Groups from different sectors on Tuesday trooped to the House of Representatives asking the legislative body to recall the approval on second reading and allow amendments to the proposed 2021 national budget.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) spokesperson Teddy Casiño said that House Bill No. 7727, or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB), should go through a period of amendments before approval on third reading.
“The budgets of many agencies have yet to be tackled in plenary,” Casiño, a former Bayan Muna partylist representative, said.
Over 300 signatories from the education and health sector, civil society organizations, and farmers groups signed a joint statement calling last week’s budget approval “hasty, premature, and undemocratic.”
They said this “effectively denied the public, through our elected representatives, the opportunity to scrutinize and propose amendments to this very important and far-reaching piece of legislation.”
“As it is, the proposed budget appears oblivious to the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health, the economy, and the educational system. It is important therefore for our congressmen and senators to listen and act on the very urgent demands of our people to prioritize public health spending, social protection and economic stimulus, and the retooling of our educational system in the 2021 budget,” their statement read.
They added that Congress’ practice of limiting the process of amending the GAA to “select congressmen and away from public scrutiny should end.”
Peasant group Anakpawis also joined the protest at the Batasan Complex to call for the inclusion of financial subsidies for peasants, fisherfolk and other food-producing sectors in next year’s budget.
The statement was signed by Ariel Casilao, Judy Taguiwalo, Dinky Soliman, Bro. Armin Luistro, Manila Public School Teachers Association President Louie Zabala, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila President Emmanuel Leyco, and Alliance of Concerned Teachers secretary general Raymond Basilio, among others.
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines urged House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco to prove that his “never-say-die” effort to clinch the Lower House top post is more than a bid to corner budget spoils for his camp by fully funding the needs of education continuity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the past days, we cannot but watch in disgust lawmakers bickering over lucrative positions, all while our teachers struggle with printers and internet connection, studying sibling compete for gadget use, and food and education compete in the family budget,” said Raymond Basilio, ACT Secretary General. (With a report from Merlina Hernando-Malipot)