‘Set aside personal issues, focus on nat’l budget’

Published October 7, 2020, 6:22 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Legislators should set aside personal issues and focus on the proposed 2021 budget and the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, three senators said Wednesday.


Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he shares the view of his colleagues that there are more pressing issues in the country than politics.

“Dapat kaming lahat, kaming mga pulitiko, ang dapat naming isipin muna paano makakarecover sa pandemic ang bansa natin, paanong maiaangat ang ekonomiya, paano ‘yung mga unemployed na kababayan natin ay magkaroon agad ng paraan – kaysa sa mga sitwasyon namin sa pulitika,” Sotto said in an online interview with reporters before their plenary session.

(All of us politicians should first think of how to help the country recover from the pandemic, how to revive our economy, how to help our unemployed countrymen look for ways to earn – instead of dealing with our situation in politics)

“‘Pag delayed ‘yung budget (If the budget is delayed), our key services will be affected…Delay of project implementation would mean missed opportunities, lalo na sa mga (especially for our) unemployed Filipinos. Sana maisip naming lahat, maisip nating lahat na maraming unemployed Filipinos ngayon (I hope everyone, all of us, will realize that there are a lot of unemployed Filipinos now).”

“Sana (I am just hoping). We can only wish,” he, however, said.

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Senate Committee on Finance chairman, appealed to their counterparts in the House of Representatives to prioritize the P4.5-trillion spending bill for 2021 as he believed that the feud over their leadership could wait.

“If merong mga (If there are) fights for chairmanships –
kasi ‘yun daw ang isa mga isyu sa leadership (because that is supposedly one of the issues in the leadership), whether to remove the chairmen, etcetera – sana (I hope), that can wait next year or early next year,” Angara said in a separate virtual briefing.

“Kasi ‘yung mga ganoon, hindi time-bound ‘yun (Because such matters are not time-bound). ‘Yung (But the) budget is time-bound,” he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, one of the Senate Committee on Finance’s vice chairpersons, said the House’s move to abruptly suspend session might not have been a wise decision considering the urgency of the budget measure.

“I don’t think it’s a good judgment call because we cannot sacrifice the national budget. Paramount ‘yan (That’s paramount), national interest,” he said in another interview with reporters.

“Whatever squabble they have dapat hindi na nadamay ang budget (the budget should not have been involved). No matter how we look at what happened, related sa speakership ang nangyayari sa ating budget measure (our budget measure is related to the speakership issue). Di na natin ma-dissociate ‘yan (We cannot anymore dissociate them),” he added.

The House of Representatives last Tuesday suddenly suspended their session until Nov. 16 after House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano moved to terminate their debates on the 2021 General Appropriations Bill and immediately approve it on second reading without going thru the period of amendments.

Cayetano called Sotto, Angara, and Lacson to explain on their decision.

The Senate leaders, however, were still concerned that they will be given a “very tight” timetable and that they would not have enough time to study and properly scrutinize the GAB, raising the possibility of a reenacted budget.

While disappointed over the lack for time, Sotto said he will not meddle with the House’s rules as it is “completely autonomous.”

“I can only speak for the Senate. And in the Senate, before you pass it on second reading the period of amendments would have been terminated,” he noted.