Palace: Pandemic war chest 'delayed' as House feuds for top post

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 08 2020 02:06 PM | Updated as of Oct 08 2020 02:11 PM

Duterte to call for special session if needed 

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MANILA -- Proceedings for the country's 2021 pandemic budget have been "delayed" as members of the House of Representatives feud over its top post, Malacañang said Thursday, adding that President Rodrigo Duterte could call for a special session if needed. 

The House approved Tuesday on second reading the P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget upon Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano's motion. His allies also moved to suspend session until Nov. 16, pre-empting the supposed takeover of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco by Oct. 14, per a term-sharing agreement.
 
The Senate can continue its own budget deliberations even during the Oct. 17 to Nov. 16 Congress break. However, the "gray area" is whether or not senators can hold a plenary on the budget without receipt of the House version approved on third and final reading, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

Asked to clarify if the third House final reading would come around Nov. 16, Roque said yes. Pressed to say if the budget is delayed, he said, "Delayed po." 

The current national budget expires on Dec. 31. If Congress fails to pass the 2021 spending budget before this, the government will have to operate under a reenacted budget that does not have allocations for the coronavirus pandemic. 
 
The printing and transmission of the House’s version of the budget to the Senate alone could take a week, said Senate President Vicente Sotto III. 

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

(It will be surely reenacted that way.)

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 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)

Roque said he did not want to comment when he was asked if Cayetano was holding the budget hostage.

“The President does not want to infer on internal matters,” he reasoned. 

The 2021 fund includes funds for aid to poor Filipinos, new hospitals, safety gear and vaccine, said Roque.