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Sotto: It’s up to Duterte to call for special session to address issue on excise tax on fuel products

It is up to President Rodrigo Duterte to call for a special session for Congress to discuss the possible suspension of excise taxes on fuel products, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday.

The Senate chief made the remark after Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda on Monday prodded Duterte to call for a special session in Congress amid the continuous increase in fuel prices.

Salceda said it is Duterte’s “moral obligation to the people to provide relief because that means almost 75 days of suffering already.”

“I leave it to the President. I leave it to his wisdom. Kung ano sa tingin ng Pangulo na dapat tumawag ng special session at kung ano ang tatalakayin, then it’s incumbent upon me to convene the Senate. Whether we are campaigning or not, we have to act on a special session call of the President,” Sotto said in a chance interview at Quezon Memorial Circle.

(If the President intends to call for a special session then it's incumbent upon me to convene the Senate. Whether we are campaigning or not, we have to act upon on a special session call of the President.)

So far, Sotto said there are no official communication from Malacañang regarding any special session in Congress.

“[Any] communication from the President, he can always call me and tell me to conduct a special session or he can come up with an executive order or a letter calling for special session in whatever form,” he said.

He said he could convene sessions even if some lawmakers are busy with their respective campaigns for the 2022 elections.

“Well, it’s part of the job wala tayong magagawa kapag ganun. Mas importante ang trabaho namin kesa sa pangangampanya (Our job is more important than our campaigns),” said Sotto, who is seeking the vice presidency in the coming May polls.

Apart from Sotto, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Panfilo Lacson welcomed proposals for Duterte to ask for a special session.

"Yes, I support the call for a special session to address rising prices, specially fuel and power and to provide assistance to those who need it,” Recto said in a text message shared to reporters.

For Lacson’s part, his stand on the government’s measures to mitigate the impact of oil price hike to consumers will depend on Malacañang’s proposal.

“If the president calls for a special session of Congress, we must comply. Whether or not I will support the declaration of a state of economic emergency will depend on the proposal to be submitted by Malacanang,” he said in a separate text message.

Congress adjourned session last February 4 and will only resume session by May 23 or after the May 9 national and local elections.

Congress, however, can resume session if Duterte calls for it.

Earlier, acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Alexei Nograles said there was no indication that Duterte will call for a special session so Congress can act on measures that will address the unabated oil price hikes, including suspension of fuel tax.

On Monday, Senate energy committee chairman Sherwin Gatchalian said the government should “seriously consider” suspending the excise taxes on petroleum products amid the implementation of big-time price hike.

According to Gatchalian, suspending excise taxes on fuel will bring down the gasoline retail prices by P11.20 per liter and diesel prices by P6.72 per liter.

Apart from Gatchalian, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Joel Villanueva pushed for the suspension of excise taxes on fuel products

Meanwhile at a media briefing in Porac, Pampanga, presidential candidate Senator Manny Pacquiao expressed his support for calls for a special session on the possible suspension of excise tax.

"Yes kung yan ang kailangan kakausapin ko ang aming Senate President at ang body, ang Senate para mag-special session para dito lang sa pag-suspend ng excise tax," Pacquiao said.

(Yes if that's what's needed I will talk to the Senate President and our body, the Senate for a special session to suspend excise tax.)

Pacquiao said he would be willing to suspend his election campaign to attend the special session.

"Para rin naman ito sa bayan, mas unahin natin iyon... walang problema, unahin natin ang pangangailangan ng taong bayan," (This is for the country, let's prioritize it... no problem, let's attend first to the needs of our countrymen.) he said. — with Jamil Santos/RSJ, GMA News