HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez has reiterated the House of Representatives commitment to pursue transparent deliberations of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s proposed P4.506 trillion 2021 national budget to ensure its legality and constitutionality.
This was stressed by Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, after assuring Duterte Friday night that the House leadership will immediately act next week on his request to pass the national budget on third and final reading.
“We will go through the very transparent process of budget deliberations to fully discuss its merits and main objective to serve the people,” said Romualdez, stressing the passage of the national budget will help reset and rebound the economy from months of devastation caused by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We appeal to all our colleagues to give their full cooperation in ensuring the swift enactment of legal and constitutional General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as requested by President Duterte to support his vision for the nation in the years to come,” Romualdez said.
Duterte on late Friday afternoon called for a special session of Congress on October 13 to 16 to pass House Bill (HB) 7727 or the national budget and at the same time certified it as an urgent measure.
After passing the national budget on second reading last Tuesday, the House of Representatives suspended its session until November 16, the date of the resumption of session after the Halloween break.
Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), also said that “members of the super majority and our colleagues from the constructive minority bloc are one with the Duterte administration in the implementation of its comprehensive plan to rebuild the Philippine economy, defeat coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) and ensure that government services are not derailed.”
“The very transparent process of budget deliberations will always be observed to ensure its legality and constitutionality in our main intention to serve the people. So much legislation has been passed, but we will continue to work harder to approve other priority bills outlined by President Duterte in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) despite the limitations and challenges caused by the COVID 19 pandemic,” said Romualdez.
House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. of Manila and his bloc also joined Romualdez in calling to support the President’s request to pass the national budget during special session.
“We in the Minority support any initiative that will fast-track the deliberations and subsequent passage of the 2021 national budget. The special session called by President Rodrigo Duterte, together with his certification of the General Appropriations Bill as urgent, serves to emphasize the importance of passing the budget on time in order for the government to promptly carry out the programs and projects necessary to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy, and to provide aid for our people in these challenging times,” the Minority Bloc said.
“The members of the Minority Bloc had originally intended to hold parallel deliberations in order to fulfill our mandate to thoroughly scrutinize the budget and to properly evaluate the proposed allocations for the government’s various line departments. These, however, may now be unnecessary given this latest development, as we in the Minority will now be able to resume working with our colleagues in the Majority to craft a pro-people budget that is on time, on target, and on point,” according to the group.
“Our priorities should now be crystal clear; let us set aside politics, eschew the infighting that has plagued the chamber in recent weeks, and focus on the task at hand,” the Minority Bloc added.
MORE HOUSE LEADERS SUPPORT SPECIAL SESSION
Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga Jr., president of the National Unity Party (NUP), also assured Duterte that his congressional allies will work hard to pass the national budget without any delay this week.
“The passage of the national budget this week is good as done. We also guarantee that the approval of President Duterte’s priority bills will be realized with efficiency for the welfare of the Filipino people,” said Barzaga, a lawyer and chairman of the House committee on natural resources.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, also expressed commitment that the House of Representatives will act according to Duterte’s request.
“To me, what this move signals is that the President is taking no chances about the budget timeline. He wants it passed without delay, and rightly so, because we cannot afford to delay the most important economic stimulus measure, the 2021 budget,” Salceda said.
“I am part of the small committee traditionally tasked to receive proposed amendments to the House’s version of the budget. As a member of the President’s party, I receive this signal from the President as a clear instruction from the head of our party that we should get the job of passing the budget done urgently. I, for one, welcome the President’s direction for his coalition’s super-majority in Congress,” Salceda stressed.
CAYETANO WELCOMES SPECIAL SESSION
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano welcomed Duterte’s call for a special session of House of Representatives on October 13 to 16, saying it will give Congress the chance to resume deliberations on the proposed 2021 National Budget “free from the specter of politicking and intrigues.”
“As we commit our nation and the People’s 2021 Budget to the Almighty, we welcome President Duterte’s call for a Special Session of Congress on October 13 to 16,” Cayetano said in a statement after Duterte issued Proclamation No. 1027 calling Congress to a special session.
“We trust his wisdom on how to address issues concerning the budget, and thank him for his continued confidence by allowing Congress to pass the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) free from the specter of politicking and intrigues that we had originally sought to avoid,” Cayetano added.
Duterte said he was issuing the proclamation “to avoid any further delays on the prompt passage” of the GAB.
The proclamation was issued a day after the President told members of Congress to resolve the issues that have been threatening to delay the budget.
“If you do not solve the problem then I will solve the problem for you,” he said.
Cayetano said between now and October 13, Congress will “continue to work and prepare for the swift passage of this measure, and to ensure that it will be responsive and relevant to the government’s overall recovery efforts for 2021.”
Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco said “I fully support President Duterte’s call to resume plenary discussions in Congress from October 13 to October 16 to take up the proposed national expenditure plan for 2021 and to ensure its passage without delay in accordance with the Constitution and existing laws.”