House passes 2021 budget on second reading
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is shown speaking in this undated file photo.
House passes 2021 budget on second reading
Xave Gregorio ( - October 6, 2020 - 4:13pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:46 p.m.) — The House of Representatives passed Tuesday the proposed P4.5 trillion 2021 budget after Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig-Pateros) moved to terminate deliberations on the fiscal plan.

However, the House would be missing its self-imposed deadline to pass the budget on third and final reading on October 14 as the chamber also decided to go on a break earlier, suspending sessions until November 16, 3 p.m.

Cayetano said he moved to end the period of interpellations and amendments to prove that he is not holding the budget hostage to cling to the speakership — an accusation hurled at him by his rival for the top post at the House, Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque).

Instead of plenary deliberations, House members in groups of five to 10 can now simply talk directly with Cabinet members to air their concerns about the budget, Cayetano said.

Also in lieu of amendments being proposed in the plenary, individual and committee amendments would instead be collated by a small committee which would submit these amendments to the Committee on Appropriations by November 5.

The members of the small committee are:

  • Majority Leader Martin Romualdez (Leyte)
  • Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte (Camarines Sur) 
  • Committee on Appropriations chair Rep. Eric Yap (ACT-CIS party-list)
  • Committee on Appropriations vice chairman Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado (Bulacan)
  • Committee on Banks chair Rep. Junie Cua (Quirino)
  • Deputy Speaker Henry Oaminal (Misamis Occidental)
  • Committee on Ways and Means chair Rep. Joey Salceda (Albay)
  • Rep. Stella Quimbo (Marikina)
  • Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list)
  • Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe (Zamboanga City)
  • Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. (Aklan) 
  • Rep. Elipidio Barzaga (Cavite)
  • Rep. Elenita Milagros Ermita-Buhain (Batangas)

Cayetano also introduced a way for congressmen to work on their projects together with his office through "personal district reports" and "personal sectoral reports."

"We'll give one to your chief of staff, one to my office, we will fill in the blanks. We will work on your projects during the break," he said. "This paper represents real lives. Every classroom, every teacher, every farm-to-market road, someone will benefit. This is not pork barrel. This is what the people need."

The move to end deliberations on the 2021 budget, however, was met with resistance from some lawmakers on the floor who attempted to object to Cayetano's motion.

"We slam these moves to strip the Filipino people of their chance to scrutinize the proposed 2021 national budget at a time when public funds must be very well-allocated to reflect the need to effectively address the health and economic crises," Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said in a statement.

Cayetano, however, assured, without specifying how, that the House will remain committed to make the budget process transparent to the public.

He also stressed that lawmakers will be working harder and smarter to give the people a "relevant, responsive budget you will be proud of."

Session suspended

With sessions suspended until November 16, Cayetano effectively avoided a potential move from Velasco's camp to declare the speakership vacant by October 14 — the supposed end-date for the first half of the term-sharing agreement between them brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019.

Velasco and his allies have been urging Cayetano to give up the speakership by October 14 to honor the term-sharing deal, wherein the incumbent speaker gets to lead the chamber for 15 months, followed by Velasco for the remaining 21 months of the 18th Congress.

Velasco met with Duterte on Monday evening to seek his blessing to run for speakership. Malacañang said that the president gave Velasco the green light as it is his "right under the agreement between you and Speaker Alan Cayetano."

This marks the first time Velasco met with Duterte separately following his and Cayetano's meeting with the chief executive last Tuesday where they attempted to settle the term-sharing question.

During the meeting, the president insisted that the agreement — which should see Cayetano step down from the helm of the House after 15 months to give way for Velasco's 21-month term — should push through.

However, two different stories emerged from the meeting, with Velasco's camp claiming that Cayetano is set to step down on October 14, while the speaker's camp says that no definitive date was agreed upon.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 22, 2020 - 1:49pm

The Duterte administration is set to submit its penultimate budget proposal for Congress's consideration on Tuesday, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado says.

"We've arranged the submission today after lunch," Avisado says in a text message.

The proposed budget will be worth P4.506 trillion, 9.9% higher than this year's P4.1-trillion outlay. The government says the outlay would prioritize ongoing response to the pandemic. — Prinz Magtulis

October 22, 2020 - 1:49pm

Sen. Risa Hontiveros warns against a P2.04-billion cut on the 2021 budget of the Department of Health amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The senator says it is crucial for government hospitals to cover the costs of regular operations, including utilities, medicine, diagnostic procedures, IV fluids and other expenses.

"Billions worth of cuts in the middle of a pandemic means we drastically slashed the capacity of government hospitals to provide services and medicines for free. Dahil dito, aakyat pa ang out-of-pocket expenses ng mga tao. This is grossly anti-poor and anti-people," Hontiveros says.

October 20, 2020 - 10:24am

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon says the tourism industry needs more funding in the proposed 2021 national budget, describing the allocation for the DOT as meager.

He says no provisions were made for cash-for-work programs for tourism employees.

"Tourism is the second biggest contributor to the country’s GDP. Instead of rewarding and supporting the DOT and tourism enterprises, our national budget keeps on decreasing its support for the tourism industry," Drilon is quoted as saying during the Senate hearing on the agency's proposed 2021 budget.

He says that the P3.52-billion allocation for the Department of Tourism, down from P4.9 billion proposed by the agency, "is insufficient given the sector's contribution to the economy and its capability to bring back economic activities halted by the COVID-19 pandemic."

October 19, 2020 - 2:10pm

The House version of the 2021 national budget is ready for submission to the Senate after the lower chamber's small group reached a consensus, Rep. Joey Salceda (Albay) says.

Noting that Speaker Lord Allan Velasco delivers, Salceda notes that they only considered institutional amendments, departmental errata and individual amendments during the bicameral committee.

October 11, 2020 - 3:12pm

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez says the Congress will resume deliberations on the 2021 national budget following the call of President Rodrigo Duterte for a special session.

"Let us set aside politics and focus first on the passage of the national budget as requested by the President," Romualdez says in a statement.

Romualdez stresses that they will respect the term-sharing agreement and that they will ensure a smooth transition of leadership in the lower chamber.

October 11, 2020 - 3:01pm

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte has endorsed Rep. Lord Velasco (Marinduque) as speaker of the House of Representatives, according to Rep Doy Leachon (Oriental Mindoro).

"She's doing it as a friend of Cong. Velasco. Besides, she believes that parties to the term-sharing agreement must be gentleman enough to comply," Leachon says in a statement.

Leachon adds that non-adherence to the term-sharing agreement is a defiance to President Rodrigo Duterte.

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