MANILA (3rd UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking the speedy passage of the 2021 national budget that includes funds for the coronavirus pandemic response, Malacañang said Friday, as lawmakers tussled for the top post of the House of Representatives.
Duterte, in a proclamation, certified the ₱4.5-trillion proposed national budget bill as urgent, said his spokesman Harry Roque.
Bills certified as urgent are exempt from a rule requiring lawmakers to study the measure for at least 3 days before voting on it.
Duterte, in the same proclamation, called for a special Congress session from Oct. 13 to 16 "to resume the congressional deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget and to avoid any further delays on its prompt passage," Roque said in a statement.
The President's move comes a day after he told lawmakers: “Huwag naman sana ninyong sobrahan ang laro sa Congress na iyong budget mismo ang nailagay sa alanganin. I am just appealing to you.”
(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.
The delayed passage of the 2021 budget may lead to a reenacted 2020 spending plan, which has no provisions to address the continuing COVID-19 crisis.
Cayetano 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.
WHAT LAWMAKERS ARE SAYING
Cayetano said House members "welcome" Duterte's latest proclamation.
"We trust his wisdom on how to address issues concerning the budget, and thank him for his continued confidence by allowing Congress to pass the General Appropriations Bill free from the specter of politicking and intrigues that we had originally sought to avoid," he said in a Facebook post.
Velasco, meanwhile, said he supports Duterte's call to resume the plenary discussions in Congress.
He said the resumption of Congress would ensure that the passage of the 2021 budget will be passed in accordance with the Constitution.
"This is what majority of us in the House of Representatives have been telling Speaker Cayetano and his small group of loyalists since the unceremonious termination of the budget plenary debates and the highly questionable and unconstitutional suspension of session," he said in a statement.
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said the House leadership will heed the President's request.
"The very transparent process of budget deliberations will always be observed to ensure its legality and constitutionality in our main
intention to serve the people," Romualdez said.
He asked for lawmakers' "full cooperation."
Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said both houses of Congress "merely suspended, not adjourned."
"Therefore, a special session is not necessary, and therefore can resume session anytime," he said in a text message.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III meanwhile said his chamber is set to have sessions until Oct. 16, even before Duterte's directive.
"So the order of the President puts emphasis on his call for the HOR to approve the budget on 3rd reading and give the Senate time to study, review and pass the GAA (General Appropriations Act)," he told reporters in a text message.
— with reports from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News