“Budget first before politics.”

This was the call made by the leaders of the House of Representatives on Sunday, Oct. 11, as talks of leadership change have been brewing in the Lower Chamber.

VELASCO - House leaders to Velasco’s camp: Budget first before politics
Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (FACEBOOK / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Let us approve the budget. If anyone wants to invoke leadership change, so-called agreement or any matter, that should be secondary to the budget. I think let us approve the budget first. As they say, let us talk about anything, everything after the budget has passed,” Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. told reporters in a virtual press conference.

Villafuerte was asked to comment on the earlier statement issued by House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez that the “gentleman’s agreement will be honored” after the passage of the P4.506-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on third and final reading on Friday, Oct. 16.

“If we comment on this now, we might be distracted again from the issue at hand. As soon as the budget is approved, anything, everything can be raised on the floor, but again we appeal to our colleagues, let us focus on the budget on the next few days meaning talagang (really) supporting the heed of our president and our people on the need of the budget,” Villafuerte said.

Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Michael Defensor asked the camp of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to be one with the Cayetano leadership in moving forward the expeditious passage of the House Bill No. 7727 or the P4.506-trillion GAB.

“Nananawagan ako sa kabilang kampo na may panahon naman dyan para sa pulitka, may panahon para isagawa ang pagpapapalit na gusto nila, o sinabi nilang nominasyon sa liderato ng Kongreso. May panahon para dyan, pero ito ay panahon muna ng ating mga kababayan at nananawagan ako na magtulungan muna kami,” he said in the same media briefing.

(I am appealing to the other camp: There is time for politics, there is time for leadership change or what they call nomination in the leadership of Congress. There is time for that, but this is the time for our people, and I am appealing to them to let us help each other out.)

He exhorted his colleagues to show that they are a “working Congress” and that they are looking after the interest and welfare of the people.

In a revised statement, Romualdez re-echoed the call of his colleagues, saying that the passage of the 2021 national budget should be prioritized over the Speakership row.

“Let us pass the national budget as requested by the President for 2021 on third and final reading on Friday, Oct. 16,” he said.

Romualdez said he spoke with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Sunday afternoon and the latter “reconfirmed that President Duterte’s call for a special session under Proclamation No. 1027 is for Congress to resume the congressional deliberations on the proposed national budget.”

The Chief Executive also certified the passage of the spending measure as urgent.

“Politics, such as the Speakership issue, will be tackled after the passage of the national budget to assure a smooth transition,” Romualdez said.

Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga Jr., president of the National Unity Party, also called on his colleagues to “stick to the order” of the President to expedite the passage of the national budget for next year to further strengthen the government ’s response against the pandemic crisis.

“Lawmakers should focus on the task at hand, which is to pass the national budget in the soonest possible time,” he said.

“Let’s not inject politics and avoid infighting during the special session because it is outside the message of the President under Proclamation No. 1027,” he stressed.

Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. Prospero Pichay, a stalwart of the Lakas-CMD party, for his part, said, “This special session is called specifically to approve the budget, for the hasty approval of the budget, so I think we should not talk about politics.”

“Let us not be distracted by personal ambitions, ipasa na muna natin ang budget (let’s first pass the budget)… Anytime, within your term, puwede na tumayo at i-declare seats ang vacant (you can stand and declare the seats vacant), if you really love this country and our people, isantabi muna ang (set aside the) Speakership [issue],” he stressed.

Caloocan City 2nd District Rep. Edgar Erice, who belongs to the Liberal Party, agreed with Pichay, saying the passage of the 2021 national budget should be prioritized over the Speakership issue.

He said after the budget’s approval, “anybody can move for an election of a new speaker.”

“Pero ngayon tapusin muna natin ang agenda ng Pangulo at agenda ng mga tao na magkarooon tayo ng bugdet. ‘Wag muna natin pag-usapan ang mga ‘yang speaker-speakership kasi nakakagulo lang sa bugdet,” Erice said.

(But now we should finish first the agenda of the President and the agenda of the people that we will pass our budget. Let us not talk about the Speaker issue, which will only disrupt the passage of the budget.)

Minority Leader and Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. expressed his bloc’s full support to the House leadership’s bid to immediately pass the 2021 national budget.

“Kung may manggugulo man ay mahiya naman sila sa taong bayan at mahiya sa ating Pangulo na walang iniiisip kundi bigyan ng budget ang gobyerno para makapagtrabaho na tayo at maibigay ang dapat ibigay sa taong bayan,” he said.

(If there is anyone who would disrupt the budget deliberations, they should be ashamed [of themselves] to the people and the President who is always thinking of giving a budget to the government so that we can already start working and we can give what is due to the people.)

“We are all in one in fast tracking the approval of the budget in a transparent, constitutionally sound manner. Kung sino ang manggugulo sa deliberation ng budget at madisrupt nyan, sila po ang sumusuway sa President, sila po ang sumusuway sa kagustuhan ng taong bayan (Whoever disrupts the deliberation of the budget, they are the ones defying the President, they are defying the wish of the people),” Villafuerte said.

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