MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday said that it may call for a special session to ensure the timely passage of the proposed PHP4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Senator Paniflo Lacson warned that the House of Representatives’ postponement of its third and final reading of the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) by a month could lead to a reenacted budget.
Roque said the Palace may call for a special session by December 14 to avoid operating on a reenacted budget amid the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“Kung kinakailangan talaga, meron naman pong Dec. 14 na adjournment for Christmas ang Kongreso. Kung talagang kinakailangan after the 14th, dun po magpapatawag ng special session. Wala naman pong prejudice ‘yan (If it is really necessary, Congress has Dec. 14 adjournment for Christmas. If it’s necessary after the 14th, a special session will be called. There is no prejudice there),” he said in a Palace press briefing.
The House was supposed to pass the GAB, which contains the proposed 2021 national budget by Oct. 14, two days before it was scheduled to go on a month-long recess.
However, the House suspended its session until Nov. 16 after hastily approving the GAB on second reading on Tuesday (Oct. 6).
Roque insisted that there would still be enough time for the Senate to pass the proposed national budget.
“The Senate can continue its own deliberations on the budget kasi hindi naman ‘yan nakadepende sa pagtatapos ng budget sa House (because it does not depend on the completion on the budget in the House),” he said.
He emphasized the need for the timely passage of the proposed 2021 budget which will fund the government’s projects and programs to help Filipinos cope with the impact of Covid-19.
He also refused to comment on allegations that House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is holding the proposed budget hostage amid his speakership row with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, saying that it is a purely internal matter of the House of Representatives.
Under the term-sharing agreement, Cayetano would serve as the Speaker until October 2020 while Velasco would supposedly take over and assume the position until the 18th Congress ends in 2022.
Earlier, Lacson said it is impossible for the Senate and the House to ratify the proposed 2021 budget before the year ends, warning that it may lead to a reenacted budget.
The Senate had hoped to receive the House’s final version of the budget bill by Oct. 14 so they could begin working on it during the break from the session.
With the House’s move, the Senate would be receiving the GAB after the session resumes on Nov. 16. (PNA)