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21 House solons named to bicam panel

Lord Allan Velasco
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco

SPEAKER Lord Allan Velasco has assigned 21 lawmakers to form the House contingent to the bicameral committee on the proposed 2021 national budget.

The head of the panel is ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, while co-chairmen are Senior Deputy Speaker Doy Leachon and Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero.

Members are Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Minority Leader Stephen Paduano; Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc, Rizal Rep. Michael John Duavit, Deputy Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera, Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona, Negros Occidental Rep. Francisco Benitez, Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison; Deputy Speakers Loren Legarda, Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan, Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno, Deputy Speaker Jose “Lito” Atienza, Batangas Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain, Valenzuela Reps. Eric Martinez and Wes Gatchalian, Abra Rep. Joseph Bernos, and Albay Reps. Joey Salceda, and Edcel Lagman.

Velasco assured the public that the House contingent will make sure the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte before the year ends.

The 2021 national budget is pegged at P4.506 trillion.

“We have to make sure the GAB lands on President Duterte’s desk for his signature before the year ends to prevent a reenacted spending program that could slow economic growth and hamper the delivery of government services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Velasco said.

Both panels will discuss and reconcile the disagreeing provisions of House Bill 7727 or the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2021.

Speaker Velasco earlier said the ratification of the 2021 national budget was high on the House agenda.

He said the record-high budget is the government’s “single-most powerful tool” to fight COVID-19 and help the economy and the people recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic.

Just recently, Velasco said the House will seek an increase of at least P5 billion in the 2021 calamity fund for the reconstruction of areas devastated by recent strong typhoons.

Meanwhile Former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano proposed to both Senate and House to first show to the public the list of allocations before approving the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) in the bicameral committee level.

This is in order to avoid suspicion of budget insertion, pork barrel and parking, the Taguig-Pateros Representative said.

“Ang proposal ko, para maiwasan ‘yung batuhan ng putik tapos hindi naman pala totoo, bago i-approve [sa] bicam, makita ng sambayanan saan nilagay ‘yung pondo. So, kung may dagdag-bawas, saan ‘yung binawas; kung may dinagdag, saan dinagdag. Para kita. Kasi kung hindi, bulagaan na lang tayo,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano said publishing both versions of the GAB will also allow the media to know what to tell the public as part of their duty to report on allegations of corruption by some members of Congress.

He recalled that as Speaker, he led the House of Representatives in the swift passage of the 2020 National Budget, leaving no opportunity for pork, corruption, or parking of funds.

“So ‘yan po ay pinagbawal natin nung naging Speaker tayo at nagkaroon kami ng maraming caucus. Sabi ko nga, ‘Para hindi madamay ‘yung lahat, ‘pag may nahuli dito, walang takipan dito. Walang tutulungan o kukunsintihin dito,” he said.

“Ngayon, siguro fair na hingin ng lahat ng kongresista, malaman din nila kung ano talaga ang nasa loob diyan at kung anong wala diyan. To prevent na rin ‘yung ‘for later release’ and to prevent veto,” Cayetano added.