What to expect in budget deliberations amid speakership row?
MANILA, Philippines — The deliberations on the crucial 2021 budget will resume on Tuesday afternoon but with the ongoing speakership war between Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, one question remains: How will the debates happen?
House committee appropriations chairperson Eric Yap, representative of ACT-CIS party-list, explained that there are two possible scenarios that may take place during the House budget deliberations from October 13 to 16—recall the second reading approval of the proposed budget or approve the budget straight to final reading.
Recall second reading approval
One of the possible options is to recall the second reading approval of House Bill No. 7727 or the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which contains the proposed budget for next year, and revert back to the period of debates.
This means that lawmakers will once again be given a chance to scrutinize the budget and ask sponsors of the proposed funding of different government agencies’ questions.
This also essentially opens the period of amendments where lawmakers can propose changes and adjustments to the GAB.
Lawmakers would then have to re-approve the proposed budget on second reading and proceed with the final approval of the measure.
“We will go back to second reading and we will finish the second and third reading on Friday,” Yap explained to INQUIRER.net in a phone interview.
Approving the measure on second and third reading on the same day is possible since President Rodrigo Duterte has already certified as urgent the proposed 2021 budget.
Approve right away on third reading
Another option is to not recall the second reading approval of the measure and instead proceed with its third and final reading approval.
Yap explained that this is another possible scenario since deliberations have also taken place in the committee level where lawmakers were also allowed to ask questions to various government offices regarding their proposed budget.
“We will just approve it on third reading. Wala nang [deliberations]. Nakapag-deliberate naman kami sa committee level at hindi lang naman appropriations members ang nakapagtanong, pati mga ibang congressman nakapagtanong doon,” Yap said.
“Kung titingnan niyo, sa committee namin, lang beses silang pabalik-balik, hilan congressman ang nakapagtanong sa kanila doon,” he added.
Once the measure has been approved on final reading, it will then be transmitted to the Senate where it will once again be deliberated—this time, by the senators.
Where the speakership issue places
Yap recognized that the ongoing speakership war between Cayetano and Velasco could affect the budget deliberations, especially when there are questions on who between the two will preside in the debates.
With this, Yap asked both camps to once and for all settle the the speakership issue and put it to a vote on Tuesday afternoon before the deliberations formally begin.
“I suggested to them na tapusin natin. May time tayo, you have one hour to vote kung sino ang speaker,” Yap said.
Yap said he has made his appeal clear to both Cayetano and Velasco.
In the case of Velasco, Yap met with him at the Celebrity Sports Club in Quezon City where the newly-installed Speaker’s camp gathered Tuesday morning to tackle the budget deliberations that will take place in the plenary in the afternoon.
“Kaya ako pumunta sa Celebrity kanina, I suggested kay Speaker Velasco na tapusin na nila ‘yung issue sa House. That means magbotohan na kung kinakailangan para kung manalo siya or manalo si Speaker Cayetano, e hindi na maguluhan ang taumbayan,” Yap said.
(I went to the Celebrity [Sport Club] earlier because I suggested to Speaker Velasco to end this issue in the House. That means there should be voting needed on who would would win, either him [Velasco] or Speaker Cayetano, so our people will no longer feel confused.)
Yap, meanwhile, said he has also communicated his appeal to Cayetano on Monday.
“Sinabi ko rin kay Speaker Cayetano kahapon, nagbigay rin ako ng option sa kanya na budget and then sinabi ko mas maganda, magbotohan na para matapos na. Then sinabi ko ngayon kay Speaker Velasco, ganyan din,” the lawmaker said.
If Cayetano and Velasco would not be able to settle the speakership row, Yap said he would take over the budget deliberations.
“I am ready. Kung hindi sila magkakasundo, ako na ang gagawa ng—ako na magpapatakbo ng budget dahil I think I have the support of the majority dahil yun naman ang utos ng Presidente,” Yap said.
What happened before
To recall, on October 6, Cayetano moved to terminate the period of debates and amendments to the proposed funding and instead proposed the creation of a smaller committee “with full powers to entertain committee as well as individual amendments by the members.”
With the period of debates and amendments closed, the proposed 2021 budget was approved on second reading on the same day.
While the second reading approval came earlier than expected, the session was suspended until November 16—essentially delaying the third reading approval of the measure which was initially set on October 16.
Some speculate this was a ploy to delay the speakership turnover to Velasco which was expected to take place on October 14.
The move to terminate the deliberations on the budget seemed to have earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte who called for a special session from October 13 to 16 to avoid delays in passing the national budget for next year.
But a day before the deliberations, 186 lawmakers ousted Cayetano and “elected” Velasco as the new House Speaker.
Right now, many are still puzzled on who the Speaker of the House really is. Tuesday’s crucial session might just answer that.
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