Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that he hopes that the House of Representatives will give its best effort to send to the Senate proposed 2021 national budget as early as possible.
Sotto reiterated the commitment of House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco regarding the transmittal of the House-approved bill on the P4.5-trillion government spending plan next year within this month.
Sotto spoke to Velasco Thursday after learning that the House, despite the vow to approve the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) before going on a break Friday, will not be able to transmit the printed copies of measure to the Senate until Nov. 5.
Under the Constitution, the Senate must wait for the House’s budget bill before its members can discuss it in plenary.
“I requested him to help facilitate the transmittal to us to the 28th (of) October, and that is 10 days after they pass it on third reading. He (Velasco) promised best effort,” Sotto said.
While he welcomed pronouncements from House leaders that they will try to send the GAB by Nov. 2, he said “we are still hoping that my request to Speaker Velasco, last night, that we receive it before the 30th be given best effort.”
“Because that will save the Senate at least many days of going home at 4 or 5 a.m. daily just (to) make sure we approve it on time,” Sotto said.
“I’m not worried about senators. I’m worried about the Senate Secretariat, LBRMO, and our staff. Halos walang tulog sila for weeks (They are not getting enough sleep for weeks). Not to mention myself and other Senators who are physically present. We are never late nor never absent,” he noted.
During their session Thursday, senators expressed concern that the House’s late submission of the GAB would result in the delay in their passage of the 2021 appropriations bill and hence, a reenactment of this year’s budget.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon suspected that their counterparts will insert amendments to the budget bill after the third reading approval.
They had planned to resume sessions on Nov. 9 – a week earlier that the scheduled Nov. 16 resumption – so they can start their plenary debates earlier and pass the GAB sooner in time for President Duterte’s approval before yearend.