Senate leaders say 'ugly squabble' in House may delay passage of 2021 budget

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2020 06:16 PM

MANILA - Senate Leaders on Monday said the "ugly squabble" in the House of Representatives may hinder the passage of the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget, reminiscent of how last year's spending bill was delayed after lawmakers bickered over allocations for their respective districts.

House Deputy Speaker and Davao Rep. Paolo Duterte allegedly told his peers in the House that he would move to replace House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano this week, while two other lawmakers earlier engaged in a verbal spat.

"If they do not settle their issues, yes, the budget might be delayed," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told lawmakers in a text message.

"But I'd rather not meddle and speculate on what's happening in their turf," he said.

A "power struggle" among House members "will affect our timelines," Drilon told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

"More than any other time in the past, it is critical that the budget be enacted on time," he said.

"We cannot delay the budget for 2021 because of the condition we are in today," he said, referring to the country's continuous struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the law, the General Appropriations Act -- which authorizes government spending -- expires every December 31.

Next year's budget must be signed into law before the year-end deadline to ensure that all projects and allocations for 2021 can be enacted.

Last year's budget was approved 2 months after the deadline, trimming the country's growth to 5.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019, from 6.3 percent in the previous quarter.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the "ugly squabble in plenary over the distribution of earmarks" in the national budget shows the "ugly effects" of congressional allocations also known as "pork."

"When statesmanship goes out the window, our people's respect towards the legislature as an institution as well as its individual members somehow dissipates," Lacson said in a statement.

"Any way we look at it, it is sad and lamentable, to say the least," he said.