House targets passage of 2021 national budget before session breaks on October 17

Marje Pelayo   •   October 2, 2020   •   279

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives (HOR) has resumed its deliberation on the P4.5 trillion-peso proposed national budget for 2021.

The budget deliberation was suspended on Wednesday (September 30) when Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano offered his resignation that was eventually denied by majority of the lawmakers.

Despite this, Anakalusugan Party-list Representative Mike Defensor believes they will be able to finish the deliberation before the break of Congress session on October 17 as they are hoping that it will be signed by the President before the year ends.

“We have enough time to beat that deadline and approve an equitable and pandemic-responsive budget so the President could sign it before the end of 2020,” Defensor said.

Questions as to whether the change in House leadership expected on October 14 will still push through have also been surfacing.

Marinduque Representative Allan Jay Velasco’s camp expressed confidence that it will.

Defensor, on the other hand, opined that what happened on Wednesday just showed the amount of support the majority has for the leadership of Cayetano.

He added that the motion to move the Speakership position vacant is supposed to come from Velasco’s allies.

But Defensor said, he will immediately object to it.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, meanwhile, said he suspects that the ongoing issues in the House have something to do with the 2022 elections.

Ang nakikita rin natin dito ay banggaan ito sa control ng resources hindi lang dito sa House of Representatives kung ang buong budget na nakasalalay ngayon at pinag-dedebatehan dito sa kongreso,” Zarate said.

[What we are seeing here is a fight for control over the resources, not just in the House of Representatives, but on the whole budget that is now in the hands of and is being deliberated upon by Congress.]

Kung sinong nakaupong speaker ay may control nito lalong lalo na pagdating sa 2022 elections,” he added.

[Whoever sits as speaker has control, especially in the coming 2022 elections.] 

For Laguna Representative and Deputy Speaker Dan Fernandez, members of Congress have the right to choose their own leader.

Ang hindi nakita ni Lord Velasco eh merong (What Lord Velasco failed to see is that there are) 300 members of Congress. We are a collegiate body, and each and every member of the House has the right vote and choose his own leader, and that’s what we did,” Fernandez said. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

‘Bitter Talaga Sila’: Cayetano slammed for riding on BTS popularity for clout

Marje Pelayo   •   January 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Seven lawmakers who previously held key positions in the House of Representatives (HOR) coined the slogans “Back to Service” and “Bayanihan, Tapang at Serbisyo” as their newest advocacy — these also coincidentally form the acronym “BTS”.

BTS is more popularly known as the acronym for Bangtan Boys, a South Korean pop group that is considered the biggest boy band in the world right now.

Meanwhile, the newly formed BTS political bloc in Congress — spearheaded by former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano — claims that the Lower House is not in its proper order of business nowadays.

The group wants to bring focus on more pressing issues such as economic recovery, COVID-19 response and prompt delivery of government services.

“Kung inuna niya ang hearing sa vaccination at sa PhilHealth, wala tayong problema. Inuna ang Cha-Cha,” Cayetano said of his successor House Speaker Allan Velasco.

READ: Cayetano steps down as House Speaker

Laguna Representative Dan Fernandez echoed the same sentiments.

“Kasi very important yung problema ng pandemic and that’s the reason why wala kaming sinasayang na oras. Pero ngayon isang buwan kaming bakasyon at magsisimula ang Kongreso sa Lunes wala kang narinig na hearing,” he said. 

All seven of them said they are part of a much larger group of colleagues in Congress who support their initiative.

“We are a bigger group. We have many sympathisers, supporters that are currently part of the leadership of the House. Marami kaming kasama na committee chairmen,” said Anak Kalusugan Partylist Mike Defensor.

They believe the HOR has lost its glory and they want to reinstate it through this advocacy.

“We want to bring back the House of Representative being the house of the people rather than the house of politics,” noted Camarines Sur Representative L-Ray Villafuerte.

“Pinatibay namin iyong grupo namin dahil iisa ang nararamdaman namin. Kailangang maramdaman ng mga tao na ang House of Representatives ay kasama nila sa anumang nararamdaman nila,” added Batangas Representative Raneo Abu.

On the other hand, Senior Deputy Speaker Doy Leachon defended Velasco’s push for charter change as he believes it can solve and improve the current state of the country’s economy.

“Cha-Cha is sincere to deal only with economic provisions and supported by party leaders because this is the most opportune and right time to address the high unemployment rate and closure of business as the constitutional amendments seek to address infusion of massive investment opportunities,” he said.

Leachon in a statement called Cayetano’s group “ungrateful” and “selfish”.

He said Cayetano should have been thankful that Velasco did not touch the “bloated budget” that the former inserted and crafted into the 2021 national budget.

“Moreover, Speaker Velasco, despite their demeaning personality attacks on him, didn’t even raise a finger for 15 months and just waited for the right time to assume as the head of Congress based on the term-sharing agreement. Yun ang tularan nila- maginoo,” Leachon said.

“Their BTS launch is insignificant as to derail the Velasco’s legislative agenda because the current leadership under Speaker Velasco has earned the respect of the members of the supermajority  because they lucidly see a decent man, not vindictive, working leader who has also a gentle heart to feel the needs of the House members. Hindi barkadahan lang,” he added.

Leachon advised the group not to ride on the popularity of the K-pop group BTS because their acronym might end up standing for: ‘Bitter Talaga Sila.’ MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Velasco backs Duterte order to suspend PhilHealth rate hike

Robie de Guzman   •   January 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to suspend the increase in the premium contributions of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) scheduled for this year.

“We laud President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for suspending the increase in PhilHealth premium contributions amid the COVID-19 crisis,” Velasco said in a press statement.


“The President has once again proved his sincere and genuine regard for the welfare of the Filipino people, especially in this time of pandemic,” he added.

Duterte on Monday night said the PhilHealth premium hike should be deferred amid the global health crisis.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go earlier said the president expressed willingness to sign a measure that will hold off the contribution hike, and approve additional funds for PhilHealth.

Under the Universal Health Care Law, the state insurer’s  monthly rates will increase to 3.5% in January 2021 from 3% last year.

Velasco said the House of Representatives is ready to review the Universal Health Care Law and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, particularly the provisions on incremental premium rate hike for direct PhilHealth contributors.

“We urge the PhilHealth and the Department of Health to work closely with the legislature to ensure that our citizens and hardworking Filipinos will not further be exposed to this unnecessary burden while still grappling with the pandemic,” he said.

Duterte to veto items in the proposed 2021 national budget

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to veto several items in the proposed 2021 national budget, the Palace confirmed on Friday (December 25).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the ceremonial signing for the P4.5 trillion national budget is scheduled for Monday (December 28). The Palace official, however, did not disclose which items in the national budget will be vetoed by the President.

“Sigurado po na magkakaroon po ng veto message. Pero I am not at liberty to discuss po kung ano itong mga items na ito (I am sure there will be a veto message, but I am not at liberty to discuss what theses items are),” he said.

The education sector will receive the bulk of the budget with P708.2 billion, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with P694.8 billion. Meanwhile the country’s health sector will receive P287.5 billion. AAC

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