‘Do not blame us!’ Sotto says House ‘disregarded’ Duterte request to prioritize 2021 budget
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives (HOR) “disregarded” President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to prioritize the country’s proposed P4.5 trillion budget for next year, Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
On Tuesday, the House suspended its session until November 16 after the unexpected second reading approval of House Bill No. 7727 or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which contains the proposed national budget for 2021.
“The HOR has just disregarded the request priority of the President to pass the budget,” Sotto said in a message to reporters when sought for comment.
With the lower chamber suspending its session until November 16 and the spending bill only approved on second reading, the budget will not reach the Senate before it goes on break on October 14.
“There is no way we can finish the budget if it is not submitted to us before the mandated break after [October] 14. Do not blame us!” the Senate president went on.
Meanwhile, Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, said senators were hoping that the House would approve the budget bill on third reading before the congressional break next week “as was promised”
Angara said the House approval of the budget would allow the Senate to begin its plenary debates upon resumption of sessions on November 16.
“As it is, the schedule is very tight. I hope the original schedule could still be followed, but at the end of the day, we can not impose on our House colleagues but only plead and appeal to them,” Angara said in a separate message.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto noted that the budget bill should first originate from the House before the Senate “can start plenary debates after official receipt of the approved House bill.”
“The Senate traditionally holds morning to midnight debates for two weeks on the general appropriations act. That will still be observed this year,” Recto said.
“There will be no reenacted budget, but a revamped budget is a certainty,” he added.
For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson believes the Senate would still have enough time to tackle the budget bill on the Senate floor to avoid a re-enacted budget.
“Depending on which date in November they can approve on 3rd reading the House version of 2021 GAB (General Appropriations Bill) not to mention the nature of their amendments, I think we have enough time to finish our floor deliberations and avoid a re-enacted budget,” he said.
“Take note that they have to print the documents prior to transmittal to the Senate,” Lacson added. [ac]
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