To undo what the Cayetano administration did was the first order of business under the leadership of newly-installed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

VELASCO - Velasco’s first order of business: Lower House revokes 2nd reading approval of proposed GAA
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco (FACEBOOK / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Right at the start of the four-day special session Tuesday, the Lower House revoked the second reading approval of the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act to reactivate plenary debates on the budget bill.

The new leadership also moved for the election of Davao City Rep. Paulo Duterte as chairman of the powerful Committee on Accounts.  Duterte, son of President Duterte, replaced Tagaytay City Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.

In opening the special session, Velasco disclosed that he and former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano have agreed to bury the hatchet and work for the passage of the national budget.

“I am also extending a healing hand to all those that we had misunderstanding with,” said Velasco as he opened the special session on Monday.

He added: “Let us build a stronger House; let us assure the world that we are honorable congressmen.

With all 301 members present in the first session hour presided by Velasco, a motion to reconsider the second reading passage of House Bill No. 7727 proposing a P4.5 trillion budget for government operations next year.

The second reading approval was made by the Lower House on October 6 through a motion proposed by then Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

Cayetano also moved for the suspension of sessions on the same day, which the chamber, with only about 30 warm bodies present in the plenary, approved.

Both moves were questioned by many lawmakers, including Velasco’s allies, as unconstitutional and morally unacceptable.

Independent Rep. Lito Atienza (Buhay Partylist) and 1Pacman Partylist Rep. Michael Romero accused Cayetano of pursuing the twin moves in order to evade his ouster as speaker.

Atienza had stressed that the abrupt passage on second reading of the national budget bill only succeeded in denying congressmen  their right to closely examine and deliberate on the budget measure.

The suspension of sessions from October 6 to November 16 was also decried as a violation of the constitutional provision that prohibits the suspension of sessions for over three days without the approval of both Houses of Congress.

Making the same observation, President Rodrigo Duterte called for the holding of a four-day special session starting October 13.

On Tuesday, a few hours after Velasco’s election as speaker was affirmed by at least 200 congressmen, the Lower House re-launched plenary deliberation on the proposed national budget.

As of press time, interpellation on the floor was being conducted on the proposed budget of the Civil Service Commission.

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