Friday, October 16, 2020

Lacson cautions House vs. belated transmittal of 2021 budget

SENATOR PANFILO  Lacson on Friday urged the House of Representatives to pass the proposed 2021 national budget on schedule.
 In a statement, he said if the lower chamber would transmit the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to the Senate on November 5 or 6, "there is no assurance that we (the Senate) can pass the budget on time and thus avoid a re-enacted budget." This came as the special session called by President Rodrigo Duterte for the House to deliberate on the GAB ends on Friday. Lacson noted that lawmakers have promised the President that they would approve the budget bill on third and final reading on Friday. "(I)t only takes one week to print, so why November 5? Not only is the delay unacceptable. It is difficult to understand unless there are plans to amend the bill after the third reading," he said. Lacson urged the House leadership to adhere to Article VI, Section 26 of the Constitution that says, upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed. "Amid promises of ‘best efforts’ to transmit the budget bill by end-October, if the House still ends up transmitting the bill on November 5, does it mean that the description ‘House of the People’ is all lip service?" he said. The deliberations on the budget bill in the lower house were earlier delayed due to the leadership row between then Speaker, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, and his successor, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier warned that a reenacted budget for 2021 would spell “disaster” for the government’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response. The passage of the proposed PHP4.5 trillion national budget for 2021 is crucial as it would be used to fund government efforts in response to Covid-19, including the purchase of vaccines once these become available. (By Benjamin Pulta)