Sotto says Cayetano apologized, vowed to submit budget bill on Nov. 5

Marje Pelayo   •   October 8, 2020   •   139

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Vicente Sotto III confirmed on Thursday (October 8) that House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has called to apologize for his remarks that implied the Senate is to blame if the 2021 national budget is delayed.

In a live broadcast on Facebook on Wednesday (October 7), Cayetano said if ever the budget is delayed, it will be on the part of the Senate.

“[If there’ll be delays or a] re-enactment it is because of the Senate, not because of the House. We waited for a month but still, we made up in time,” Cayetano said.

Sotto called out Cayetano for such a misleading remark. 

The Senate President reiterated that it is the Lower House that has delayed the budget for already a month now.

“Do not be misled. The HOR has delayed the budget for a whole month. No one can ever blame the Senate for this delay. Never!” he said.

“The nerve! Passing the blame, it’s unacceptable!” he stressed.

Sotto argued that the HOR should have passed the bill on third reading and submitted it to the Senate before the originally agreed date of the break October 17 which is the legislative calendar agreed by both Houses.

“October 17 is a month away from November 17,” the Senate President said.

Sotto said he accepted Cayetano’s apologies as the latter vowed to submit the bill by November 5.

“Yes, he called. He promised to submit by November 5 their proposed copies of the different budget books, therefore the GAB, which they will approve on third reading. I said that will help us, especially our Finance Chairman,” he said.

“Accepted and I said we will do our best to work on the time we have as the Senate always does,” he added. 

The Lower House failed to pass their version of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB)l on final reading after Cayetano moved to terminate the period of interpellation for it thus suspending session to November 16.

But this, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, should not be a reason for the delay in its passage.

“Hindi naman po requirement na dapat matapos ng House bago makagalaw ang Senado, [It is not a requirement that the House must finish first before the Senate can move],” he said.

“Ang requirement lang ng Saligang Batas, it must originate from the House and dahil naipasa na nga po sa second reading, iyan po ay pruweba na nag-originate na po yan sa House. Puwede po ang full-blown deliberation maski po naka-break ang Kongreso, [What the law requires is, it must originate from the House. Because it passed on second reading, that proves that it originated from the House. A full-blown deliberation is possible even if Congress is on break],” Roque, a former member of the Congress, said. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado / Rosalie Coz)

Duterte thanks Congress for pushing Bayanihan 3 law

Robie de Guzman   •   February 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed his gratitude to the members of Congress for filing a bill seeking for the third installment of Bayanihan Law to help the government respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact.

In his public address on Monday night, Duterte said the measure will assist the administration further tackle the pandemic and help the country recover from the health crisis.

“I also would like to thank the Congress of the Republic of the Philippines for understanding us and giving us the support — the critical support that we badly need to discharge our duties,” he said.

“Wala akong masabi diyan sa — in a matter of ‘yung pagtulong sa COVID problem. That is why in fairness sa Congress naman na pera man kasi ito ng tao, they appropriate, they give us the money that, we, dito sa implementing arm ng government, the Executive department, the ones doing the actual work,” he added.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has proposed a third installment of Bayanihan Law, which seeks to provide a P420-billion fund to aid the country’s economy recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Velasco, along with Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo, filed House Bill 8628 or the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act (Bayanihan 3 Law).

A similar bill was also filed in the Senate that outlines P485-billion worth of interventions amid the pandemic.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. also thanked Congress for the bill, which he said is important as it covers Indemnification Fund, tax-free importation and Custom duties to speed up vaccine delivery and transport.

“Iyong mga kailangan po natin na mga law na maipasa para matulungan po tayo na mapabilis po ‘yung pagpunta po dito ng vaccine,” Galvez said.

“Para po mabilis po ‘yung pag-transport po ng ating vaccine from the airport na wala na po talagang Customs inspection,” he added.

Speaker Velasco files P420-B Bayanihan 3 bill

Freema Gloria   •   February 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Allan Velasco has filed a bill proposing a P420-billion fund to further help stimulate the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release, Velasco, together with Marikina City 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo filed last Thursday (February 4) House bill 8628 or the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act, also known Bayanihan 3.

The proposed bill has so far gained support from 115 members of major political parties and power blocs comprising the supermajority in the lower chamber of Congress, and expressed their intent to co-author the said bill.

The House Speaker believes that while the two previous Bayanihan laws — the Bayanihan to Heal As One, and Bayanihan to Recover As one — have helped with the initial capacity of the government to respond to the impact of COVID-19 crisis, these were “not sufficient for the genuine economic recovery of the country”.

“Given that actual economic output in 2020 was far below what was assumed for budget purposes, and further losses may still be incurred as the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to prevail well into the current fiscal year, an additional economic stimulus package is needed to help the government meet its recovery targets for the year,” Velasco pointed out.

The proposed P420-B appropriation under Bayanihan 3 has been breakdown into the following:

• P52 billion for subsidies to small business for wages and other worker-related expenses;

• P100 billion for the capacity-building of businesses in critically impacted sectors;

• P108 billion for additional social amelioration to impacted households through programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development;

• P70 billion for the provision of assistance and capacity-building to farmers, livestock producers and fishermen;

• P30 billion for the implementation of unemployment assistance and cash-for-work programs under the Department of Labor and Employment;

• P30 billion for internet allowances to primary, secondary and tertiary students and teachers in public and private educational institutions;

• P5 billion to the Department of Public Works and Highways for the rehabilitation of typhoon-affected areas, including the repair, reconstruction and/or construction of flood control works, roads, bridges, public buildings and other damaged public works, to be distributed proportionately among provinces and cities affected;

• P25 billion to the Department of Health for the procurement of COVID-19 medication and vaccines, and to finance logistics, information awareness campaigns, and other related operational expenses.

Velasco stressed that the government must take the lead to promote business and consumer confidence and social welfare. He further stated, “Increased, well-targeted spending is a vital step to achieving these goals”

‘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)

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