President Rodrigo Duterte has called on Congress to hold special sessions from October 13 to 16 to assure the approval of the proposed 2021 national budget.

The President issued Proclamation 1027 on Friday with Palace Spokesman Harry Roque Jr. saying Duterte will certify the approval of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as urgent.

Roque said a proclamation certifying the GAB as urgent will be released soon.

Duterte’s ordering Congress to a special sessions comes a day after he threatened to resolve the row over the House Speakership between Speaker Alan Peter Cayeteno and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

Cayetano and Velasco immediately supported Duterte’s call for a special session.

“[W]e welcome President Duterte’s call for a Special Session of Congress… 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 free from the specter of politicking and intrigues that we had originally sought to avoid,” Cayetano said in a Facebook post.

“This is what the 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,” Velasco said in a statement.

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Jose Maria “Joey” Salceda said the special session ordered by Duterte would give the House time to approved the proposed 2021 budget on third reading. He added the President sees the 2021 budget as a vital economic stimulus.

The proposed 2021 budget amounts to P4.56 trillion and was crafted primarily to revive the Philippine economy that has been badly mauled by the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s approved budget is P4.1 trillion.

“He (Duterte) wants it passed without delay, and rightly so, because we cannot afford to delay the most important economic stimulus measure, the 2021 budget,” Salceda said.

The minority bloc also expressed its support to fast-track the deliberations to approve the proposed 2021 budget.

It said in a statement that it supports the approval of the GAB “to address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our economy, and to provide aid for our people in these challenging times.”

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