Duterte calls Congress for special session on budget deliberations

President Rodrigo Duterte | Malacañang photo

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte called on Congress to conduct a special session next week to ensure the timely passage of the proposed P4.5-trillion budget for 2021, Malacañang said on Friday, October 9.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte today, October 9, has called the Congress to a special session scheduled on October 13-16, 2020 to resume the congressional deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget and to avoid any further delays on its prompt passage,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

He also said that Duterte has certified the 2021 budget bill as urgent.

This came after House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano moved to suspend sessions until November 16 amid his dispute over the speakership with Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco.

Duterte on Thursday directed Cayetano and Velasco to resolve the matter before it affects the timely passage of the 2021 budget.

“I’m just appealing to you. Gusto ko lang sabihin in one straight statement: Either you resolve the issue sa impasse ninyo diyan (about your impasse) and pass the budget legally and constitutionally. ‘Pag hindi ninyo ginawa, ako ang gagawa para sa inyo (If you don’t, then I’ll do it for you),” he said.

“Hindi ako nananakot…  Basta sinasabi ko lang (I’m not trying to threaten you. I’m just saying), if you do not solve the problem, then I will solve the problem for you. Mamili kayo (You choose),” he added.

Cayetano and Velasco are supposed to be in a term-sharing agreement, brokered by Duterte in 2019, where Cayetano will serve as Speaker for 15 months before Velasco takes over for the remaining 21 months of their term.

According to Cayetano, his tenure is supposed to last until the end of October. However, Velasco insisted he was slated to take over on September 30.

The two then met with Duterte to settle the speakership issue, which led them to an agreement that relinquishes Cayetano’s post to Velasco on Oct. 14, the final day of budget plenary debates.

Cayetano’s move to suspend House sessions, however, will hinder Velasco’s chance to call for a Speakership vote on Oct 14.

Cayetano, for his part, welcomed Duterte’s sudden call for a special session.

“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,” he said in a Facebook post.

Likewise, Velasco showed support for Duterte’s decision.

“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,” he said.

“President Duterte’s marching orders to Speaker Cayetano is clear: Reopen Congress to its members. This also means securing a safe and secure plenary hall in accordance with the health protocols set out by the IATF and the Department of Health,” he added.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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