No sabotage motive in suspending budget debates–Defensor

Published September 30, 2020, 11:38 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Suspending the plenary consideration of the P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 is in no way an act to sabotage its passage, according to Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Mike Defensor.

Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Mike Defensor (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“This is not to stop or hindi naman po ito para i-sabotahe ang mga pagtatapos ng Committee on Appropriations (This is not to sabotage the work of the Committee on Appropriations),” Defensor said Wednesday afternoon as he justified his motion pertaining to House Bill (HB) No.7727.

“Bagkus, I would think na sana ho makatulong din itong paghinto sa pag-aayos sa budget…mabigyan tayo ng panahon na itama (Instead, I would think that this suspension might help in putting the budget in order…to give us time to correct it),” he said.

Filed by Appropriations panel chairman, ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Eric Go Yap, HB No.7727 is the 2021 National Expenditure Program or NEP in bill form. The NEP emanated from the Executive via the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Earlier during the Wednesday session, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano delivered a privilege speech wherein he touched upon the “problems” of the proposed budget and how it affected his dynamics with Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, with whom he has a term-sharing agreement.

Wednesday was only the third day of the plenary debates on HB No.7727 wherein the individual budgets of the government agencies were scrutinized and defended on the floor.

At the tail end of the session, Defensor stood up and echoed Cayetano’s concerns over the proposed budget.

“Alam ko marami tayong mga kasama na mayroong commitments sa kanilang mga distrito na sa ngayon ay nakabinbin under the ‘for later release’ funds. Ang ating mga kasamahan na mga programa na pangunahin para sa pangkalusugan…para po sa pagbibigay-buhay sa ekonomiya ng distrito natin (I know many of our colleagues have commitments in their districts that are in limbo because their funds have been classified as ‘for later release.’ These are our colleagues who mainly have health and economic stimulus programs in our districts),” he said.

“Yun pong Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), isa po yan sa mga patuloy kong tinutuligsa sa budget ng Department of Health (DOH). Sinasabi ko po, itama natin ang budget na ito. Ayusin natin na ang bawat distrito na kinasasakupan ng bawat miyembro ng Kongreso ay magkaroon talaga ng maayos na ospital (For example, the HFEP is one facet of the DOH budget that I’m assailing. What I’m saying is, let’s correct this budget. Let’s correct it so that every district represented here in Congress would get a decent hospital),” the Committee on Public Accounts chair further said.

“With that, I move to suspend the consideration of the budget until Friday of this week…with the colatilla that I will again move for the further suspension of the consideration if these concerns…of our colleagues, their commitments to their districts, the need to respond to the needs of the health sector, the need for them to push for the economic development of their districts (aren’t addressed),” Defensor said.

Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte, the Deputy Speaker for Finance, manifested afterward: “I would like to reiterate that the swift passage of the budget be done despite all this talk about the Speakership. Gusto ko lang po i-emphasize (I just want to emphasize), people first, politics later.”

Villafuerte, who like Defensor is a staunch ally of Cayetano, ultimately supported the motion, which was then carried by the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu.

The timely passage of the P4.506-trillion budget for next year is crucial in the government’s attempt to lift the economy from the dregs of the COVID pandemic-triggered slowdown.