Militant solons invoke Constitution in call to resume budget debates

Published October 8, 2020, 7:20 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

It’s only constitutional for the House of Representatives to resume the plenary debates on the proposed P4.506-trillion budget bill for 2021,the six-member Makabayan bloc said Thursday.

In a joint statement, the militant congressmen called on the House leadership under Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to continue the “abruptly terminated budget deliberations so that the people’s call for health, education, jobs, and aid can be prioritized.”

“The Constitution mandates that Congress conduct deliberations that are open to the public and on record, for the sake of transparency and for posterity. This is true for all measures, but even more so for the General Appropriations Bill (GAB),” the statement read.

The GAB in this case is House Bill (HB) No.7727, filed by Appropriations Committee chairman, ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Eric Go Yap. Last Tuesday, Speaker Cayetano moved to terminate the period of interpellation and debates on the bill in what the Makabayan solons have described as an offshoot of his ongoing squabble with speakership rival, Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

The measure was subsequently passed on second reading via simple voice vote (ayes and nays).

Bayan Muna Party-List Reps. Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, Eugenia Cullamat; Gabriela Party-List Rep. Arlene Brosas; ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. France Castro; and Kabataan Party-List Rep. Sarah Elago comprise the Makabayan solons, which were the most active interpellators of the various agencies’ budgets during the six-day plenary discussions.

“It is the duty of Congress to ensure, through public deliberations in plenary session, that each centavo of taxpayers’ money that Malacañang proposes to spend next year is justified,” the statement further read.

Zarate, in a virtual press conference Thursday, underscored that the proposed budget for next year is the highest in the country’s history.

Brosas, on the other hand, noted that the House members never got the chance to scrutinize the budgets of the Department of Health and Department of Social Welfare and Development–the two most critical agencies in terms of response to the COVID-19 pandemic–in plenary.

“Abruptly terminating the plenary session is a dereliction of duty on the part of the House. We call on the House leadership to immediately resume the suspended plenary session, reconsider the approval on second reading, and continue the public deliberations on the (GAB),” the militant lawmakers said.

“We in the Makabayan bloc, as independent fiscalizers of the administration, take this job very seriously,” they added.