Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday night offered his sincere apologies to President Duterte over the political noise in the House of Representatives but was quick to guarantee that the Chief Executive’s fears of a delayed approval of the 2021 budget will be addressed.
“We assure the President that all the actions we have taken are legal, constitutional, and in line with time honored precedents in the House. Neither I nor the other members of Congress will sacrifice the budget in this time for political expediency,” Cayetano said in a press statement issued late Thursday evening.
Duterte had warned Cayetano and other House leaders that he will personally take action if the Lower House fails to finish the budget on time.
In his statement, Cayetano assured the President that the printed budget measure will be submitted to the Seante on November 5 to allow senators to proceed with their hearings and prepare the way “for the formal transmittal on November 16” as soon as the Lower House disposes the measure on third and final reading.
However, there was no indication the Speaker will allow the holding of sessions starting Monday until October 16, the date of adjournment the Senate and the Lower House have earlier agreed upon.
The suspension of House session has been one of the reasons why Duterte appeared on national television.
He aired the apprehension that the abrupt passage on second reading of the 2021 General Appropriations Bill and the suspension of sessions could trigger a constitutional issue.
The twin moves were reportedly resorted to by Cayetano and his allies in an attempt to evade the alleged plot to unseat the speaker and vote in his place, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
“We welcome the President’s stern warning to all parties to stop all the politicking as it could jeopardize the welfare of our fellow citizens at this critical time,” Cayetano stated.
He acknowledged the need for Congress to push for measures that would “ease the burdens of our fellow Filipinos who are suffering from the pandemic.”
“And it is with this in mind that we would like to assure the President and our fellow citizens that despite all the noise, the 2021 budget will be passed on time,” Cayetano said.
“I thank Senate President Sotto for his understanding and his commitment to work with us in the House of Representatives in meeting the nation’s deadline,” the speaker said.
He added: “Again, we take the President’s stern admonition to heart and we assure the public that we share his concern for the welfare of our people.”