House to hasten timely passage of 2020 budget

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MANILA — The leadership of the House of Representatives on Tuesday vowed to work overtime to pass the proposed PHP4.1-trillion for 2020 on time, as part of its commitment to provide a safe and comfortable life for all Filipinos.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said a “united House” is excited and happy to have received the national budget and raring to start the budget deliberation process.

“A united House can deliver a safe and comfortable life for all, as envisioned by President Rodrigo Duterte to all of our people. So we seek today not only to receive the national budget but to have a better relationship with the executive department. We are excited and we are happy that there is now a stronger House,” Cayetano said after receiving a copy of the 2020 National Expenditure Program (NEP) from Malacañang.

Next year’s proposed budget was submitted to the House by Acting Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado on behalf of the Palace.

As part of the House’s commitment for the timely passage of the budget, Cayetano said they will convene a majority caucus Wednesday, a national holiday, “to ask all members of the House to work overtime.”

The House leadership has earlier set October 4, or before the congressional recess, as the target date for the passage of the General Appropriations Bill.

“We will start the hearing on Thursday (August 22). We will work day and night. We are going to have four hearings a day with sessions to start at 5 p.m. instead of the usual 3 p.m.,” the Taguig City lawmaker and former Foreign Affairs secretary said.

“We will also have hearings on Thursdays and Fridays (thereafter),” Cayetano added.

But despite the time constraints, the Speaker vowed to pass a budget that is free from corruption.

“We know that this budget will focus on good governance, the campaign against drugs, crime, and corruption. Good governance is important. You will see a Congress who will be participating not in corruption but in the fight against corruption,” he said.

“So you will expect a Congress that is alive; faith without action is dead. But faith in the House is alive and faith in the House will push us to be part of building a safe and comfortable life to all,” Cayetano said.

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez also vowed to pass a “constitutionally compliant” national budget for the year 2020.

“We will comply with the Supreme Court ruling that outlawed any form of pork barrel. Definitely, the pork barrel system is a thing of the past,” he said.

The Leyte lawmaker added that the line-item budgeting system will be strictly observed to ensure transparency and accountability in the disbursement of public funds.

“We also commend the President’s commitment through acting Budget Secretary Avisado to ensure an equitable and corruption-free distribution of government resources to further propel the economy,” Romualdez said.

Even the Minority bloc vowed to work overtime for an “on-time, on-target” national budget.

House Minority Leader Benny Abante Jr. reiterated that the Minority will closely collaborate with their counterparts in the Majority to meet the October target set by the Speaker.

“Like our colleagues in the Majority, we are ready to work overtime if necessary to ensure that the national budget is passed on time. We all recognize the importance of finishing the budget deliberations in a timely manner, and acknowledge that cooperation is needed from both sides of the aisle to accomplish this,” the Manila lawmaker said.

“Let me stress, however, that aside from making sure that the budget is passed on time, it must also be on target – meaning that we have to make sure that the funds allocated for specific purposes, for particular programs, will be able to accomplish their objectives,” Abante said.

The veteran lawmaker said it is with this in mind that the Minority members will exercise their duties as “objective fiscalizers” to ensure that the national budget is put to good use.

Abante said the Minority shares the Majority’s desire to avoid delays in budget deliberations, and that efforts would be made to discourage members of the House from “grandstanding” or showing off.

“We appreciate the initiatives of the Majority Leader and House leadership to institute measures to speed up the budget deliberations. As long as these are guided by the principles of transparency and fairness, we believe the budget process will proceed smoothly and will result in a national budget that benefits our country and all our constituents,” Abante said. (PNA)

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