President Rodrigo Duterte wants Congress to set aside politics and instead work on the timely passage of the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, Malacañang said on Sunday.
In a brief announcement made over PTV-4, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reminded Congress, particularly the lower chamber, to prioritize passing the proposed 2021 budget because it will be necessary in addressing the prevailing coronavirus diseases 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“Ang panawagan po ng Presidente sa mga Kongresista: isantabi ang politika at ipasa ang proposed 2021 budget (The call of the President to representatives: Set aside politics and pass the proposed 2021 budget),” he said.
Roque clarified that the President will not interfere in the leadership tussle taking place in the House of Representatives.
“Hindi po nakikisali, naghihimasok ang Presidente sa pagpili ng House Speaker na sana po isantabi na muna ng umusad ang proseso ng pagpasa ng national budget (The President is not trying to join or interfere in selecting the next House Speaker, which he hopes is set aside to allow the process of passing the national budget),” he said.
He also expressed hope that the lower chamber will honor the President’s proclamation to hold a special session this month.
“Inaasahan po ng ating Presidente na alinsunod sa kanyang proclamation, magkakaroon po ng special session ang mababang kapulungan mula 13 hanggang 16 ng buwang ito (The President, in accordance with his proclamation, is expecting that there will be a special session in the lower chamber from Oct. 13 to 16 this month),” he said. “The President looks forward to your utmost cooperation.”
Last Friday, Duterte, through Proclamation 1027, called on Congress to hold a special session from October 13 to 16 to “resume the congressional deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget and to avoid any further delays on the prompt passage thereof in accordance with the Constitution and applicable laws, rules, and regulations”.
Duterte earlier urged the House of Representatives to resolve the leadership tussle between speakership rivals, incumbent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, and pass the 2021 national budget legally and constitutionally.
In 2019, Duterte brokered a term-sharing agreement where 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.
Some senators warned that the move of Cayetano and his allies to abruptly suspend its session at the House would guarantee a reenacted national budget for 2021.
The House suspended its session until Nov. 16 after hastily approving the GAB on second reading on Tuesday or October 6.
The Senate had hoped to receive the House’s final version of the budget bill by October 14 so they could begin working on it during the break from the session.
Both the House and Senate have vowed to expedite the passage of the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) which contains the proposed budget for 2021.