Same way our Rules are approved. The Rules Com of each House initially approves it, then have it approved by Plenary.”

Pareja says the session can last till 10pm, which is when the current martial law declaration they coul extend, will lapse.

Barbo concedes that under the 1987 Constitution, the Senate and the House will vote jointly, which means that the votes of the 24 man Senate may easily be overwhelmed by the nearly 300 man House.

“talagang minority naman ang senate eh 24 lang ang senado ngayon  nabawasan pa ng isa naging secretary ng foreign affairs yung isa nasa kulungan pa so 22 samantalang yung house 291 but the counting is over all yun bibilangin muna yung sa senado bibilangin sa house tapos titignan ang majority”

Farinas  however quotes the constitution. “The Constitution is very clear and leaves no room for interpretation, thusly: The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President.  Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it. If the 2 Houses of Congress vote separately in revoking or extending the proclamation of Martial Law, I am almost certain that the Supreme Court will rule such unconstitutional. 

Indeed, if each House votes separately and decides differently, we will have a deadlock and won’t be able to revoke or extend Martial Law.”

an absolute majority of all members will be required to approve an extension: 23 senators plus 291 congressmen plus 1 or about 158 votes.

Time limits will also be imposed on the interpellations.

Pareja says the joint session will be open however lawmakers may opt to conduct the security briefing in executive session.

Barbo explained that detained senator leila de lima will not be allowed to vote since she won’t be present. however for purposes of determining membership, she will still be counted.

Pareja explained that congressmen can get their security briefing over breakfast before the Joint session at 9am. Senators alreday got their own security briefing earlier this week.