House ready to 'take full responsibility' if budget gets delayed, but Senate should do its part, too - Villafuerte
MANILA - It would be unfair to blame the House of Representatives should there be a reenacted budget for 2021 or a delayed passage, when senators could do their share in making sure the spending bill is approved on time, a lawmaker said Thursday.
The House of Representatives will forward to the Senate the printed version of the budget as approved on third reading on November 17, said Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte.
The chamber approved the General Appropriations Bill on second reading on Tuesday and suspended session until November 16, but will work on amendments during the break.
Quoting House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who moved to approve the GAB on second reading and essentially end the period of debates on it, Villafuerte said House lawmakers "will finalize everything by November 5 to 10." The representatives will be given printed copies "for reference" by November 14 or earlier and it will be approved on November 16.
"When we forward on November 17, the senators have at least 2 weeks and they can even have more," he told ANC's Headstart.
"Their concern really is to pass the budget, but for them to blame the House is unfair because in the past, they passed the budget in 7, 8 days," he said.
The senators can continue deliberating on the budget while the House lawmakers are on break, "and once they receive it, they can already have a committee report," he said, while emphasizing that "they've done it in the past."
"Why wait for 2 weeks for them to deliberate it? They’ve done it in the past, 7-8 days, even 3 days. Why don’t they just do it in a week? That’s the challenge to them," he said.
Legislators from both houses of Congress can then meet in a bicameral conference in the first week of December, he said.
Reacting to a statement from Sen. Panfilo Lacson that it was "bad judgment" on the part of the House of Representatives to postpone the final reading of the budget, Villafuerte said: "Let’s see na lang what happens. ‘Pag ma-delay, we’ll take full responsibility—if it gets delayed."
"But the Senate should also do their part in making sure it is not delayed...They should show the people also that they’re willing to work to ensure the passage instead of just blaming the House," he said.
"If they delay it, then they’re just pointing fingers at the House, whereas they could have done something to ensure its passage," he added.
The enactment of the 2019 budget was delayed by 4 months following the ouster of then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who was replaced by former President and then Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
But for Villafuerte, this is not the same case because what happened in 2018 was "illegal," when then-House leaders changed the budget after it was approved on third reading.
This time, too, the two houses of Congress have better working relations since Cayetano was also a former Senator.
"Walang contentious provisions kaming ipapasa na hindi maaayos (We won't pass contentious provisions). We can all sit down and thresh it out," he said.