Pass 2021 nat’l budget, Lacson urges Cayetano

Published October 8, 2020, 12:53 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Sotto hits back at House speaker for saying delay should be blamed on Senate

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson urged House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano Wednesday to resume plenary session and pass the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget before Oct. 15, the scheduled suspension of the plenary sessions of the Senate and the House.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson

That is the only way to ensure the timely passage of the national budget, Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, said.

Senate leaders, including Lacson, said the abrupt suspension by the House of its session Tuesday night after passing the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) might make it impossible for both legislative chambers to pass the GAB and signed by President Duterte before the end of the year.

Last Wednesday, Cayetano went live on Facebook to say that should there be any delay in the passage of the proposed 2021 national budget, Senate should be blamed, not the House.

“I hope that maging malinaw ito (this is clear) because kung magkakaroon po ng (if there is any) delay o (or) reenactment, it will be because of the Senate not because of the House, because we are only talking about only one day,” Cayetano said in his Facebook Live.

Cayetano also noted the late submission of the National Expenditure Program to Congress.

‘The nerve!’

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III hit back at Cayetano, saying: “The nerve! Passing the blame, it’s unacceptable!”

“Do not be misled. The HOR (House of Representatives) has delayed the budget for a whole month.

No one can ever blame the Senate for this delay. NEVER!” Sotto posted on Twitter.

Sotto, in a message to reporters, stated: “One month delayed na (already), hindi pa sila pasado on third reading (they have not pass it on third reading).”

The House of Representatives should have passed the budget bill on final reading and submit it to the Senate before the congressional break based on the schedule agreed by both houses, Sotto added.

“October 17 is a month away from November 17!” he said.

Anti-Cayetano congressmen claimed that passage of GAB was political master stroke to prevent Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco from unseating Cayetano as Speaker based on their gentleman’s term-sharing agreement.

‘’I have just suggested to the Speaker if it’s possible for him to resume their session, which is merely suspended and not adjourned, before All Saints’ Day just to approve on third and final reading the House version of the budget measure and thereafter transmit the same to us,’’ Lacson said.

”Between Oct. 12 and 14 when the Senate is originally scheduled to receive the transmittal of the GAB from the House of Representatives, and Nov. 17 when the Speaker said they will be able to transmit the same to us, is definitely not a ‘one-day difference’ as claimed by Speaker Cayetano,’’ he added.

Although the House suspended its plenary session this week, the Senate continues with its legislative work. They will suspend its session on Oct. 15.

But both are expected to resume session on Nov. 16.

Lacson added that he told Cayetano that ‘’the senators, especially the Finance committee vice chairpersons, need at least one week to study the House version and submit to the mother committee our reports.’’

‘’Another week will be needed for the Finance committee to consolidate everything and file its committee report. In so doing, we can start floor debates immediately after we resume session on Nov. 16, or even before that,’’ he said.

“We cannot afford an impasse involving the most important piece of legislation that Congress has to pass: The national budget, which I have consistently regarded as the lifeblood of our economy, if not our country,’’ he said.