SENATORS on Thursday asked Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea not to endorse to the President a recommendation to call a special session of Congress next week to complete the budget.
Mr. Medialdea was present during the Senate’s morning session to answer questions on the 2019 budget of the Office of the President (OP).
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said it was still impossible for the Senate to complete its budget deliberations within the year even with an extra five days of sessions next week.
He added that a number of government agencies with budget issues have yet to be tackled by the chamber, such as the Department of Tourism (DoT), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Department of Health (DoH).
“I’d like to take advantage of the presence of Executive Secretary Medialdea. I would like to issue an appeal to him not to endorse the anticipated recommendation of Secretary of DBM (Department of Budget and Management) Ben Diokno to call for a special session,” Mr. Lacson said.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said: “To call for a special session, I doubt if we will have a quorum probably for both Houses. And we can work the budget as soon as we get back on Jan. 14.”
Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said: “Executive Secretary beside me is nodding. And he said he has duly noted the message and will relay it to the President.”
Mr. Angara is the vice chairperson of the Senate committee on finance.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President can call on Congress to convene in special session at any time.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Zubiri said the Senate has gone through about two-thirds of proposed budget, and that a special session in the run-up to the holidays will not be enough to complete work on the 2019 spending program.
House Majority Floor Leader Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. has said high chamber is ready for a special session.
“First of all, we are game. If he (Mr. Duterte) calls for a special session, we’re open to that,” he said in a briefing after the Congress joint session on Wednesday.
Mr. Diokno has warned that a reenacted 2018 budget, as called for if Congress fails to pass budget legislation for 2019,, will delay the implementation of new projects in light of the public works ban accompanying the May elections.
The Senate is planning to insert provisions in the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) or to pass a joint resolution that will remove the election ban on public works for 2019 to address the concerns of the executive branch. — Camille A. Aguinaldo