Lagman asks Duterte to extend special session | Inquirer News

Lagman asks Duterte to extend special session

MANILA, Philippines — The four days of special session called by President Duterte to pass the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year may not be enough and he should extend it by another four days, opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman said on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, senators said they would resume sessions earlier than the scheduled on Nov. 16 after Congress goes into recess on Oct. 16 to ensure they have enough time to finish the budget deliberations.


Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte hopes to sign the budget bill into law before the new year.

The President issued Proclamation No. 1027 setting the special session for Oct. 13 to Oct. 16, after Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday abruptly suspended House sessions following the approval on second reading of House Bill 7727, or the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).


His move came amid a leadership dispute with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, who was to assume the speakership on Oct. 14 under a term-sharing “gentleman’s agreement” brokered by the President himself.

The prospect of a reenacted 2020 budget followed the aborted debates on the budget, prompting the President to call a special session.

‘Long tradition’

Lagman said four days may not be enough to ensure the timely passage of the spending bill.

“An additional period of four days from Oct. 19 to 22 is necessary in order that the committee and individual amendments to the appropriation measure can be considered and approved by Plenary before second reading,” he said.

According to Lagman, the “long tradition” of creating a “small committee” to make the amendments after the approval of the budget bill on second reading should be abandoned.

“(This is) to assure transparency in the proceedings, which is not achieved by the furtive conclave of the small panel,” he said.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, the House ways and means committee chair, said that while remote, he warned that operating on a reenacted budget would compromise the country’s pandemic response and recovery efforts.


“Because the Bayanihan to Recover as One will expire by the end of the year, we will not be able to realign a reenacted budget,” he said.

In addition, a reenacted budget will threaten the government’s ability to procure vaccines and therapeutics in 2021, according to Salceda. “It also threatens our ability to purchase (personal protective equipment) for health care workers. So, preventing a reenacted budget is a matter of life and death for thousands of Filipinos.”

Alan’s latest appeal

In a Facebook Live message, Cayetano said he has been holding virtual meetings with members of the House majority in “examining” the proposed funding for each sector and area specified in the GAB.

“I am appealing to all members—let us set aside politics in the meantime. Let us help one another in passing the budget,” he said.

Velasco, in response, said: “At least for my group, I can assure you that we will be focusing on the budget.”

The Senate will hold a caucus on Monday to reach a consensus on the proposal of Sen. Panfilo Lacson to resume sessions earlier than Nov. 16, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said in a text message.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III supported Lacson’s proposal. “All my colleagues will agree to it, I’m sure,” Sotto said in an interview with dwIZ radio.

Lacson suggestion

Lacson, also on dwIZ, suggested the resumption of sessions a week earlier than scheduled if the House approved the budget on third and final reading next week.

The Senate session could be held Nov. 9. After the budget is sponsored, senators would need a few days to study the report on the spending measure before plenary deliberations could begin, he said.

“I think it’s a reasonable suggestion. It would also give us enough time,” he said.

Sotto said that with the special session called by the President, it is likely that there would be no reenacted budget for 2021.

The only possible snag he sees is if there would be disputes during the bicameral conference, when both chambers reconcile their versions of the budget bill.

“As long as both houses hold the line, there would be no problem in the bicam,” he said.

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TAGS: House speakership, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, proposed 2021 national budget, Rodrigo Duterte, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano
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