Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Monday expressed hope that the power struggle ensuing at the House of Representatives won’t affect the passage of the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021.

drilon 1 - Drilon hopes power struggle in House won’t disrupt passage of 2021 national budget
Senator Franklin Drilon (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Drilon said the timely passage of next year’s budget is critical in order for the government to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the huge unemployment rate that ensued following the series of lockdowns aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.

“Certainly a power struggle in the House will affect the timeline (of the passage of the 2021 national budget) and I hope it does not happen, because we are still in the middle of a pandemic,” Drilon said in an interview over ANC Headstart.

“We have about 10 percent unemployment rate and we’re expected to have a contraction of the economy. A delay in the budget would be very critical,” added Drilon.

The minority leader said the government cannot afford another delay in the passage of the budget as it would affect the implementation of key development programs similar to the power play that happened in 2018 after then Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ousted Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez as House Speaker.

The passage of the 2019 national budget was derailed and the government was eventually forced to run under a re-enacted budget.

“A reenacted budget will mean that the new programs will not be funded under the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA), and will have to wait for its enactment so, the effects would be terrible,” Drilon explained.

“You know, we (lawmakers) expect the economy, our gross domestic product (GDP) to contract by about anywhere from 6 to 9 percent by the end of the year. If we again delay the GAA in 2021, economic recovery would be derailed. So it’s very critical that the budget be enacted on time,” he stressed.

President Duterte’s son, Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, has threatened to start moves to unseat House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano amid grumblings about partisan and inequitable distribution of funds in the proposed 2021 national budget.

Drilon said he too believes that the basic cause of the disagreement among House lawmakers is the lack of transparency in public works projects due to the lump sum appropriations under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPHW) budget.

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