Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Saturday said their chamber will continue to keep its hands off the speakership row in the House of Representatives but the latter should make good on its promise not to delay the passage of the P4.506-trillion proposed 2021 national budget.

sotto5 - Senate hands off House speakership row
Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Sotto said the Senate usually receives from the House the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on the early October, except for the 2019 budget, which was affected by the 2018 power play in the lower chamber that led to the ouster of former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and assumption of ex-president and Pampanga congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“As far as the budget is concerned, basta ipasa nila ng first week of october, katulad ng ginagawa noog Kongeso dati, except noong panahon ni GMA. Dapat first week of October, nasa amin na (As far as the budget is concerned, a long as they pass the budget on final reading within the first week of October, like the previous Congresses did, except during Arroyo’s time, we are good. It should be transmitted to us on the first week of October),” Sotto said in an interview with radio DWIZ.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco have been fighting over the leadership in the House of Representatives and their term-sharing agreement in 2019.

Under the pact brokered by no less than President Duterte, Cayetano would sit as House Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, while Velasco would assume the post for the remaining 21 months.

Despite their meeting with Duterte to supposedly iron out the issue, the speakership feud seemed far from over with the two engaging in a word war instead.

Sotto, meanwhile, maintained that the House’s self-imposed deadline to pass the budget bill on Oct. 14 should not be affected by the in-fighting in the House.

If ever, any delays in the passage of the GAB should not be blamed on senators.

“Pag dinelay nila, eh huwag nila kami sisisihin later on. Katulad nung panahon na nagpalitan sila ng leadership…tapos nagkadelay-delay, tapos may nilikot pa sila doon na ayokong pirmahan, tapos sisihin kami, ayaw daw namin ipasa? Huwag ganoon. ‘Pag nadelay sila, sila ang may kasalanan, hindi kami,” Sotto said.

“Yong diskusyon nila doon ayokong pakialaman ‘yon, meron silang usapan, meron silang ‘gentleman’s agreement,’ mayroon silang pakikipag-usap sa Presidente, hayaan mo na sila. Wala kaming pakialam anong mangyari doon basta’t bigay nila sa amin (We do not care about their discussion, that they have a gentleman’s agreement, that they spoke to the President, let’s leave them be. We don’t care what happens in the House as long as they give us the budget)” he said.

Budget hearings on the proposed 2021 budgets of the government agencies under the National Expenditure Plan have been ongoing in Senate since last month.

Under the Constitution, however, the Senate would have to wait for the measure approved by the House of Representatives before it discuss national budget in plenary.

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