Lacson: Timely passage of 2021 budget now ‘impossible’ as House abruptly halts session
MANILA, Philippines — With the sudden suspension of the House of Representatives’ session, Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said the national budget for 2021 is already as “good as re-enacted” because it would be “impossible” for Congress to pass the country’s spending bill on time.
“One thing we (senators) can assure, hindi namin mamadaliin to sacrifice ang pag-scrutinize namin. Maski anong magic gawin namin, siguradong re-enacted na ‘yung budget eh. Hindi na talaga kayang i-approve kaya why not gamitin na lang ‘yung time talaga para nang sa ganon mapagaralan talaga ‘yung budget,” Lacson told reporters in an online interview.
(One thing we can assure is we won’t rush it to sacrifice our scrutiny of the proposed budget. Whatever magic we cast, I’m sure the budget will be re-enacted. It could not be approved on time so why not just take our time and really study the budget.)
“Good as re-enacted na ‘yung budget. Hindi ko nakikita na magkakaroon tayo ng bagong budget na maa-approve before matapos ang taon na ito,” he added.
(The budget is as good as re-enacted. I don’t see the proposed 2021 budget getting approved before the year ends.)
On Tuesday, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano abruptly postponed the 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 next year.
Cayetano’s move also comes ahead of the October 14 speakership showdown.
With the lower chamber suspending its session until November 16 and the spending bill for 2021 only approved on second reading, the budget measure will not reach the Senate before it goes on a break on October 17.
Earlier, Cayetano assured that the House will approve the P4.5 trillion 2021 national budget on final reading on November 16 and transmit it to the Senate the following day so that the upper chamber can deliberate on it in plenary. The House was originally set to approve it on final reading on October 14.
But Lacson said this would still not give enough time for the Senate to really scrutinize the budget.
If Congress fails to pass the budget before the 2020 General Appropriations Act expires on December 31 this year, the national government would have to operate under a reenacted budget in 2021.
“Imposible na. Maski ipangako nila na it will be passed on time. Hindi na talaga maipapasa on time because of the schedule na napakasikip,” Lacson said.
(It’s impossible. Even if the House lawmakers assure that the budget will be passed on time, that will not happen because of the tight schedule.)
“Ipit na ipit na ‘yung budget,” he added.
(It will be really tight.)
If the House could approve the budget measure by October 14 and submit it to the upper legislative body, senators would have had enough time to study whatever amendments the House introduced in the spending bill during the congressional break, according to Lacson.
Further, he said the Senate cannot rush the plenary debates on the budget because the senators’ scrutiny of the House’s version of the budget is “very important.”
“Kasi maraming nai-insert na hindi kanais-nais,” he said.
(Because there are a lot of inappropriate insertions.)
Lacson added that the bicameral conference committee cannot be shortened, as proposed by the Speaker.
“Kung lululunin namin lahat na insertions, madadali nga, which will not happen. Kasi ‘di namin tatanggapin lahat ng makikita namin doon. Of course, may amendments na introduced ang Senate,” he said.
(If we just accept their insertions, the bicam will really be quick, which will not happen. Because we will not accept everything we will see there. Of course, the Senate has its own amendments also.)
“Minsan nagka-clash ‘yan eh. ‘Yan ang minsan pinakamaabala, pinakamabusisi ang bicam kasi diyan nagtatagisan. Ire-reconcile mo lahat ‘yan,” he added.
(Sometimes there are clashing provisions. The bicam is really a painstaking and thorough process. We need to reconcile the disagreeing provisions.)
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