Administration Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, together with congressmen representing the minority and independent blocs in the House of Representatives, strongly denounced on Tuesday the alleged railroading of the second reading approval of the 2021 General Appropriations Act and the abrupt adjournment of the plenary sessions.
In a statement, Velasco blamed Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and “his handful of allies” for the passage of the 2021 national budget law without going through the budget process provided under the 1987 Constitution.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and independent Reps. Edcel Lagman and Lito Atienza assailed Cayetano’s move to deny lawmakers the right to conduct deliberations on the national budget.
All four senior members of the chamber demanded the immediate resumption of plenary sessions and asked Cayetano to follow what the Constitution provides.
“The plenary scrutiny on the national budget has been sacrificed to the altar of the on-going House leadership squabble,” said Lagman.
On the other hand, Atienza chided Cayetano and his allies for resorting to the “childish tantrums” they allegedly demonstrated in order for the incumbent speaker to hold on to the House leadership and avoid having their “hidden pork barrel” be scrutinized by their colleagues.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the sudden approval and railroading of House Bill 7727 without exhausting all efforts to adequately study and criticize the national budget. We saw many flaws in the budget that need amendments which the public also needs to be informed,” said Zarate, who also represents the Makabayan bloc.
The senior opposition lawmaker stressed that the Lower House “robbed the people” the opportunity to demand better prioritization for health, education and aid amid the COVID 19 pandemic.”
Lagman disclosed that 14 major departments and several attached agencies have not been processed through plenary deliberations as a result of the termination of the budget debates.
Among these are vital government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Also pending for deliberations are the proposed budgets of the constitutional offices like the Commission on Elections, Commission on Audit and the Civil Service Commission, together with the Commission on Human Rights.
“Even the proposed appropriations for all the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) have not been debated upon, including other executive offices like the Commission on Higher Education, the Climate Change Commission and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and many others,” said Lagman.
Both Atienza and Lagman demanded reconsideration of the motion to terminate the budget proceedings and approve the proposed GAA on second reading.
Lagman also decried the suspension of sessions without the consent of Senate as a violation of Section 16 (5) of Article VI of the Constitution.
According to him this provision provides: “Neither House during the sessions of the Congress shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.”
“Moreover, it also violates Concurrent Resolution No. 11 authorizing the suspension of sessions only from October 17, 2020 to November 15, 2020,” said Lagman.
During the session, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu declared the adjournment of sessions starting October 6 and the resumption on November 16.
“Because of Speaker Cayetano’s desperate attempt to stay in power, he has bastardized the institution we swore to protect and respect and committed serious violations of the Constitution to save himself,” Velasco said.
He added: “He knows very well that he no longer enjoys the trust and confidence of House members.”