The lack of sleep among some House members in the ongoing marathon plenary deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget is beginning to worry Minority Leader Rep. Benny Abante of Manila.

images 1 7 - House minority leader worried about colleagues’ health amid marathon sessions
Minority Leader Rep. Benny Abante

Abante stood up for a point of order during a lull in the budget debates Thursday and expressed concerns about the possible compromised immune systems of solons as a result of their “sleepless sessions.”

Abante cited as an example the plenary session Wednesday where the per agency budget discussions ran from 10 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. the next day–nearly 20 hours.

“Mr. Speaker I remember in the 13th Congress, we also reached that time, but it was a regular, no crisis, no pandemic situation,” said the Manila 6th district congressman.

“All of us know that in a pandemic, when lahat tayo puyat (when we all lack sleep), Mr. Speaker, our immunity goes down, whether you be an old man, or a young man,” he pointed out.

A House member in the 18th Congress–Senior Citizens Party-List Rep. Jun Datol–has already died due to complications from COVID-19. A handful of other congressmen have previously contracted the disease and recovered from it.

Abante noted that the current setup is especially difficult for the Minority Bloc stalwarts since–as the fiscalizers of the Duterte administration–it is incumbent upon them to raise questions on every departmental budget presented in plenary.

“Mahirap po yung hindi kami nandito until it’s over (We can’t let the proceedings go on without us until it’s over),” said the gray-haired Abante.

“Does the Majority have any system to do something about these deliberations para hindi tayo umabot ng ganun katagal (so that we don’t have to extend session for that long)? That’s my point of order,” he asked.

In response, Assistant Majority Leader, ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Niña Taduran said: “His (Abante) point is well-taken and we will try our best to finish the budget on time.”

The plenary debates on the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget were resumed only last Tuesday after being suspended last week by the previous House leadership.

Certified as urgent by President Duterte, the fiscal measure is expected to be passed on third and final reading during Friday’s session, which is likely to last until Saturday. 

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