Duterte to House: Fix budget impasse, don't 'play' with pandemic funds

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 08 2020 07:38 PM | Updated as of Oct 09 2020 12:40 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address in front of a limited number of lawmakers, including Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, July 27, 2020. Office of the Senate President/File

MANILA (UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday appealed to lawmakers to refrain from any political "play" that would imperil the approval of the national budget, which includes funds for the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
“Huwag naman sana ninyong sobrahan ang laro sa Congress na iyong budget mismo, ang nailagay sa alanganin. I am just appealing to you,” Duterte said in a taped public address. 

(Don't be excessive in your play there in Congress that the budget is put in jeopardy.)

“Either you resolve the issue sa impasse n’yo d’yan and pass the budget legally, constitutionally. ‘Pag hindi n’yo ginawa, ako ang gagawa para sa inyo,” Duterte said in a taped public address. 

(If you do not do that, I will do that for you.)

Worries over the possible delayed approval of the 2021 budget surfaced after House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano abruptly suspended session on Tuesday. 

He moved to pass the national budget on second reading, terminating crucial deliberations on the spending bill days before he was supposed to hand over House leadership to Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco. 

The two lawmakers had agreed on a term-sharing deal brokered by the President, in which Cayetano was supposed to serve until this month, followed by Velasco for 21 months. 

'HUWAG N'YO AKONG IDAMAY' 

Duterte recently met the 2 Speakership rivals on separate occasions: when Velasco asked for blessing to run as Speaker last Monday, and Cayetano just hours after a majority of his allies rejected his offer of resignation on Sept. 30. 

The President said the public would not ask who is "responsible for the mess we are in right now" and would instead blame him for what happens during his term. 

"Ang maalała lang nila, panahon ni Duterte, napakabaho. They do not mention iyong si Alan, si Congress o si Lord—wala—ang sabihin administrasyon ni Duterte," he said. 

(They will just remember that Duterte's time reeked. They do not mention Alan, the Congress or Lord—nothing—they will just say the Duterte administration.)

He then urged lawmakers not to drag him into a tug-of-war for the House helm, saying they should place public service above all. 

"Huwag n’yo naman ako idamay. Ako gusto ko, kayo hindi. Diyan tayo magkaroon ng problema. Ang gobyerno natin maraming problema. ‘Yang COVID na ‘yan hindi ‘yan umaalis sa Pilipinas matagal na, lumilipad lang ang mikrobyo na yan dito sa atin," Duterte said. 

(Don't drag me into this. I want this to happen, you don't. That's where we'll have a problem. Our government has so many problems. COVID-19 won't ever leave the Philippines, it just flies around.)

"People are dying, people are sick, people need medicines, at marami pang iba… Pero ang pakiusap ko ayusin ninyo at isipin ninyo ang Pilipino na nasa ospital ngayon na kailangan ng medisina, at mga Pilipinong mamamatay ngayon, ganitong oras, na walang gamot, wala lahat kulang," the President said. 

(My appeal to you is to fix this, think of Filipinos in hospitals now in need of medicine, Filipinos dying right at this moment because they have no medicine, everything is lacking.)

WHY IS CONGRESS PRESSED FOR TIME? 

The Senate can continue its own budget deliberations even during the Oct. 17 to Nov. 16 Congress break. But under the law, the Senate cannot discuss the budget in plenary until an approved version of the spending bill is transmitted from the House.

The current national budget expires on Dec. 31. If Congress fails to pass the 2021 spending bill before this, the government will have to operate under a reenacted 2020 budget, which does not have allocations for all programs addressing the coronavirus pandemic. 

The printing and transmission of the House version of the budget to the Senate alone could take a week. Senators would then study the bill before interpellations that could take at least 2 weeks, Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said. 

Congress adjourns on Dec. 19 for the holiday break.

Siguradong reenacted pagka ganyan," Sotto told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo earlier Thursday. 

(It will surely be reenacted if that's how it happens.)

On Thursday afternoon, Cayetano promised to submit the budget books approved on third reading by Nov. 5, said Sotto. The House Speaker also apologized to senators after he said they should be blamed if Congress fails to pass the 2021 budget on time. 

SPECIAL SESSION 

Some lawmakers are eyeing a special session to prevent a reenacted budget. 

“Kung kinakailangang magpatawag ng special session pagdating ng Dec. 14, Malacañang will do it,” said Duterte's spokesperson Harry Roque. 

“Pero naniniwala ang Malacañang talaga na ang issue of leadership is a purely internal affair of the House.”

(If a special session needs to be called come Dec. 14, Malacañang will do it. But Malacañang really believes that the issue of leadership is a purely internal affair of the House)
 
The 2021 spending plan includes funds for aid to poor Filipinos, new hospitals, safety gear and vaccine, said Roque. 

Duterte said he would not give lawmakers "a timeline" for the budget approval. "Diktador lang gumagawa ng ganoon," he said. 

(Only a dictator does that.)

"Gusto ko na ayusin ninyo (I just want you to fix it). If and when I see that there will be a delay, and it will result in the derailment of the government service, I will solve the problem for you," he said. 
 
"We will see in the next few days if there is really something that we can hope for. 'Pag wala (if there is none), then I will do my thing," the President said cryptically.