Palace says suspension of House sessions will not affect passage of 2021 budget
Malacanang on Wednesday said the suspension of the House of Representatives sessions until Nov 16 will not have any effect on the passage of the 2021 budget as the Senate has still plenty of time to conduct plenary deliberations.
In a statement, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget has been approved on second reading in the House.
Roque said the Senate Finance Committee is also deliberating on the National Expenditure Program.
“The President’s message is clear: we cannot delay the passage of the National Budget,” he said.
“This practice is nothing new, as this has been done in previous years to avoid unduly crunching budget deliberations in the Senate. Moreover, this has already been settled in the case of Tolentino vs. Secretary of Finance, where it was ruled that the Constitution does not prohibit the Senate from acting on a proposed legislative measure ‘in anticipation of its receipt of the bill from the House’,” Roque said.
He said there is plenty of time between now and November 16 for committee deliberations to continue and come November there will be enough time for plenary discussions in the Senate.
“Having said this, we are confident that the Senate has enough time to finish its deliberations and there should be no reason for delay,” the presidential spokesperson said.
As the speakership issue is ongoing at the House of Representatives, Roque in an interview over CNN Philippines said Duterte told Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to do what they have to do on the issue but the budget must not be delayed as the country cannot operate under a re-enacted budget.
“This is the first budget that has built-in measures intended to respond to COVID-19. This is probably the most important budget that the President has proposed to both houses of Congress,” he said.
Asked if the sudden decision of Cayetano to suspend sessions is illegal, Roque, a former lawmaker, said it is not but rather a “very astute political move” as it avoided intramurals that could have possibly happened on October 14.
“Because there was a plenary vote that they will go on break already that means no one can question the speakership on October 14. The earliest that they can do that is on November 16,” he said.
“For what it's worth, I think you need to have the experience of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano because he has dealt with the same rules, not only for three terms as congressman ? this is already his fourth term as congressman ? but also as a two-term senator,” he said.
Roque said there is no need for Duterte to meet the two lawmakers again.
“His wish is for them no to hostage the budget as we need this COVID-19 budget,” he said. DMS