Budget Watch

Duterte calls Congress to special session to ensure timely passage of 2021 budget

Pia Ranada
Duterte calls Congress to special session to ensure timely passage of 2021 budget

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his remarks following a meeting with the officials of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, discussing the impasse in Congress as he called on its members to resolve the issues on the passing of the national budget for 2021 at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on October 8, 2020. Joining the meeting are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, and Senator Christopher "Bong" Go. ALBERTO ALCAIN/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

ALBERTO ALCAIN/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

(3rd UPDATE) Malacañang says President Duterte has called Congress to a special session from October 13 to 16 to resume deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget

President Rodrigo Duterte has called for a special session of Congress from October 13 to 16 to ensure the timely passage of 2021 national budget, Malacañang announced on Friday, October 9.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte today, October 9, has called the Congress to a special session scheduled on October 13-16, 2020 to resume the congressional deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget and to avoid any further delays on its prompt passage,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.

Roque also said that the President certified the 2021 budget bill as urgent.

The President’s call for a special session reverses the House’s decision to prematurely suspend its session and defer their 3rd reading and approval of the 2021 budget bill to November 16. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano initiated this move after his rival for the speakership, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, said he would run for Speaker on October 14.

The suspension of session at the House angered Duterte who, in a last-minute public address on Thursday, admonished Cayetano for endangering the 2021 budget which is sorely needed by his government to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. (READ: Duterte warns Congress: Solve 2021 budget delay or ‘I will do it for you’)

The Senate, which continues to deliberate on the 2021 General Appropriations Bill at the committee level, had complained that the House move leaves them little time to pass their version of the budget before December 18.

If Congress is unable to pass the budget bill, the Duterte government will be forced to use the 2020 national budget in 2021. This budget is smaller than the proposed 2021 budget and is not responsive to the pandemic.

In his Thursday speech, Duterte warned Congress that if lawmakers could not resolve the issues delaying the budget, he would fix the problem himself.

On Friday morning, Velasco said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart that the President was angered by Cayetano’s maneuverings in the House. Cayetano was Duterte’s running mate in the 2016 presidential elections. (READ: Velasco: ‘Angry’ Duterte feels Cayetano duped him)

In a statement on Friday night, Velasco expressed full support for Duterte’s call for a special session of Congress, saying, “This what majority of us in the House of Representatives have been telling Speaker Cayetano and his small group of loyalists since the unceremonious termination of the budget plenary debates and the highly questionable and unconstitutional suspension of session.”

“President Duterte’s marching orders to Speaker Cayetano is clear: Reopen Congress to its members. This also means securing a safe and secure plenary hall in accordance with the health protocols set out by the IATF and the Department of Health,” he added.

Velasco said the “attendance of all lawmakers will enable them to meaningfully participate in the entire budget process and preparation, just like what the President wants, and not just to a small committee of hand-picked friends.”

His rival Cayetano also welcomed the President’s call, saying a special session will allow Congress to deliberate on the proposed budget “free from the specter of politicking and intrigues.”

“We trust his wisdom on how to address issues concerning the budget, and thank him for his continued confidence by allowing Congress to pass the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) free from the specter of politicking and intrigues that we had originally sought to avoid,” Cayetano added.

Cayetano said Congress will “continue to work and prepare for the swift passage of this measure” between now and October 13. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.