In a sudden turn of events, the House of Representatives approved on second reading Tuesday House Bill (HB) No. 7727, the proposed ₱4.506-trillion national budget for 2021.

220719 congress 03 alvin kasiban - Abrupt budget passage denies Velasco of October 14 turnover
(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

But more interesting than the abrupt approval is the implications of the House action, on a motion by Deputy Majority Leader Camiguin lone district Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo to suspend the session until November 16, 2020, “in accordance with our legislative calendar.”

Presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu hastily carried out the motion, signaling the start of recess or a break in the 299-member chamber.

The suspension of sessions and second reading approval of HB No.7727 were supposed to take place this October 14 – the supposed turnover date for the speakership between Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

But since there won’t be any plenary sessions until November 16, Velasco will no longer have the opportunity – at least for this month – to call for a new vote on the speakership.

Cayetano addressed the plenary Tuesday in the middle of the tedious plenary deliberations on the budget, which was on its second week.

In his speech, the Taguig-Pateros lawmaker cited Velasco’s accusation last Friday that he was “holding the budget hostage.”

“I will prove to Congressman Velasco and his cohorts today that I am not hostaging the budget. Applying Section 55 of our rules, I move to terminate the period of debates for House Bill No.7727 otherwise known as the GAA (General Appropriations Act), I so move,” Cayetano said.

Aware of the effect of the shortened period for debates, Cayetano also moved to create a small committee – to be headed by his right-hand man, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez – “with full powers to entertain committee as well as individual amendments by the members to be submitted to the Committee on Appropriations on or before November 5.”

“All members can continue talking to the (department) secretaries…. But until November 5, doon po isa-submit lahat ng amendments (But all amendments must be submitted by November 5),” he added.

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