President Rodrigo R. Duterte has called on Congress to hold a special session next week to avoid any delays in passing the budget for 2021. This after the House on Tuesday suspended sessions earlier than scheduled as part of the ongoing intramurals over the speakership.
In a statement released on Friday evening, Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said, “President Rodrigo Roa Duterte today, Oct. 9, has called the Congress to a special session scheduled on Oct. 13-16, 2020 to resume the congressional deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget and to avoid any further delays on its prompt passage.”
In a video released shortly after, Mr. Roque said, “Ginawa po ito ni Presidente dahil importanteng maipasa, maisabatas ang proposed 2021 national budget dahil ito po ang gagamitin natin laban sa COVID-19 pandemic.” (The President has done this because it is important to pass, make legal the proposed 2021 national budget because it is what we will use against the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Don’t hold budget hostage
In an interview with CNN Philippines earlier on Friday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said congressmen should “not hostage” next year’s spending plan after House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano suspended the session in Congress until Nov. 16 in the middle of the 2021 budget deliberations
Mr. Duterte on Thursday evening warned Mr. Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Q. Velasco to settle their rivalry over the House Speakership sharing deal and urged them to pass the 2021 budget on time.
“I believe that the House of Representatives should convene and begin again budget deliberations and pass the budget before the break… there is an opportunity to pass the budget as promised and as calendared,” said Mr. Nograles. “That’s the message of the President, that it (the suspension of hearings) shouldn’t have happened because they should have stuck with the calendar,” he added.
Mr. Cayetano announced the suspension on the same day the House of Representatives passed the 2021 national expenditure plan on its second reading.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cayetano’s rival for the speakership said Mr. Duterte was angered by his moves to derail the expected speakership turn-over on Oct. 14. “I just wanna say because I can see the anger of the President. Actually the President used the word, ‘Lord, we were both fooled,” said Mr. Velasco, speaking about a meeting in the Palace on Monday during in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Friday.
Under a gentleman’s agreement brokered by Mr. Duterte in 2019, Mr. Cayetano would sit as House Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, while Mr. Velasco would succeed him for the remaining 21 months. During a meeting with the President on Sept. 29 with some key allies to settle the speakership deal, Mr. Cayetano agreed to resign on Oct. 14, said Mr. Velasco.
On a Facebook Live video shown Thursday night, Mr. Cayetano apologized to the President and the nation “for having added anxiety to an already uncertain situation” but noted that all the actions that have been taken by the House are “legal, constitutional, and in line with time honored precedents in the House.”
Mr. Cayetano assured the administration that the House would submit the printed budget to the Senate on Nov. 5.
He said this would allow the Senators to proceed with their own hearings and prepare the way for the formal transmittal of the 2021 General Appropriations Bill on Nov. 16 when the House is expected to approve it on Third and Final Reading.
“Neither I nor the other members of Congress will sacrifice the budget in this time for political expediency,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez and Kyle Artistophere T. Atienza