By Ellson Quismorio
“We’re not afraid of transparency, but we don’t want to make the Bicam a circus.”
Thus said House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano Wednesday in response to the proposal of Sen. Panfilo Lacson to make the Bicameral Conference Committee hearings on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 open to the public.
“We [in the House of Representatives].have no problem [with] transparency but we have to be realistic on how to get the job done,” Cayetano told reporters in an interview.
According to him, having the Bicam meetings between the House members or congressmen and senators open to the public can divert attention from the real task, which is getting the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) or national budget passed as soon as possible.
“It’s easy to play to the crowd if it’s open,” said the Speaker, who leads the 304-strong House.
“Everyone who is given their free 30 seconds, five minutes, 10 minutes or 15 minutes of fame, will take that…We’re talking about getting things done here,” added the Taguig-Pateros representative.
“And the reality is, kaming mga kongresista, ang mga constituents namin, distrito namin at nakakausap namin sila parati kasi maliit lang distrito namin. Pero ang mga senador napapa-abot nila through the media. So sila ang tanungin natin kung gusto natin na ganyan ang mangyari because baka hindi matapos ang Bicam,” Cayetano further said.
(We congressmen have our constituents in our districts, and we always get to talk to them because our districts are small. But the senators do this through the media. So let’s ask them if that’s what they want to happen because the Bicam might not end.)
It is during the Bicam meetings that the differing provisions of the proposed budget versions of the House and Senate get harmonized. After that, the budget is readied for the President’s signature.
There is pressure to pass the P4.1-trillion budget on time especially after the delayed passage of the P3.662-trillion GAA for 2019.
Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman Party-List Rep. Mikee Romero earlier said that this delay resulted in P463.6 billion in economic losses in the first six months of the year, something that Cayetano alluded to.
The Speaker clarified that he saw nothing wrong with Lacson’s suggestion, given the latter’s hard-line stance against corruption and “pork barrel.”
It’s just that Cayetano isn’t sure if Lacson was on the same page with the 23 other senators. “Wala kaming indication na yan ang gusto ng buong Senado (We have no indication that it’s what the entire Senate wants).”
“Tama naman si Senator Lacson in terms of transparency. But siguro din, umpisahan niya sa Senate. Kasi dalawang House to eh. So [for] the proposal to be good, dapat suportahan din ng Senate…Because it’s a proposal of one senator. What’s the use kung papayag kami or hindi kung yung Senado hindi papayag.”
(Senator Lacson is correct in terms of transparency. But maybe he should start with the Senate. Because there are two Houses [Chambers]. So [for] the proposal to be good, the Senate should support it…Because it’s a proposal of one senator. What’s the use if we agree to it or not if the Senate won’t agree to it.)
Cayetano–himself a former senator–also had something to say about inter-Chamber courtesy between the House and Senate, which are co-equal branches.
“You have 24 senators and anyone of them can propose. Until may consensus sila, paano naman mae-entertain? (Until they have a consensus, how can we entertain it?)
“Kami, mayroon din kaming 304 congressmen (we have 304 congressmen here), all of us can propose how the Senate should conduct their business. But we refrain from doing that out of inter-Chamber courtesy at ang pinapakialaman namin, paano patakbuhin yung sarili namin (what we meddle with is how to run ourselves),” he explained.
“Pero I know maganda intensyon niya, he’s trying to get rid talaga of corruption and pork (But I know he has good intentions, he’s really trying to get rid of corruption and pork),” Cayetano added, referring to Lacson.