Duterte calls Congress to special session next week for budget deliberations
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his remarks following a meeting with the officials of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, discussing the impasse in Congress as he called on its members to resolve the issues on the passing of the national budget for 2021 at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on October 8, 2020.
Presidential Photo/Simeon Celi
Duterte calls Congress to special session next week for budget deliberations
(Philstar.com) - October 9, 2020 - 6:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday called on the Congress to conduct a special session next week to resume the deliberations of the proposed 2021 national budget.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte called the Congress to a special session on October 13 to 16 “to avoid any further delays" on the "prompt passage" of the national budget.

This comes a day after Duterte, in an aired speech on Thursday night, warned that if the House of Representatives will now “resolve the issue about their impasse,” he will intervene.

The president did not specify how he will intervene, but stressed that he is not threatening anyone and does not desire to linger longer in his position.

He also refused to provide a timeline as to when the budget should be passed, saying this is only the work of dictators, but said that he will step in if “there will be a delay and it will result in the derailment of government service.”

Duterte’s stern warning on Thursday came after a long week of maneuverings in the House led by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, which resulted in the abrupt end of the public debates on the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for next year and the House taking a break earlier than expected.

This came amid the leadership tussle between Cayetano and Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque) who are supposedly in a term-sharing agreement brokered by the president in 2019.

While this also resulted in the passage of the budget on second reading, it also means that the House would not be able to pass the spending plan on final reading on its self-imposed deadline on October 14 as the session is suspended until November 16.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Friday also questioned why the House of Representatives cannot deliberate on the proposed budget before November 16.

“How can the Senate accept a printed copy of an unapproved House version of the budget bill, as proposed by Speaker Cayetano? ... Why do they have to wait for November 16 to approve the budget on third and final reading? I can’t understand any of this,” he said.

“Our priority in the Senate remains the same—to pass on time the national budget that will allow us to deal with the effects of the pandemic. This includes scrutinizing the budget bill to make sure huge sums are not lost to incompetence or greed,” Lacson added.

Several lawmakers, including Velasco, have called on the House leadership to reconvene the session, but Cayetano has balked at this idea, saying that continuing budget deliberations in plenary would further lead to politicking.

“There are saboteurs, there were people with their own intentions. Lawmakers and the departments were no longer able to talk well with each other,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. — with reports from Xave Gregorio

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