By Mario Casayuran
There is a possibility of Congress going on a special session should lawmakers fail to approve the proposed 2020 P4.1 trillion national budget just before their scheduled one-month Christmas recess starting December 19.
Should Congress still fail to pass the proposed 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) before the year ends, the Duterte administration may again operate on a re-enacted budget using the 2019 GAA for the 2020 fiscal year until a 2020 budget bill is passed.
The Duterte government was forced to operate for three months under a reenacted budget early this year because of a row over more than P90 billion pork barrel appropriations inserted by the House of Representatives.
The impasse was broken after President Duterte sided with the Senate and deleted the more than P90 billion ‘’pork barrel’’ funds.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson raised these possibilities just before attending a bipartisan caucus among the senators to discuss various legislative measures, particularly the proposed budget after they adjourned early Monday afternoon.
Although some P20 billion worth of questionable projects were ‘’parked’’ in the budget by the Lower House, Lacson conceded that they were not pork.
Nonetheless, Lacson would question these appropriations as some were not categorical projects with specific boundaries but were merely requests.
It is possible that these projects would not be implemented well or would not be implemented at all, Lacson, an anti-pork barrel system advocate, said.
Moreover, even officials of the departments where these projects were listed admitted that they had no knowledge how these were approved.
The Lower House had already submitted to the Senate its version of the national budget.
Neophyte Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘’Bong’’ Go said he rejects a reenacted budget.
‘’Alam mo ang laki ng nawawala sa gobyerno tuwing reenacted. kawalan po ng bawat filipino. lahat,’’ he said. (The government will lose a lot when it is forced to operate under a reenacted budget. All Filipinos will also lose a lot,)’’
They are deprived of basic services kapag reenacted kaya bilisan natin ang pagpasa. Trabaho naming senador na ipasa ang batas, bakit di maipapasa on time, wala nga tayong ginagawa, sabi ko ang bilis bilis ng session. Kulang naghahanap pa ako ng trabaho.
The possibility of a special session being called by President Duterte is based on the tight schedule of the Senate in passing its budget version and agreeing with the House budget version through a bicameral conference committee meeting.
The bicameral conference committee meeting has been adopted by the Legislative branch to iron out their differing versions or provisions of the budget.
Lacson said a congressional ratification of a bicameral conference committee on the budget will have to be made between December 17 and December 19.
The Senate finance committee chair, Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara is scheduled to deliver his sponsorship speech on the 2020 budget.
Senators see a one- to two-week plenary debate on the budget and see the approval of their budget version by the first week of December.
With a projected one- to two-week bicameral conference meeting, both legislative chambers have to ratify a bicameral conference committee report on the budget from December 16 to December 18 before they go on recess on December 19.
`’’Medyo tight ang schedule,’’ Lacson said.
It is because of this that Lacson raised the specter of the President being requested to call Congress to a special session or worse, the national government will operate on reenacted budget.