MANILA – The Senate still has “enough time” to finish budget deliberations after the House approved the proposed 2021 national budget on second reading and suspended its session until Nov. 16, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
This, after Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier claimed that the House of Representatives disregarded President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to prioritize the budget since suspending its session would not allow the budget to reach the Senate before it goes on break on Oct. 14.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained that the Senate can already act on the budget without waiting for the Lower Chamber to approve it on third and final reading.
Roque, a former lawmaker, said the Constitution does not prohibit the Senate from acting on a proposed legislative measure “in anticipation of its receipt of the bill from the House.”
“We are confident that the Senate has enough time to finish its deliberations and there should be no reason for delay. There is plenty of time between now and Nov. 16 for committee deliberations to continue and come November there will be enough time for plenary deliberations in the Senate,” he said.
He, meanwhile, reiterated Duterte’s appeal not to delay the passage of the much-needed proposed 2021 budget.
Squabbles among lawmakers over budget allocations for infrastructure and the speakership row earlier raised concerns over the timely package of the proposed PHP4.5 trillion 2021 budget.
“The President’s message is clear: we cannot delay the passage of the national budget,” he said.
On Tuesday, the general appropriations bill which contains the proposed budget was approved on second reading in the House of Representatives.
Roque explained that lawmakers could no longer make any amendments when a proposed law is approved on second reading.
“On third and final reading, you can no longer move for amendments. That’s already the final version of the House bill. It’s either you vote for or against the measure and now we’re expecting of course that as soon as it is printed and brought to the floor for the third reading, that all the administration parties, all those supporters of the President will cast a yes vote,” he said in an interview over CNN Philippines.
The Senate finance committee is currently deliberating on the National Expenditure Program, which deliberations have been simultaneous with the deliberations of the House. (PNA)