Fix speakership row among yourselves; prioritize 2021 budget, House leaders told | Inquirer News

Fix speakership row among yourselves; prioritize 2021 budget, House leaders told

/ 09:06 PM October 07, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives’ Minority bloc has chided its top leaders over the speakership struggle, asserting that the issue must be resolved within the Majority as deliberations on the 2021 national budget should come first.

According to the Minority, the speakership war between incumbent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his imminent successor, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, has stalled discussions on the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for next year. The bloc said the squabble stripped minority lawmakers of the chance to examine closely and ask pressing questions about the measure.

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“It has effectively denied the members of the Minority the right to scrutinize the budgets of the government’s line departments as part of our duty to fiscalize public funds that have been used and will be spent for government programs and projects,” the Minority bloc said in a joint statement released Wednesday.

“The Minority takes exception to this action as we again emphasize that budget deliberations should not be derailed by a speakership row—a matter that should be settled by the Majority among themselves. The Minority believes that the welfare of our constituencies takes precedence over everything and that Congress must place our people first before politics,” the bloc added.

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The Minority encouraged bickering lawmakers to reconcile their differences and focus on the 2021 budget first, especially in this time of a pandemic.

“We appeal for sobriety and statesmanship, and call on our colleagues in the Majority to reconcile their differences and to return to the urgent business at hand,” the bloc noted.

“Kailangan po tayo ngayon ng ating mga kababayan. Uulitin po namin: isantabi muna natin ang pulitika, at tututukan natin ang kapakanan ng taumbayan,” it also said.

(Our countrymen need us now. Again, we reiterate: let us set aside politics, and focus on the welfare of the people.)

Cayetano and Velasco’s dispute over the speakership stemmed from the term-sharing deal brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte himself in 2019.

Under the deal, Cayetano should serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, and Velasco should succeed him to serve as Speaker for the remaining 21 months.

If the gentleman’s agreement will push through, Cayetano is supposed to relinquish the speakership to Velasco this October.

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READ: Velasco appeals to Cayetano to resign as House Speaker on Oct. 14

On Tuesday, however, Cayetano and his allies moved to suspend the House session until November 16 after surprisingly approving on second reading the proposed 2021 budget bill.

READ: Cayetano forces early budget approval, suspends session

Lawmakers in the Minority who signed the joint statement — 19 representatives all in all — vowed to continue scrutinizing the budget through its own parallel deliberations.

“It is in this light that we have resolved to carry on and fulfill our mandate as the representatives of our people. To this end, we will continue to tackle the issues concerning the various agencies as part of our efforts to ensure accountability in the utilization of public funds,” the Minority lawmakers assured the public.

“The Minority shall proceed with its own parallel deliberations and submit and assert its own proposed amendments and other recommendations. Furthermore, in the interest of transparency and to allow the public to participate in the process, we shall make these proceedings accessible to the media and the public via social media platforms,” they added.

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TAGS: 2019 Novel Coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, budget deliberations, budget hearings, Congress, COVID-19, COVID-19 pandemic, GCQ, general community quarantine, House of Representatives, lockdown, majority bloc, minority bloc, nCoV update, Philippine news updates, Politics, Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Speakership, Speakership row
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