MANILA - Sen. Pia Cayetano on Friday came to the defense of her younger brother House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano after talk of possibly having a reenacted budget next year in a Senate hearing following his move to suspend session at the lower chamber until mid-November amid the Speakership tussle.
"This talk on reenacted budget does not help any of us. It just fuels the political charade," Sen. Cayetano interjected in the middle of a discussion between Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III at a budget hearing.
Duque had said funding for several health programs - including procurement of COVID-19 vaccines - may be slashed should Congress fail to approve the 2021 budget on time. This would mean a reenacted 2020 budget, which has no provisions for the COVID-19 crisis, would take effect.
"We cannot deny that my brother is the Speaker of the House and for those of you who have not heard me say it, and who have not heard him say it, there is no reenacted budget that will happen," she said.
"'Wag na sana i-discuss 'yang reenacted budget na 'yan kasi hindi mangyayari po," she said.
(I hope we do not discuss that reenacted budget because it will not happen.)
President Rodrigo Duterte and several senators earlier expressed worry over possible delays in the passage of the 2021 budget after Cayetano abruptly suspended House sessions earlier this week amid an ongoing power struggle in the chamber.
The House halted plenary work without approving the 2021 budget on final reading, a day after Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco sought to replace Cayetano on October 14 under a term-sharing agreement.
Under the law, the Senate cannot tackle budget measures in plenary without the final approval of the House.
Cayetano initially said the Senate is to blame should the 2021 budget fail to hurdle Congress before the December 31 deadline, but eventually apologized, and assured other lawmakers that they will pass the spending bill on time.
"I wouldn't want this hearing that I am conducting... to be used to discuss this political charade," Sen. Cayetano said.
"I think our leaders are responsible enough to know... We don't even have to be reminded that [reenacted budget]," she said.
"No one here wants to have a reenacted budget... There is no reenacted budget that will happen," she said.
This was not the first time Cayetano came to the defense of her younger brother during a Senate proceeding.
Earlier this year, the senator called out other lawmakers who questioned the House's motive for allocating some P10 billion for the construction of roads during the global pandemic.