SENATORS SEE PASSAGE OF 2019 BUDGET IN JAN
MANILA -- Senate leaders on Wednesday said the proposed 2019 national budget could not be passed within the year even if President Rodrigo Duterte calls for special sessions.
“Even if we are called to a special session next week, we don’t have enough time for amendments and more so for a bicam,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a text message to reporters.
Congress will adjourn for its December break this week and will resume sessions on January 14.
At this point, it’s really January, with or without a special session,” he added.
In the meantime, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that even if a special session is held, it would still be the “call of the Senate whether or not the budget is passed in December.”
“The consensus in the Senate, both majority and minority, is not to rush the budget. The delay is the fault of the House,” Drilon said in another text message.
The Senate leaders were reacting to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s statement that he would ask President Duterte to call a special session next week to give Congress time for the budget’s approval.
Economic managers have warned that a re-enacted budget for next year may cause delays in infrastructure projects, job losses, and higher poverty incidence.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier said it would be “physically impossible” for the Senate to pass the budget on second and third reading on time unless the President calls for a special session.
He said this is due to the joint session to extend martial law in Mindanao that would result in the loss of a day’s worth of deliberations.
“Pero di namin kasalanan ito, dahil nagkaroon ng martial law extension. Kung wala, tapos na sana kami tomorrow (Wednesday), then plano namin second and third reading on Thursday “(This is not our fault, but if not for martial law extension, we would have been finished by Wednesday and have the second and third reading on Thursday),” Zubiri said in an interview Wednesday.
Acknowledging the impacts of a re-enacted budget, Zubiri has floated the idea of introducing a special provision to amend the Omnibus Election Code to exempt the 2019 capital outlay projects from the election ban in order to ensure that projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program would not be affected.
Drilon said that he is “amenable” to the idea and assured that "the opposition will cooperate."
“I haven't reviewed the law. But if it requires legislation, yes, it can be done,” Drilon said. (PNA)
Screenshot from Blue Ribbon Committee video from Senate of the Philippine YouTube page