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Palace open to calling special session of Congress for 2021 nat'l budget

Malacañang on Thursday said it was open to calling for a special session of Congress to ensure the timely passage of the proposed 2021 national budget.

At a televised briefing, Palace spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said President Rodrigo Duterte may ask the Senate and House of Representatives to convene in a special session after the next adjournment in December if necessary.

“Kung kinakailangang magpatawag ng special session pagdating ng December [19], Malacañang will do it,” Roque said.

Some senators have raised the possibility of a reenacted 2020 budget after the House of Representatives on Tuesday suspended its session until November 16 without passing the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 on final reading.

The abrupt suspension took place amid a leadership squabble between Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, both allies of the President who brokered a term-sharing agreement for the speakership last year.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III had said senators were hoping the budget bill would be transmitted before Congress officially goes on break on October 17 so that they can study it during recess and take it up immediately for debates when session resumes on November 16.

But Cayetano on Wednesday said the Senate was the one to blame, and not the House, if ever there will be a delay in the passage or a reenactment of the national budget.

Roque, meanwhile, insisted that the Senate has enough time to scrutinize the proposed national budget.

“The Senate can continue its own deliberations on the budget kasi hindi naman ‘yan nakadepende sa pagtatapos ng budget sa House,” he said.

He declined to comment on allegations that Cayetano was holding the 2021 budget hostage amid a leadership tussle, saying the speakership is an internal matter of the House.

Roque, however, sees the possible approval of the House version of the budget in mid-November as a delay in the process.

“Delayed po... Maybe the practice is different in the Senate but in the House po kasi, ‘pag 'yan  nadiscuss na sa committee level, ayos na po 'yan. ‘Yung plenary discussion although it is the eventual decision of Congress, ‘yung much of the discussion has already commenced and concluded sa committee level.”

Next year’s budget is expected to fund measures aimed at improving the country’s healthcare system, ensuring food security, increasing investments in public and digital infrastructure, and helping communities cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. -MDM, GMA News